Comprehensive Pilgrim Inspection Gets Underway

COURTESY PILGRIM NUCLEAR POWER STATION

COURTESY PILGRIM NUCLEAR POWER STATION

PLYMOUTH – A team of 20 inspectors begin the third and most comprehensive special inspection of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station today.

The inspection is the last in a series of three since the Plymouth plant was placed under increased oversight by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Pilgrim’s safety rating was downgraded last year following a number of safety issues and unplanned shutdowns.

The plant is one of the three worst performing stations in the country, according to the NRC.

NRC Spokesman Neil Sheehan says the inspectors will delve into equipment performance and reliability and safety culture, along with the plant’s quality of procedures and its corrective action program.

“This will be a really sweeping inspection process and at the end of that we’ll step back and see where they are at,” Sheehan said.

The inspectors will be onsite for two weeks through November and December before returning for a third week in January.

“This will really give us a measure of where the plants stands at this point,” Sheehan said.

Once the inspection is complete the plant’s owner, Entergy, will receive a confirmatory action letter from the NRC which will lay out what actions will need to be taken to get back to regular oversight.

Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station Spokesman Patrick O’Brien believes the site is prepared and ready for the inspectors.

“We look forward to having the NRC here and going through the process,” O’Brien said. “Our goal is to get back to regular NRC oversight and look forward to that opportunity before we close in 2019.”

Anti-nuclear activists will gather from 1 to 3 p.m. at the gate of the Plymouth plant.

The Cape Downwinders and other area residents will call for the NRC to immediately revoke Pilgrim’s operating license.

“How many inspections does it take to shut down a dangerous nuclear reactor that threatens over 5 million people?,” said Diane Turco, the director of the Cape Downwinders. “The 20-member special inspection team should figure that out this week. If the NRC is doing its job, the operating license will be revoked.”

The NRC discovered four new safety related violations during the agency’s third quarter inspection of the facility.

The violations include problems with the plant’s diesel generators, radiation monitor substations, several electrical relays and primary containment isolation valves.

The NRC lists all of the violations as “very low significance” and said all of the safety issues have since been addressed by Pilgrim.

The plant experienced another unplanned shutdown on September 5 when a regulating valve problem resulted in a high water level. The facility was reconnected to the grid on September 19 after plant officials repaired the valve. Additional maintenance on three other valves and a turning gear in the main turbine was also conducted.

Sheehan said the actions taken by the NRC after the report is issued covers a wide range.

“The company is interested in seeing [if it can] at least move out of the heightened oversight category if not back into the normal oversight,” Sheehan said. “We’ve made clear that there is quite a bit of work that needs to be done before that can happen.”

Sheehan said actions taken by the NRC could include more inspections.

“We are not going to prejudge at this point exactly what might come out of the remainder of this oversight process but suffice to say this team inspection is going to be the largest and most significant piece of the NRC reviews,” Sheehan said.

An order to shut down the plant is also within the range of possibilities following the inspection, according to Sheehan.

“If we saw that performance was not improving, that there continued to be deficiencies there and that they were not getting the level of attention that they warrant, there is always the possibility that we could require that the plant shut down prior to 2019,” he said.

Entergy announced that the plant will shut down by the end of May 2019.

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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