Federal Regulators Say Pilgrim is Making Slow Progress


HYANNIS – The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth is making slow progress in improving performance, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

A third quarter inspection report of the plant included seven new “green” violations, which are of very low safety significance.

NRC Spokesman Neil Sheehan said four of the violations were directly associated with the facility’s last refueling and maintenance outage last spring.

“During the course of that outage there was a number of tests that were done on key equipment of the plant,” he said.

“That led to the identification of a number of maintenance shortcomings on the part of plant personnel.”

The appropriate maintenance schedule for a part of one of the main safety relief valves for the plant had not been properly followed.

“The solenoid coil for the safety relief valve should have been replaced sooner,” Sheehan said. “In fact, it had not been replaced for 20 years.”

A second violation was found in one of the safety system, known as a Core Spray System.

“There was a void that developed, an air pocket that developed, in one of the lines for this safety system that rendered it inoperable,” he said.

“This condition existed for a period of time and should have been identified sooner.”

Even though the violations are “green,” it does not mean they don’t warrant attention, according to Sheehan.

“The fact that we’ve issued these violations means that they have to be placed in the plant’s corrective action program and then we will follow up to ensure they have taken steps to remedy these issues,” Sheehan said.

Two of the violations were identified as part of follow-up inspections performed in response to an issue identified during the outage.

There is an increased amount of plant activity and NRC inspection activity during refueling outages and it is not out of the ordinary for there to be an increased number of issues identified, according to the NRC.

The NRC issued a confirmatory action letter to the plant earlier this year which outlines where the agency is in its oversight process. The first of five follow up team inspections will begin before the end of the year.

“These inspections that we will be doing, starting before the end of the year, will really go a long way towards telling us where they are in terms of responding to some of the issues called out in our confirmatory action letter for Pilgrim,” Sheehan said.

Pilgrim, which is one of the worst performing reactors in the nation, remains under column 4 of the NRC action matrix, which is the highest level of oversight.

Entergy, the plant’s owner, plans to shut down the reactor in the spring of 2019.

Sheehan said it is still too soon to tell if the plant will be able to be removed from column 4 oversight before it is shut down.

“We still have quite a bit of diagnostic work to see what kind of advances they are making,” he said. “But it is really going to depend on the level of effort put into this by the company and whether we find that satisfactory.”

Complete details of the seven “green” violations from the third quarter inspection can be found below.

The Non-Cited Violations are:

  • Entergy failed to establish an adequate procedure to address a loss of control room air conditioning and ensure that equipment there would remain within acceptable temperature limits (for control room habitability) under certain accident conditions.  The procedure was significantly revised on April 27, 2017, and corrective actions included a plan and timeframes for shedding electrical loads.
  • Entergy failed to establish an appropriate preventive maintenance schedule for the replacement of non-metallic parts internal to the solenoid valve for one of the plant’s four safety relief valves (SRVs). Specifically, the SRV’s solenoid coil was not replaced for 20 years, which exceeded the specified environmental qualified life and replacement frequency. As a result, the SRV failed testing on April 24, 2017. The company has replaced all of the SRVs’ solenoid valves.
  • The company replaced differential pressure switches for the High-Pressure Coolant Injection (HPCI), reactor water cleanup and Low-Pressure Core Injection (LPCI) systems but failed to upgrade their environmental qualification status, as required by the NRC.
  • Entergy did not appropriately establish procedures for filling and venting the “A” core spray system, one of two trains of the system, which is a reactor safety system that can be used to inject coolant into the reactor vessel during an emergency shutdown. As a result, the system was returned to service in May 21, 2017, with a 2-inch void in the “A” train, rendering it inoperable. It remained in that condition until it was filled and vented on June 7, 2017, which exceeded the Technical Specifications allowed outage time.
  • The company did not appropriately establish maintenance procedures for maintenance on High-Pressure Coolant Injection (HPCI) turbine exhaust valves, which led to the valves exceeding the 10-year disassembly and inspection timeframe. As a result, the safety-related primary containment isolation check valves (check valves are one-way valves that normally allow fluid to flow through them in only one direction) failed during the testing. In response, Entergy rebuilt one of the check valves and disassembled and cleaned another of the valves. It also changed the maintenance procedure for the valves.
  • Entergy did not justify and document the basis for the activation energy used to establish the Main Steam Isolation Valve (MSIV) limit switch silicon rubber gasket qualified service life, as specified by an NRC Regulatory Guide. Specifically, the company used non-conservative values without providing adequate justification when extending the qualified service life for the silicon rubber gaskets.
  • Entergy failed to implement a vendor-recommended modification to address Main Steam Isolation Valve (MSIV) stem damage caused by an unstabilized main poppet valve. As a result, two MSIVs experienced damage that was identified during local leak rate testing of the valves. In response, the company overhauled the valves, adjusting packing on all eight MSIVs and providing procedural guidance for closing an MSIV during low power operations.

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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