PLYMOUTH — Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Dr. Allison Macfarlane insisted that neither the recently announced layoffs at Pilgrim Station nor the drop in its performance rating – and not even the debate over dry cask storage – had anything to do with her visit to Plymouth. But you have to admire her timing.
Health & Safety
PLYMOUTH — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s top official toured the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station on Friday and later told reporters the 41-year-old plant, plagued by mechanical problems, is headed for trouble with federal regulators unless it improves its performance.
When asked whether the NRC would ever close Pilgrim, Allison Macfarlane said the agency has the authority to shutter any plant for as long as it takes for the operation to turn around and run safely.
“We did that with Fort Calhoun in Nebraska, and it’s been closed for two years,” the commission chairman said. “Pilgrim is not in the worst shape yet, but it’s headed that way, and we want to make sure they don’t get there.”
Macfarlane’s visit was routine, but it came at the end of a tough week for Pilgrim.
On Monday, the NRC announced a performance rating drop for the Plymouth plant based on shutdowns with complications over the last several months. The downgrade placed Pilgrim among 22 reactors nationwide that will be more closely watched by federal regulators. Currently it leads the nation’s 100 reactors in shutdowns this year.
Entergy Corp., Pilgrim’s owner-operator, was informed by the NRC on Wednesday that the plant’s standing is expected to fall even further at the close of the year’s fourth quarter, based on its high number of unplanned shutdowns in general.
That further downgrade will place the Plymouth plant among the nation’s eight worst performers.Keep reading
PLYMOUTH – The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be watching Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station’s performance more closely because of complications during unplanned shutdowns of the facility’s reactor over the past year.
The NRC on Monday released third quarter performance reports for the nation’s 100 nuclear power plants.
Pilgrim, which is owned by Entergy Nuclear and located in Plymouth, had two shutdowns with complications so far this year. Such shutdowns should be extremely rare, according to Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan. The maximum allowed by the NRC in a year is one.
Pilgrim will receive “an increased level of oversight,” Sheehan wrote in an email. An NRC inspection team will visit the plant and scrutinize the root cause for recent problems.
Pilgrim is also walking a fine line for unplanned shutdowns in general. No more than three are allowed in a 7,000-hour period of operation. When the third quarter ended, the plant was at 2.9. That number did not include the Oct. 14 unplanned shutdown, which will be considered at the end of the fourth quarter.
PLYMOUTH — Depending on your perspective, Monday’s shut down of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station was either another example of the plant’s “defense in depth” safety or additional evidence of its vulnerability.
The press release from Pilgrim arrived just after 10 a.m. Tuesday morning, Oct. 15, and referenced a successful scram (sudden shutdown) of the reactor at 9:21 p.m. the previous evening. According to Pilgrim spokesman Carol Wightman, “Pilgrim Station automatically shut down due to the loss of one of the two 345-kV lines that provides offsite power to the plant.”
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
The Boston Globe: Ex-leader of Japan warns against nuclear power
IEEE Spectrum: Former NRC Chairman says Nuclear Industry is “Going Away”
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
Huffington Post: Nuclear Power Through the Fukushima Perspective
Business Week: Indian Point Nuclear Plant Should Be Shut, Ex-Regulator Says
What is KI – What is it for?
In a nuclear reactor accident, radioactive iodine is released; it can cause thyroid cancer/disease, and mental retardation in children of exposed pregnant women. Children and infants, including the unborn, are most vulnerable. KI protects by blocking the thyroid with a harmless form of iodine.
KI must be taken before or shortly after exposure – within six hours. It does not protect against other harmful radioactive releases or other potential health effects. One dose of KI protects for 24 hours.
KI is FDA approved and stockpiled around the world. Adverse reactions are possible for those who are allergic to iodine; if allergic to iodine (shellfish or table salt) check with your doctor.
Where do I get it?
KI is stockpiled for the public in several local Public Schools; participating private schools and daycare centers; emergency shelters; and, the Emergency Reception Center in Braintree. Check your community’s policy.
Parental permission is required for school children. Unaccompanied minors at our Town Shelters and Reception Center will not receive KI unless parental permission has been given ahead of time.
To protect your family, you should have your own supply at home.
Some local Boards of Health offices (including Duxbury and Marshfield) give out free KI pills to residents.
The two manufacturers in the United States are listed below.
ANBEX, Inc., PMB 284 35246 U.S.
19 N. Palm Harbor, FL 34684-1931
727-329-1115 ext. 1524
For more information, contact:
Massachusetts Department of Public Health
Radiation Control Program
PLYMOUTH – A series of mechanical difficulties at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station has kept the plant from operating at peak for more than two weeks. Currently Pilgrim is completely off the electric grid, shut down Sunday evening because of a steam leak in a pipe supplying hot water to the nuclear reactor.
Compiled by Dave Lochbaum, Union of Concerned Scientists – A 36-page printout of events that have occurred at Pilgrim, spanning from 1965 to May 2013.* Pilgrim Events (PDF)
*Important Note: This report contains information about events that happened – not events that did not happen. In other words, just because an event is NOT listed in this report does not mean it did not happen. It might be that the ongoing research effort that yielded this report has not yet recorded the event.
PLYMOUTH — The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station was manually shut down at 8 a.m. Thursday after a tripped breaker cut off power to pumps supplying water to its reactor. James Sinclair, spokesman for Entergy, the plant’s owner and operator, said Thursday the public was in no danger. The plant was put into safe shutdown mode while staff tried to figure out the cause of the tripped breaker.
The plant will remain offline until the problem is identified and fixed, Sinclair said. The facility could be put into “cold shutdown,” which takes up to 48 hours to complete, depending on what repairs are needed, he said.
Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said the plant had 1.9 unplanned shutdowns in a 7,000-hour period. This latest shutdown could shift the plant into a category that requires tighter oversight by the federal agency.Keep reading
Civilian Cancer Deaths Expected to Skyrocket Following Radiological Incidents
The White House has given final approval for dramatically raising permissible radioactive levels in drinking water and soil following “radiological incidents,” such as nuclear power-plant accidents and dirty bombs. The final version, slated for Federal Register publication as soon as today, is a win for the nuclear industry which seeks what its proponents call a “new normal” for radiation exposure among the U.S population, according Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, the radiation guides (called Protective Action Guides or PAGs) allow cleanup many times more lax than anything EPA has ever before accepted. These guides govern evacuations, shelter-in-place orders, food restrictions and other actions following a wide range of “radiological emergencies.” The Obama administration blocked a version of these PAGs from going into effect during its first days in office. The version given approval late last Friday is substantially similar to those proposed under Bush but duck some of the most controversial aspects:
- In soil, the PAGs allow long-term public exposure to radiation in amounts as high as 2,000 millirems. This would, in effect, increase a longstanding 1 in 10,000 person cancer rate to a rate of 1 in 23 persons exposed over a 30-year period;
- In water, the PAGs punt on an exact new standard and EPA “continues to seek input on this.” But the thrust of the PAGs is to give on-site authorities much greater “flexibility” in setting aside established limits; and
- BULLETResolves an internal fight inside EPA between nuclear versus public health specialists in favor of the former. The PAGs are the product of Gina McCarthy, the assistant administrator for air and radiation whose nomination to serve as EPA Administrator is taken up this week by the Senate.
Despite the years-long internal fight, this is the first public official display of these guides. This takes place as Japan grapples with these same issues in the two years following its Fukushima nuclear disaster.
“This is a public health policy only Dr. Strangelove could embrace. If this typifies the environmental leadership we can expect from Ms. McCarthy, then EPA is in for a long, dirty slog,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the EPA package lacks a cogent rationale, is largely impenetrable and hinges on a series of euphemistic “weasel words.”
“No compelling justification is offered for increasing the cancer deaths of Americans innocently exposed to corporate miscalculations several hundred-fold.”
Reportedly, the PAGs had been approved last fall but their publication was held until after the presidential election. The rationale for timing their release right before McCarthy’s confirmation hearing is unclear.
Since the PAGs guide agency decision-making and do not formally set standards or repeal statutory requirements, such as the Safe Drinking Water Act and Superfund, they will go into full effect following a short public comment period. Nonetheless, the PAGs will likely determine what actions take place on the ground in the days, weeks, months and, in some cases, years following a radiological emergency.
Toxics Action Center Calls on “Dirty Dozen” Polluters to Clean up Their Act
Read the full report on the Toxics Action Center’s website: Full Report (PDF)
SOMERSET, MA — For years, Toxics Action Center has annually “celebrated” the Dirty Dozen Awards, profiling twelve of New England’s egregious polluters who the public health and environmental non-profit say have failed to take appropriate action to address their pollution problems. Today, Entergy’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth was named as one of the top 12. It was also named to the list in 2001 and 2007.
“The Dirty Dozen Award winners are dinosaurs. Their business practices are antiquated and becoming extinct. They could stave off extinction, but they would need to move forward in adopting many of the recommendations we outline in this report, including moving towards clean renewable energy and energy efficiency and phasing out persistent toxic chemicals.” said Sylvia Broude, Executive Director for Toxics Action Center.
Toxics Action Center released a report today called “25 Years of the Dirty Dozen: Past and Current Pollution Threats in New England”, profiling 12 sites and companies across New England, naming them “the most notorious pollution threats in the region” and proposing solutions to long-term pollution trends. “These Dirty Dozen awards spotlight repeat offenders who have still not cleaned up their messes along with several emergent threats, and generally highlight a wide array of toxic hazards ranging from leaking landfills to power plants, trash incinerators and hazardous waste sites. All of the sites pose a significant threat to public health and the environment and need immediate action by industry and/or government officials,” said Broude.
Entergy’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant was named a “winner” for Southeastern Massachusetts. Pilgrim Power Station’s waste and reactor contain 1,000 times the radiation levels of a Hiroshima-sized bomb. An attack on the plant could result in 100,000 deaths within a year of the accident.
“Pilgrim releases radiation daily into air and water and is built with the same flawed Mark I reactor design as Fukushima Daiichi,” said David Agnew from an active “Cape Downwinders” group and spokesperson for Pilgrim Coalition, an alliance of local groups across the South Shore and the Cape. “We need to heed the warning call of Fukushima and retire Pilgrim for good.” Pine duBois from Jones River Watershed Association, a coalition partner, also spoke, saying that the watershed group has been pursuing state and federal regulators since February, and she recently joined a lawsuit against Entergy. “Pilgrim has violated the Clean Water Act more than 33,000 times since 1996,” said duBois. “Our ocean is not Entergy’s dump: Cape Cod Bay belongs to all of us, and our regulators should enforce the laws that prevent this kind of pollution.”
The Dirty Dozen Awards were selected from a set of nominations by a thirteen-member panel of environmental and public health professionals. Other Massachusetts sites profiled in the report include Advanced Disposal’s South Hadley landfill and the General Electric PCB site in Pittsfield. Read more at www.toxicsaction.org
Table of Contents
Pilgrim: How Boiling Water Reactors Work 1
Spent Fuel Storage -Pool Fires 2
Containment Failure: Vent & Hydrogen Explosions 5
Pilgrim- Electric Reliability 10
Emergency Planning 12
Post Accident Cleanup 16
Risks From Daily Operations
Radiation Health Impacts 17
Marine Impacts 29
NRC Oversight- Public Participation- Alternatives
NRC Oversight 30
Public Participation 31
Do We Need Pilgrim’s Electric Power? 32
The Union of Concerned Scientists recommends safety and security measures that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other government agencies can require to help prevent a nuclear disaster and reduce the damage if one does occur. Entergy should abide by these 23 specific recommendations:
“Nuclear power is an inherently hazardous technology; there’s no way to make it perfectly safe. But we can make it safer.”Union of Concerned Scientists
To protect our health and safety, these are among the fixes that need to be addressed as a condition of Pilgrim’s continued operation:
- Require plant owners to install reliable, fail-safe containment vents, equipped with filters that would reduce the amount of radioactivity released to the atmosphere during a reactor accident.
- Accelerate the transfer of spent fuel to dry cask storage; return the pool to its original, safer, low-density design.
- Power cables must qualify to be in moisture; generators must store at least 14 days of fuel. Require reactors to be able to handle sustained loss of normal and backup power.
- Modify emergency plans, including methods for radiation dose assessment and communications to cope with the sustained loss of normal and backup power supplies. Pursue emergency issues such as delivering equipment through off-site impediments (e.g. failed bridges, blocked roadways) and competing for emergency resources.
- Expand Emergency Planning Zones around reactors in accordance with site-specific parameters (e.g. include all of Cape Cod) and make potassium iodide available beyond 10 miles. Require Entergy to provide sufficient funding for proper implementation in affected communities.
- Improve security at Pilgrim to protect against potential attacks from the air, water, and land.
- Develop procedures for severe accidents exceeding the level presently thought possible, integrating them with those for anticipated accidents and terrorist attacks.
- Replace the once-through cooling system. Require plant owners to upgrade methods for adding water to a spent fuel pool during an accident and to install instruments to monitor pool temperature and water levels.
- Implement real-time radiological and meteorological monitoring off-site.
- Identify ways to prevent hydrogen explosions in the containment and building. Develop ways to improve protection against seismically induced fires and floods. Re-evaluate the seismic and flooding risks to reactors, upgrade protections against both, and upgrade seismic monitoring instrumentation.
- Demonstrate full compliance with all NRC fire regulations. NRC Commissioner Jaczko stated in July 2008, “I don’t think there is one plant right now that is in compliance with those regulations.”
- Meet current specifications for newly built reactors and provide sufficient funds for decommissioning.
The following (dated, but relevant) refers to a reactor accident. A spent fuel pool fire could be much worse.
Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences (CRAC-2) at U.S. Nuclear Power Plants
Sandia National Laboratory 1982 Report
Despite the Fukushima catastrophe in Japan last March, nuclear power is experiencing a rebirth in the United States. Billions of dollars in federal funding has been allocated to develop nuclear capacity; applications are under consideration to build more than a dozen new reactors; and last month, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced approval for the construction of the first new nuclear reactors in more than three decades.
But what about the nation’s existing fleet of aging reactors? Licensed to operate for 40 years, many of these plants are steadily, if quietly, getting extensions from the NRC. Seventy-one of the nation’s 104 plants already have won approval for 20-year extensions. This video takes a closer look into surprising problems in the NRC’s oversight of aging nuclear plants.Watch video