Posted on    February 5, 2015      Heather Lightner    Manomet Current

Last month, Entergy began transferring spent fuel from Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station’s overcrowded wet pool to dry cask storage.

Entergy needs to create space in its spent fuel pool so that spent fuel that is removed from the reactor in the future has a place to cool. Two of the three storage casks wereloaded in January, with each cask containing 68 assemblies; the third cask was loaded the first week of February. The casks will be stored onsite at Pilgrim and are likely to remain in Plymouth for an indefinite period of time, as there is no Federal repository for storage of spent nuclear fuel.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Massachusetts and New York Attorneys General offices, believe dry cask storage of spent fuel to be safer than wet pool storage because it is passive and does not require human action to cool the fuel. However, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and numerous government and scientific sources, have reported problems with the steel and concrete dry casks Entergy has ordered for spent fuel storage at Pilgrim. Concerns regarding the long-term viability and safety of dry casks have been raised, as well as the potential for stress corrosion cracking due to salt water exposure (with subsequent radioactive release) and vulnerability to terrorist attack.

Dry casks have three components: 1. a metal transfer cask to lift and handle the canister and prevent radioactive shieling of the spent fuel assemblies, 2. a leak-proof metal canister capable of holding 68 boiling water reactor assemblies, and 3. a storage overpack made of steel-encased concrete which provides physical and radiological protection of the metal canister when stored on the dry cask pad. This canister is vented for natural convection to dissipate spent fuel decay heat.

Pilgrim’s dry cask storage facility is located only about 175 feet away from the shoreline of Cape Cod Bay and about 6 feet above FEMA’s flood level. The proximity of the dry casks to the water and the effect of storm surge and sea level rise are worrisome. Pilgrim’s salt water environment may lead to premature stress corrosion cracking of the stainless steel canisters within 30 years – or perhaps sooner – resulting in major radiation releases. The concrete overpacks can also suffer from accelerated aging issues as the result of the coastal factors. Other nuclear power plants, such as San Onofre in Pendleton, California – also located on the water – have documented component failures in similar materials that have occurred in less than 30 years.

Unfortunately, the technology does not exist to inspect even the outside of the stainless steel canisters for cracks once loaded with spent fuel meaning there is no way to know that a stress corrosion crack has occurred. The NRC has given the nuclear industry five years to develop a method for inspecting the outside of the canisters; however, the NRC only plans on requiring inspection of one canister at each nuclear power plant. Even if a method did exist to detect a canister crack, there is no remediation plan if a canister does fail. The technology that is used to repair other stainless steel components cannot be used to repair canisters containing spent nuclear fuel. Per the NRC, if a canister becomes damaged due to a stress corrosion crack, there is no way to repair or replace the canister. Additionally, a canister cannot be transported in a transfer cask if there is a crack.

One potential fuel-handling solution that is currently being considered is the possibility of bringing a cask, or canister, back into the spent fuel pool, where it could be opened and possibly repaired or replaced. However, there is no publicly published documentation that a boiling water reactor dry cask has ever been loaded back into a spent fuel pool containing other assemblies. Temperature differences between the fuel in the dry cask and the spent fuel pool could disturb the properties of the cask, cladding, fuel, and related hardware if the materials were rewetted and rapidly cooled. Reinsertion of dry casks in the wet pool would thermally shock the irradiated fuel rods and cause a steam flash which would harm workers in the facility. Hence, an empty wet pool specifically designated for the reopening of damaged casks would be needed and is currently not available at any nuclear power plant in the country. Technology known as dry (hot cell) transfer has been discussed as an option for handling damaged casks; however, there is no dry handling facility available that is large enough to handle these canisters. Additionally, there is no mobile facility designed for this purpose and designing one may not be feasible.

There are no monitors installed on each cask to measure heat, helium (detection of helium can provide early warning of a problem) and radiation. A daily surveillance of the dry cask passive heat removal system is required to ensure system operability. This can be achieved by either monitoring the casks’ inlet and outlet vent temperatures or performing a visual inspection daily to ensure that the casks’ vents are not blocked. Pilgrim has chosen to perform daily visual inspections to ensure the air inlet and outlet vents do not become blocked and the passive heat removal system remains operable. The NRC expects that thermoluminscent dosimeters will be placed around the storage pad and will be used to monitor radiation on a quarterly to yearly basis. Unfortunately, the dosimeters can only read to a maximum threshold. They cannot provide an immediate reading of radiation.

Though the prospect of storing high-level nuclear waste in Plymouth indefinitely is not a pleasant thought and will never be the right or perfect solution for our town, there are steps that can be taken to do the job right and make dry cask storage as safe as it can be. Moving the dry casks to higher ground and enclosing them within a building offers multiple benefits: 1. increased protection against a salt water environment, storm surge, and sea level rise, 2. prevention of blockage of dry cask ventilation due to ice, snow, mud, and birds’ nests, thereby lowering the chance of a canister overheating, and 3. decreased visibility to potential terrorists, hence decreasing the site’s vulnerability to an attack.

While there is no current method to repair damaged canisters or casks, the addition of heat, helium, and radiation monitors for each cask would provide real-time information which would be invaluable in terms of identifying and responding to a problem with a dry cask. On-site storage of additional overpacks may offer temporary protection should a canister or cask corrosion crack occur.

Ultimately the best solution is to use casks that are not susceptible to cracks, that can be inspected and repaired, and that have early warning monitoring systems that alert us before radiation leaks into the environment.

Despite the concerns related to dry casks, dry cask storage has many advantages over wet pool storage: it does not require mechanical parts or offsite electrical power; does not need human intervention to function properly; and, is not as vulnerable to acts of terrorism. Dry cask storage also reduces the amount of spent fuel in the SFP, meaning there will be fewer releases of radioactivity in the event of an accident. Sadly, significant gains in safety can only be realized through expedited transfer dry cask transfer and resultant thinning of the spent fuel pool, which currently Pilgrim does not plan to do.

Heather Lightner is a registered nurse in Plymouth and president of Concerned Neighbors of Pilgrim, a local, grassroots group focused on safer storage of spent nuclear fuel at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station. She serves on the Plymouth Nuclear Matters Committee. The opinions expressed here are hers and do not reflect the official position of the NMC.


Posted on    November 7, 2013      State House News Service    Source

PLYMOUTH — On the eve of a visit by a top nuclear regulator, the union that represents workers at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth reported Thursday that plant owner Entergy plans to lay off “several” workers there.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane plans to visit the plant on Friday, and she will hold a media availability from noon to 12:30 p.m. Macfarlane visited Seabrook Station in New Hampshire on Thursday. According to the Utility Workers Union of America Local 369, the Entergy plans to cut as many as eight technicians, technical specialists, and administrators, including experienced workers who write the procedures that govern protocols at Pilgrim.

A company spokesman said there are plans to reduce seven union members, and the reduction will not impact safety at the plant. “The determination of positions that could be eliminated was based on careful consideration not to impact plant safety, security or reliability. Of the seven union positions identified for reduction, all are administrative in nature,” said Entergy Nuclear Communications Manager Jim Sinclair in a statement.

He said the layoffs were part of a “comprehensive redesign” announced in July and the company is seeking to place the individuals in other roles.

“These layoffs are concerning and it’s unclear why Entergy feels it needs to cut staff at this time,” said UWUA Local 369 President Daniel Hurley in a statement.

“It is ironic that days after Entergy Pilgrim Nuclear Power plant is placed on a dubious list of 15 underperforming nuclear sites in the country, the company has chosen profits over safety,” Hurley said. “Our first priority is the safety of our members and our communities, and no one knows how to operate this plant better than the men and women who have been working here for decades.”

Entergy also said operating at the “highest levels of safety and reliability” is its top priority. Union officials want more information from Entergy about the layoffs, which they say are expected as early as Dec. 13. Entergy in August announced plans to close its Vermont Yankee power plant. A company lobbyist said at the time that its plans in Vermont would have no impact on Pilgrim.


Posted on    October 15, 2013      Lane Lambert    Source

PLYMOUTH — A Monday night loss of outside power has forced the Pilgrim nuclear plant offline for the fourth time this year.

Carol Wightman, a spokeswoman for Pilgrim’s owner Entergy, said Tuesday morning that the plan automatically shut down at 9:21 p.m. Monday, when an NStar power line into the plant went out of service.

Wightman said Pilgrim gets its outside power from two 345-kilovolt lines. NStar had already taken one of the lines out of service for maintenance when the second line failed.

Wightman said the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission was informed as soon as the shutdown occurred.

She said the shutdown had no effect on the health or safety to the public or Pilgrim workers. She said the 685-megawatt plant will return to production when NStar completes repair and restoration of the two power lines.

Wightman said emergency generators began operating as soon as the NStar line went out of service, and that the generators are safely powering the plant.

Meanwhile, she said Pilgrim crews are doing maintenance that can’t be performed while the plant is in production.

Pilgrim has now been offline for 73 of 288 days thus far this year, though 46 of those days were for planned maintenance and refueling.

The plant was offline three times earlier this year from pump-related problems. The plant was down for a week in January, and again in late August and early September.

http://www.patriotledger.com/topstories/x1281960517/Pilgrim-nuclear-plant-offline-for-4th-time-this-year#ixzz2htkweZba

110 Pilgrim violations, 2000-2012

The Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth experienced 108 lower-level and two higher-level safety violations from 2000 through 2012. The violations were included in a congressional study expected to be released this month showing that safety violations at nuclear plants across the country varies dramatically from region to region. The Government Accountability Office report obtained by The Associated Press suggests inconsistent enforcement of regulations could be responsible.

A Pilgrim spokeswoman said they’re committed to addressing even minor issues and that enhancing safety is their top concern.

Twenty-six Northeast reactors reported more than 2,500 violations, about 97 per reactor, during the 13-year period. Lower-level violations pose very low risk. Higher-level violations range from low to high safety significance, such as an improperly maintained electrical system that caused a fire affecting a plant’s ability to shut down safely.

Shutdowns at Pilgrim in 2013

Jan. 10: Trip of both recirculation pumps. Returned to full power on Jan. 17.
Jan. 20: Leak in a safety-relief valve. Returned to full power on Jan. 24.
Feb. 8: Offsite power loss and main generator load reject. Returned to full power on Feb. 16.
April 18: Refueling. Returned to full power on June 3.
Aug. 22: Electrical problems with water pumps. The plant restarted on Aug. 26, but was shut down by a steam leak on Sept. 8 before reaching full power. Returned to full power on Sept. 21.
Oct. 14: Loss of offsite power.

Source: Nuclear Regulatory Commission


Posted on    October 12, 2013  

The Boston Globe: Ex-leader of Japan warns against nuclear power

IEEE Spectrum: Former NRC Chairman says Nuclear Industry is “Going Away”

Huffington Post: After Fukushima Disaster, Advocates Argue Only Safe Nuclear Power Is None At All

Patriot Ledger: State senator calls for Pilgrim nuclear plant to be shut down

Cape Cod Online: Panelists outline problems with U.S. nuclear plant safety

Patriot Ledger: Panelists say Pilgrim nuclear plant should be closed

South Coast Today: Nuclear Experts: Retire reactors

Counter Punch: Toward a Clean Energy Future: The Nuclear Forum

WBAI Pacifica Radio: New York Lessons from Fukushima

YouTube: Former PM Naoto Kan of Japan Speaks Out on Fukushima

Huffington Post: Nuclear Power Through the Fukushima Perspective

Business Week: Indian Point Nuclear Plant Should Be Shut, Ex-Regulator Says

Huffington Post: Former NRC Chair: Emergency Plans Won’t Protect Residents from Radiation


Posted on    October 8, 2013      Christine Legere, Cape Cod Times    Source

PLYMOUTH — So far, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s 3,900-member staff has been able to stay on the job despite the federal government shutdown, thanks to a little leftover money from last year. But the till is nearing empty. Keep reading…


Posted on    August 29, 2013      Andy Metzger and Matt Murphy, State House News Service    Source

Asked whether he would pressure Entergy to shutter Pilgrim, Patrick said, “It’s not clear to me that we need Pilgrim in order to meet all of our electrical needs. So we’re going to have to have the conversation about how we meet all those needs and whether this aging nuclear facility is a necessary part of that formula.”Keep reading


Posted on    August 2, 2013      Cape Cod Times    Source

PLYMOUTH — Entergy has announced a plan to streamline staffing levels at its plants nationwide. That will mean the elimination of 800 positions nationwide and 30 at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth. Keep reading…


Posted on    July 30, 2013      Reuters

Power company Entergy Corp (ETR.N) is mulling the future of its wholesale nuclear operation and plans to cut 800 jobs to save up to $250 million by 2016, Chief Executive Officer Leo Denault told investors on Tuesday.

As part of his reorganization plan to simplify Entergy’s corporate structure, Denault said the company is studying options for its non-utility owned power plants, mainly its aging nuclear plants operating in the U.S. Northeast which face falling wholesale prices and a difficult regulatory environment. “As we consider strategic alternatives for (Entergy Wholesale), all options are on the table,” Denault said.Keep reading (Reuters)


Posted on    July 3, 2012      PRNewswire    Source

Entergy lockout of experienced workers extends to one month amid mounting concerns over the cancellation of critical safety drills and inadequately trained replacement workers doubling up on critical safety tasks.

Local workers and concerned citizens have expressed heightened concerns about the safety of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant heading into one of the most densely populated days in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Plymouth hosts one of the Commonwealth’s largest annual Fourth of July celebrations, with tourists flocking to the region for a variety of events, including fireworks, live music and a parade.

Questions and concerns about the safety of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant reached new levels over the past month since Louisiana-based Entergy Corp. locked out 240 experienced members of the Utility Workers Union of America Local 369 – many of who have been operating the 40-year-old facility for decades. During the past four weeks, Entergy has cancelled a vital safety drill that has yet to be rescheduled, forced replacement workers unfamiliar with the Pilgrim Plant to double up on critical safety responsibilities, and at times has had to significantly reduce power output at the plant to cope with leaks and overheating.

Keep reading…

Posted on    June 22, 2012  

PLYMOUTH, MA — Today a statewide coalition of public health, nuclear safety, social justice, and environmental groups delivered a letter to Governor Deval Patrick requesting that he ask the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to close the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station because the plant’s owner has locked out its regular workforce from the Utility Workers of America Union Local 369.

Keep reading…

Posted on    June 16, 2012  

Evan Allen, Boston Globe    Source →

“By having untrained workers in there, and not preparing them for emergencies, it’s disgusting. It just shows you that they put profits over the safety of the workers and the safety of the community.”Dan Hurley, president of the Utility Workers Union of America Local 369


Posted on    May 16, 2012  

Groups file Petition with NRC to shut down Pilgrim during UWUA local 369 strike

Pilgrim Watch, Jones River Watershed Association, Pilgrim Coalition, and Freeze Pilgrim petition the NRC to shut Pilgrim down pending resolution of labor dispute that is fully satisfactory to workers in order to protect public health and safety and to assure that workers are treated fairly. Pilgrim’s out-of-state owners care only about their profits, not about the people who live and work here!

About the 2.206 process

Pursuant to §2.206 of Title 10 in the Code of Federal Regulations, Petitioners request that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) initiate a proceeding pursuant to §2.202 of Title 10 in the Code of Federal Regulations.

Summary

Reactor: Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, Plymouth, Massachusetts
Request for Enforcement Action: Require Pilgrim NPS to cease operations due to the threat to public safety due to: the current lock out of its non-essential workers; a likely strike; and Entergy’s refusal to honor the demands of U.W.U.A. local 369 workers.
Facts that constitute the basis for taking this action: discussed herein


Posted on    May 14, 2012  

Entergy employs 422 workers at Pilgrim.

Recently, 380 workers in Local 369, Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, voted to strike if a contract isn’t reached by May 15, 2012. Nearly all 380 employees are in high-level roles.

Taking Pilgrim off-line permanently does not mean immediate job loss.

A large work force will be needed to decommission, a process that would take at least 7 years. Workers will be needed for the safe storage of existing radioactive waste fuel at the site for decades—at least until the federal government builds a nuclear waste storage depository. Entergy owns many other sites for job transfers, and the nuclear industry as a whole is understaffed for skilled workers, so these workers are in demand.

Maine Yankee (MY) provides a case study for decommissioning.

MY was somewhat larger than Pilgrim (840 MW vs. 715 MW), although Pilgrim has been operating longer and has more spent fuel. MY was decommissioned 11 years short of its 35-year expected operating life. Decommissioning took 7 years after closing, from 1997 to 2004. On-site storage of spent fuel rods is expected to last for 30 years, and requires on-site maintenance. MY employed 360 on-site workers at the time it stopped operating, after two years there were 200 working, but by 2002 there were 430 people employed in decommissioning. Maine Yankee found workers leaving so quickly for jobs elsewhere that the company had to institute a “Golden Handcuffs” program, bonuses to retain needed workers.

Unfair to Entergy? Or to Massachusetts?

Entergy bought Pilgrim in 1999 for the equivalent of $11 million (about the cost of the new fuel load then being delivered). Boston Edison, the prior owner, was made whole by deregulation of energy companies. Entergy owns a decommissioning division.

The real question is the cost to the Commonwealth if something goes wrong.

Entergy formed a limited liability company for Pilgrim, and the federal Price Anderson Act caps Entergy’s liability, and excludes clean-up costs. The Commonwealth and Federal government —i.e. taxpayers and area residents—will bear the extraordinary burden of any significant accident. Pilgrim is among the oldest nuclear generating facilities still operating in the country and the world.

Entergy owns and operates power plants in the U.S. with about 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, and is the second-largest  nuclear generator in the U.S., owning 10 nuclear plants. Its’ 2010 revenues were $11 billion.

“Maine Yankee Decommissioning Experience Report, Detailed Experiences, 1997-2004″ Prepared for EPRI and Maine Yankee by New Horizon Scientific, LLC

Wikipedia.org: Entergy Entergy website: Decommissioning WATD 95.9: Pilgrim workers set deadline