Pilgrim Officials to Present Action Plan to NRC Commissioners

COURTESY PILGRIM NUCLEAR POWER STATION

PLYMOUTH – The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hear from the owners of underperforming plants, including the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, at its annual Agency Action Review meeting Tuesday in Washington.

The five-member presidentially-appointed commission that oversees the NRC will look at plants that are under a heightened level of scrutiny.

NRC Spokesman Neil Sheehan said the Plymouth plant, and its owner Entergy, will be a major focus of the meeting.

“There are only a few plants that are in that category at the present time, Pilgrim being one of them,” Sheehan said. “So they will get the commissioners full attention during this meeting.”

The commissioner will be presented an action plan from Entergy, hear from NRC staff and then ask follow up questions.

“This is part of the process that occurs for plants that are in what is known as Column 4 of the NRC’s action matrix,” Sheehan said. “It basically means plants that have had significant enough safety performance issues come under increased additional oversight from the NRC.”

In 2015, the station was placed in Column 4, which is one step away from a federally mandated shutdown, in the wake of a series of safety violations and unplanned shutdowns of the reactor. The federal agency has been conducting additional inspections at the station, which is expected to shut down by the end of May 2019, ever since.

Entergy will give an update on where their performance initiatives stand and NRC staff will also discuss what they are doing when it comes to oversight.

“We are continuing on with these quarterly inspections that are related to the Confirmatory Action Letter that we issued to Pilgrim last August,” Sheehan said.

Pilgrim has had two straight quarterly inspection reports without any documented violations.

The NRC recently finished a third quarterly inspection at the plant and will soon be issuing a report.

As part of the Confirmatory Action Letter, Pilgrim committed to 156 areas of improvement and the NRC has closed out about 25 percent of those areas.

“We are seeing progress,” Sheehan said. “They are allocating the proper resources and attention to try to get these issues addressed, but again sustainability of those efforts is really going to be key and we’ll see how things play out as we continue to go forward with these reviews.”

Senior Communications Specialist for Entergy’s Pilgrim Station Patrick O’Brien said the plant is pleased with the results of the second NRC Confirmatory Action Letter inspection through a statement.

“It demonstrates that the Pilgrim team has continued to improve performance at the site. As the NRC notes in its letter, there remain three additional inspections, including one that just recently concluded, that we must satisfactorily complete before the NRC can give consideration to moving Pilgrim out of Column 4. We’re Working diligently to sustain excellence in each area of our business and all of the employees at Pilgrim remain focused on safe and reliable operations through our shutdown date of June 1, 2019.”

In 2017, there were 33 safety violations at the plant, all considered “green,” or of very low safety significance.

The safety significance scale begins with green, on the low end, before moving to white, yellow and red.

At a public meeting in March, the NRC officials discussed the 2017 performance of the plant. They said the plant operated safely last year but did not improve its standing as one of the three worst performing reactors in the country.

The plant has been taken offline multiple times in the early part of 2018.

In March, crews discovered a leak in the feedwater heating system and took the station offline to fix the problem. After staying off the grid during two winter storms, operators had to delay the restart of the station due to faulty a start-up transformer. The outage lasted 43 days.

In late April, plant operators powered down the reactor after an issue was detected with two feedwater regulation valves.

The plant was operating at 50 percent power early last month for a scheduled thermal backwash. The maintenance is routinely scheduled five or six times per year to improve condenser performance.

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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