Pilgrim Plant Gaining Ground on Making Performance Improvements


PLYMOUTH – The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth continues to make progress in fixing performance deficiencies ahead of its planned shutdown next spring.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently released its fourth quarterly Confirmatory Action Letter inspection report following the plant being placed under Column 4 – the highest level of oversight – in 2015 for several safety violations and unplanned shutdowns.

The plant has now taken proper actions to correct more than 115 of the 156 areas outlined in the Confirmatory Action Letter, or 74 percent.

“We’ve seen a lot of progress at the plant,” said Neil Sheehan, an NRC spokesman.

The latest inspection focused on operation standards and site leadership, risk recognition and decision making, engineering programs, equipment reliability and work management.

Sheehan said quite a bit of work was involved during the latest quarterly inspection.

More than 70 individuals at the plant were interviewed. Eight focus group panel discussions were conducted. Inspectors looked over survey results and completed walk downs, or visual inspections.

“We really wanted to make sure that we had confidence that they are getting their hands around the issues that have dogged the plant in recent years,” Sheehan said.

The inspection closed out 45 items highlighted in the Confirmatory Action Letter.

The last of the five planned inspections will be conducted in mid-December. It will focus on the plant’s safety culture.

“We expect every plant to have a well-functioning safety culture,” Sheehan said. “Without a safety culture we can’t be assured that the plant’s going to be prioritizing its resources to make sure that problems are getting addressed in a timely manner, and that’s been a problem at Pilgrim in the past.”

Sheehan said Entergy, the plant’s owner, is devoted a significant amount of attention in this area but that the next inspection will be a test of that.

The NRC is getting close to the end of this process, but any decisions about whether they have fully addressed all of the plant’s issues will not be made until early next year.

“Entergy has made it very clear to us that this is a point of pride for them that they want to see the performance at the plant turned around to the point where they can return to a normal level of NRC oversight,” Sheehan said.

The ultimate decision on whether or not the plant has made enough improvements to be lifted out of Column 4 will rest with the NRC Regional Administrator.

Sheehan said the NRC is confident that the plant remains safe to the public.

“Pilgrim  is pleased that the NRC’s 4th Confirmatory Action Letter Inspection closed all 45 actions without any findings or violations. Of particular pride to our entire workforce is that ‘the inspectors noted a marked improvement in safety culture since the previous round of focus groups and interviews conducted in February 2017 and confirmed a sustained positive change in safety culture,'” said Entergy Spokesman Patrick O’Brien.

“We remain committed to finishing safely and strongly before our planned shutdown date of June 1, 2019 and continue to work diligently to return to normal NRC reactor oversight. The next step is to successfully complete CAL Inspection #5, which is scheduled for December 2018,” he said.

The plant was reduced to about 35 percent power on Friday morning to address an issue with a feedwater regulating valve.

“In general, we’ve seen enough work that has been done to assure us that the plant remains in a very safe condition,” Sheehan said.

NRC officials will be watching winter storms and their impacts on Pilgrim very closely.

Entergy, the plant’s owner, hopes to shut down the plant by June 1.

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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