PLYMOUTH – The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station will most likely face 10 to 15 more safety violations stemming from a recent inspection of the plant, but federal officials made no indications that they plan to shut the troubled station down.
Representatives from the NRC addressed the public in a meeting at Hotel 1620 in Plymouth Tuesday night at the request of top state officials, including Gov. Charlie Baker, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, the entire Massachusetts congressional delegation, and a number of state legislators.
The elected officials asked the NRC to publicly address a leaked internal e-mail that raised concerns about Pilgrim’s ability to operate safely.
Don Jackson, the lead inspector of the recently completed special inspection at the station, said his team determined preliminarily that Pilgrim is operating safely at this time, despite the additional violations uncovered in the latest inspection.
In the leaked December e-mail, Jackson raised concerns about the station’s safety culture, writing “we are observing current indications of a safety culture problem that a bunch of talking probably won’t fix.”
“Safety culture is kind of a journey,” Jackson said Tuesday night in addressing the e-mail. “It’s a 3 to 5 year process to turn safety culture.”
Pilgrim is scheduled to close in 2019.
Pilgrim’s standing as a Column 4 operator, one step away from a federally mandated shutdown order from the NRC, is expected to remain unchanged, according to Jackson.
“It’s clear that they are a Column 4 performer at this time,” Jackson said.
Pilgrim is only one of three stations in the country to be under Column 4 oversight by the NRC. The other two reactors are in Arkansas and are both operated by Pilgrim’s owner, Entergy.
Complete findings from the December and January inspection are expected in March or April, at which point the NRC will make an official ruling on the plant’s status.
It is expected that Pilgrim will face two safety citations for an ongoing issue with two of the station’s Emergency Diesel Generator relief valves.
The station is also looking at potential violations in connection with their corrective action program, a system put in place by the the station to try and improve performance.
“The process…was not all that it should have been,” said Jackson.
Pilgrim is also looking at a violation related to improper containment liner clearance and a citation for failing to address an issue with a leaking heat exchanger flange in 2015-2016.
The NRC plans to hold another public hearing in March to address the inspection report.
Speakers at Tuesday night’s meeting, many with ties to Cape Cod, overwhelming called on the federal government to shut Pilgrim down.
“We know we’re not safe, we know [the NRC] cannot make us safe, we know Pilgrim is not safe, and we insist that you close it down,” said Kingston resident Pine DuBois.
The NRC discussed the recent inspection in a private meeting with local, state, and federal officials ahead of Tuesday night’s public hearing.
In a statement, Congressman William Keating (D-Bourne) criticized Entergy for their operation of the plant.
“It is my opinion that Entergy continues to skirt full responsibility for necessary repairs and meeting federal standards. I fear this conduct will continue unless they are subject to more rigorous scrutiny by the NRC.”
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey also criticized Entergy for failing to invest in maintenance for the 44-year-old reactor.
“With the retirement of the plant we are even more concerned that Entergy will continue to cut corners to save money, regardless of the risk posed to our community.”
“I can’t emphasize enough that we depend on you to protect us,” Plymouth selectman Ken Tavares said to the NRC. “Health and safety for Plymouth.”
Pilgrim is the only nuclear reactor in Massachusetts and is one of two remaining in New England after the closure of Vermont Yankee in 2014.
CAUTION: VIDEO CONTAINS GRAPHIC LANGUAGE
By MATT McCARTHY, CapeCod.com NewsCenter