The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved the proposed sale of the Pilgrim nuclear station (670 MWe, BWR) in Massachusetts to Entergy Nuclear Inc (See NEI Dec 1998, p2).

Last November, Boston Edison Co, Pilgrim’s current majority owner, agreed to sell Pilgrim to Entergy for $80 million in cash, plus the transfer of a $466 million decommissioning trust fund from Boston Edison to Entergy. The sale, if completed, will mark the first time a nuclear plant was ever purchased through the submission of competitive bids.

FERC’s approval was the first of several required regulatory decisions. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission must also approve the transfer of Pilgrim’s operating licence to Entergy. In addition, the Internal Revenue Service must issue a tax ruling related to the decommissioning fund.

FERC took up the issue after several small municipal electric cooperatives in Massachusetts, which own a 3.7% share of Pilgrim’s capacity, balked at the deal, because it would require them to pay their share of the remaining decommissioning fees up front. They want to continue paying the fees over the unit’s operating life.

To avoid delay in closing the sale, Boston Edison offered to pay the decommissioning fees for the municipals until a court can decide their fair share.

Boston Edison says the sale also enjoys the support of the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Energy. Several local labour unions withdrew as interveners in the NRC’s licence transfer proceedings after they reached accommodations with Entergy.

Boston Edison now expects to turn Pilgrim over to Entergy in the second quarter of 1999.