Pilgrim Requests Extension from NRC for Post Fukushima Order



PLYMOUTH – The owner of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, Entergy, is seeking an extension from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to comply with a post Fukushima order for its boiling-water reactor to have reliable hardened containment vents.

The vents are designed to remove combustible gases after an accident to prevent explosions seen at Fukushima.

The plant is asking for an extension through December 31, 2019 so a permanent plant modification would not be needed as the plant is set to close by June of 2019.

“The plant does have a limited operational timeframe going forward, but our mandate is to make sure that the public is going to be adequately protected,” said Neil Sheehan, an NRC Spokesman.

In a letter to the NRC, Entergy said the plant has designed a FLEX strategy and plan that uses Wetwell Venting and Severe Accident Water Addition to mitigate the conditions resulting from a plant accident.

“We have the capabilities to move equipment and take care of these things instead of doing the full permanent plant modification,” said Patrick O’Brien, a spokesman for the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station.

Sheehan said the NRC will do their due diligence in reviewing the plant’s request.

“We’ll look at this very closely to see whether or not this will be satisfactory,” said Sheehan. “This will receive very close scrutiny from the NRC staff before we render a decision.”

Last year the NRC approved a similar request from the Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant in New Jersey for a relaxation of the compliance order. The Oyster Creek facility is also scheduled to close in 2019.

The NRC approved Oyster Creek’s request to not install a reliable hardened vent from the plant’s “wetwell,” which is a donut-shaped reservoir of water at the base of the plant. The plant has not ruled on the portion of the order dealing with a vent from the facilities “drywell,” which is the enclosed area around the reactor.

The Pilgrim plant is seeking relief from both parts of the order and believes the “drywell” vent order does not apply to the facility because of the timing of its final refueling outage.

Diane Turco of Harwich, who is a member of the opposition group Cape Downwinders, continues to call for the closure of the Pilgrim plant.

“This is a recipe for catastrophe. Our lessons learned from Fukushima is that the NRC will not prevent an accident,” she said.

Turco is calling for Governor Charlie Baker and Sentors Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren to pressure the NRC to close the plant.

“This is a very dangerous situation and they are gambling with our lives,” Turco said.

The plant is under increased federal scrutiny as a result of multiple unplanned shutdowns and sub-standard safety reports and faces additional inspections and oversight from federal officials.

Pilgrim is currently one of the three worst performing plants when it comes to federal safety standards in the country.

Ongoing inspections uncovered two new safety findings last week.

Federal officials say the issues were “green” findings, meaning they were of very low safety significance. The station has placed the problems in their corrective action program, and the NRC says it will treat the findings as non-cited violations as a result.

Both issues were related to the piping supports for the Salt Service Water system, which pumps water from the bay to cool plant systems.

NRC officials say some of the piping supports showed signs of corrosion and that some portions of the system supports differed from what the drawings show them to be.

The week before, inspectors found safety gear designed to activate in the event of an accident had been in place over a decade longer than it should have been. The electrical relays responsible for shutting safety valves in the structure that houses the reactor had been in place for 22 years. The equipment is supposed to be replaced once every 10 years.

“How many more times do we have to hear that there’s failed equipment,” Turco said. “People need to be outraged. Their lives, their property, our beautiful communities all threatened because of that reactor.”

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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