Latest NRC Quarterly Pilgrim Plant Report Shows Progress


PLYMOUTH – The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant is nearly halfway through the process of returning to a normal level of oversight.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently released its third 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 taken proper actions to correct more than 70 of the 156 areas outlined in the Confirmatory Action Letter, or 46 percent.

“We still have two quarterly inspections to complete and then early next year we will look at whether the plant has made sufficient progress that we would consider putting the plant back under a more normal level of oversight,” said Neil Sheehan, and NRC spokesman.

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

The latest inspection focused on the plant’s corrective action program for identifying problems and taking steps to remedy them, along with procedural adherence.

“That’s been an ongoing problem at the plant where we’ve seen issues with operators not fully adhering to procedures and that has resulted in some problems at the plant,” Sheehan said.

The NRC inspection team closed 30 of the 33 CAL items covered during the inspection. Two of the items are being kept open because an effectiveness review – performed by Entergy and evaluated by the NRC – found that the use of the subject matter experts and mentors would continue until a positive change in safety culture was improved and verified by NRC inspectors during a future assessment.

Sheehan said the window is beginning to close for the plant to get out of Column 4 before its planned shutdown.

“We’ve heard from Entergy that they very much would like to see the plant return to a more normal level of oversight before the plant ceases operations,” he said.

Sheehan said Pilgrim continues to make progress.

“We have more work to do in terms of these inspections and the plant has more work to do in demonstrating to us that they have taken the steps necessary,” Sheehan said.

In the two remaining quarterly inspections, the NRC will be looking at engineering programs, equipment performance, operations standards and leadership, along with the plant’s safety culture.

“By [safety culture] I mean what exactly they have done to set the right tone for the plant so that when issues arise they are not brushed aside and that they are given the level of attention they warrant and are addressed in a timely manner based on their significance,” Sheehan said.

Sheehan said the plant remains in a safe state, even after last Friday’s unplanned shutdown. As of Thursday morning the plant remained out of service.

The so-called scram happened just after 12 p.m. when a feedwaterregulating valve unexpectedly closed.

That resulted in a drop in reactor water level and the reactor protection system initiating the scram.

The safety measure inserts all control rods into the nuclear core to halt the fissioning process.

“In general, we believe the plant continues to operate safely and, in fact, the shutdown went exactly as it should,” Sheehan said.

All reactor safety systems functioned as designed and the shutdown was carried out without complications.


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