Pilgrim Inspection Findings to be Presented to Public, Plant Officials

COURTESY PILGRIM NUCLEAR POWER STATION

PLYMOUTH – The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will again discuss findings of a recent comprehensive three-week inspection of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station before the public next month.

The NRC will hold its annual public review to discuss the plant’s performance over the past year with residents and plant officials on March 21 at Plymouth Memorial Hall.

“We will be providing preliminary results of that review,” said Neil Sheehan, an NRC Spokesman. “By preliminary, I mean we will have 45 days after the meeting to issue our formal written report documenting what our inspectors found.”

A public meeting to discuss results of the recent inspection was held last month and the NRC said the plant would most likely face 10 to 15 more safety violations.

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.”

Despite safety deficiencies found during the inspection, Sheehan said the plant is still considered safe.

“Clearly, there are some areas where the company needs to do a better job and we have been very outspoken on what those areas are,” Sheehan said. “But we have not identified anything at this point that would raise an immediate safety concern.”

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.

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, according to Sheehan.

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.

Since the last inspection and public meeting, more issues have arisen at the Plymouth facility.

It was reduced to 28% power earlier this month after workers detected leakage in a condenser tube.

They were first alerted to the problem by elevated levels of chloride in the plant’s circulating water lines.

While still under reduced power the plant was shut down due to an approaching blizzard.

A fourth-quarter inspection report by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission identified five new safety violations.

A statement from the NRC said they were all identified as of “very low safety significance.”

The latest issues include problems with a reactor coolant recirculation system, vibrations in a pump system and issues with a shutdown transformer.

Other violations included failure to take timely action to fix and remove debris from air tubing that could impact a steam isolation valve and failure to conduct maintenance on a feedwater regulating valve.

Plant owner Entergy previously announced it would close the facility in 2019 after one more refueling this year.

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