A Matter of Opinion – New Uses for an Old Nuclear Power Plant

020e800365e8929e0c4b5076e218dc63With all the rumors about the possible closing of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, I’m starting to worry about Entergy, it’s parent company, how about you?

Say what you will about Pilgrim, that its low-dose radioactive emissions cause cancer, that it’s poisoning marine life, that its three thousand spent fuel rod bundles are vulnerable to attack, that it’s infrastructure is ready to collapse, but it’s our nuclear power station, isn’t it, certainly by proximity if not ownership, and sort of like the Red Sox, another one of our hard luck regional institutions, it’s hard to resist a kind of perverse fascination with their demise.

For this summer, just as the Red Sox fell once more into last place in the American League East, Pilgrim slid to the very bottom of the performance list for the nation’s ninety-nine operating nuclear reactors.

It’s true that some still imagine Pilgrim will rise again, just as they deny the Red Sox are a lost cause. The Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee recently released it’s Radiation Emergency Reference Sheet which reiterates there is no escape from a Pilgrim meltdown and advises Cape Codders to shelter in place. Get inside, stay inside, and turn on the radio…which ironically is exactly what they would do if the Red Sox ever made it to World Series again.

And the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Pilgrim’s biggest fan, is trying a new strategy. After pulling the plug on a study that assessed cancer risks in populations living near the licensed nuclear facilities, the NRC floated a plan for new standards proving that radiation is good for you.

I would say they wouldn’t have too much luck with this one except that there are people who actually believe that drinking their own urine is a health cure. So who knows?

But I’ve lived on Cape Cod too long to give up on the Red Sox or Pilgrim, so while I certainly hope it will close as a nuclear power plant, I do have some ideas about what it might become.

Remember the target ship in Cape Cod Bay? Three and half miles off the coast of Eastham, it was an old World War Two cargo ship that broke down off the coast of Sandy Hook, New Jersey in 1943, before the Navy towed it to the Cape to use as target practice for its early guided-missile programs.

Since Pilgrim is also a useless, rusted, hunk of junk, and since it has so little security that it could probably be conquered by a paint ball team, why not let people use it for target practice?

It’s a total selfie magnet, people. Travelers are absolutely addicted to daredevil selfies. They take pictures of themselves with bears. In bull runs. On train tracks. With weapons. On ledges. Near live wires. Not long ago a sixty-six year-old Japanese tourist died after falling down a flight of stairs while taking a selfie at the Taj Mahal. Can you imagine the lines of people waiting to take selfies on the edge of a pool that used to hold spent fuel bundles?

Or maybe lease it out to big game hunters? If you were a middle-aged dentist from Minneapolis, wouldn’t a spent fuel rod look a lot more impressive hanging on your wall than a lion’s head?

I’m just getting started here. What about a really creepy dance club? The Hobbit House in Manila is designed with a Lord of the Rings theme, complete with a wait staff comprised of dwarves. At the Toilet Bar in Berlin beer is served in specimen bottles and sauerkraut in enamel bedpans. At The Clinic Nightclub in Singapore guests sit in wheel chairs and drink from IV bags. You get the picture? Plymouth is not exactly known as a swinging city, but with the world’s first night club located in a decommissioned nuclear power plant? It’s certainly something to do at night after a day at Plymouth Plantation.

So read the tealeaves, Entergy. Pilgrim’s gonna close eventually and now’s your chance to re-tool and reinvent yourself. I know it’s hard to switch gears. I know there are no guarantees. I know you’re reluctant to enter the entertainment business with all its attendant risks…especially after all these years of operating an outdated nuclear power plant in which you’ve insisted there are no risks at all.

 I’m Ira Wood…and that’s my opinion.

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