Warm Water Temperatures Result in Pilgrim Plant Power Reduction

COURTESY PILGRIM NUCLEAR POWER STATION

COURTESY PILGRIM NUCLEAR POWER STATION

PLYMOUTH – The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant has been operating at reduced power due to a string of hot weather.

The temperature of Cape Cod Bay exceeded 75 degrees on Monday, the maximum allowed under the plant’s federal license. Pilgrim pulls in water to cool the reactor before returning it to the bay.

“When the water temperatures reach a certain level it can challenge the ability to cool the steam that’s produced by the reactor,” said Neil Sheehan, a spokesperson for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

It the third time in the last four summers that warm bay temperatures have forced the plant to reduce power.

In addition to the stretch of warm days, other environmental conditions may have contributed to the water reaching 75 degrees.

“If they have the wind blowing out of a certain direction it can tend to take the warmer water that’s been used at the plant and then merge that with the water coming into the plant and that also has the impact of raising the water temperature,”

The plant was powered down to around 40 percent. Station officials took the opportunity to perform some routine condenser flushing maintenance.

As of Wednesday morning, Pilgrim had returned to 74 percent power. The station has not announced when they expect to return to full capacity. The NRC generally does not release that information, according to Sheehan.

Pilgrim is under increased federal oversight following a number of unplanned shutdowns and safety violations. NRC inspectors are in the midst of a three-phase review of the plant’s operations.

The station is scheduled to close by June 2019. Plant owner Entergy says it is no longer financially viable.

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