NRC Says Pilgrim Plant Remains One of the Worst in the Nation

COURTESY PILGRIM NUCLEAR POWER STATION

PLYMOUTH – The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth remains one of the three worst performing reactors in the country, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Annual Assessment Letter.

The NRC letter indicates the plant’s performance remains under Column 4 and no further regulatory action is required.

“Based on what we have seen the plant continues to operate safely, but we’re also very cognizant of the fact that there are areas where they need to improve,” said Neil Sheehan, an NRC spokesman.

The plant was downgraded from Column 3 in 2015 and was placed under increased oversight for safety violations and unplanned shutdowns.

If further regulatory action is needed, the plant could be placed under Column 5, the unacceptable performance level, and a shutdown order could be issued.

“If we see any declines in performance in the meantime we won’t hesitate to act,” Sheehan said. “But at this point we believe Column 4 remains the appropriate designation.”

Entergy, the plant’s owner released the following statement regarding the NRC’s letter:

“In Pilgrim’s Annual Assessment Letter, the NRC concluded that overall performance at Pilgrim preserved public health and safety. While the plant remains in Column 4, which is expected given we are still going through the inspection process specifically related to that matter, the NRC further noted that they have determined that Pilgrim continues to operate safely, and at this time additional regulatory action beyond Column 4 is not required. It is true that if our performance degraded, they could shut down the plant, but we are committed to continuing to improve safety and operations at the plant to return to excellence and finish strong through our shutdown date ofMay 31, 2019.”

Diane Turco with the Cape Downwinders, an organization calling for the immediate closure of the plant, said the Annual Assessment Letter shows that the NRC is just a cheerleader for the nuclear power industry.

“When they sent out this annual report that the performance at Pilgrim is acceptable and additional regulatory action is not required after the initial inspections, this just shows that the NRC is in support of this industry and they don’t provide for public safety,” Turco said.

“When we see systemic mismanagement, when we see equipment failing over and over and not being repaired the public is at risk.”

The NRC has three full-time inspectors at the facility who have been supplemented by several specialists and a team of 20 inspectors, who were onsite for three weeks in the fall and winter for a comprehensive inspection.

“That plant has received just an enormous amount of attention from the NRC and it’s going to continue to receive that,” Sheehan said.

The areas of performance deficiency at Pilgrim include equipment maintenance, procedural shortcomings, safety culture and management oversight.

Inspectors are completing a Confirmatory Action Letter for the recently completed comprehensive inspection which will detail what actions are needed to be taken by Entergy to ensure the protection of public health and safety.

A second public meeting will be March 21 at Plymouth Memorial Hall to discuss the recent inspection findings.

The NRC said the plant would most likely face 10 to 15 more safety violations during the first public meeting in January.

The meeting was held 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.

In the leaked December e-mail, Don Jackson, the lead inspector of the special inspection, 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.”

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 April or May.

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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