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.
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 — Federal regulators Monday placed Pilgrim nuclear power plant on a list with 15 other underperforming nuclear reactors in the country.
The decision from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission stems from a rapid shutdown – called an unplanned scram — of Pilgrim last August when pumps feeding water to the nuclear reactor failed because of electrical problems. The move will trigger new inspections of the 685-megawatt nuclear plant by the NRC in the coming months.
“The inspectors will review the company’s root-cause evaluation of the problems that led to the performance indicator change,” said NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan.Keep reading
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.
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 — According to an event report filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission this morning, Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station was forced to power down Saturday (10/19) afternoon due to high reactor water level which shut down a main turbine.
“The cause of the increase in reactor water levels is currently under investigation,” the report said. The plant had been in start-up mode after a forced shutdown related to problems with NSTAR’s power lines, which deliver power both in and out of the plant.
Entergy officials wrote that this latest event has no impact on public health and safety. Since mid-August, the 41-year-old plant has been plagued by problems forcing shutdowns or lower than peak levels of output due to a number of mechanical glitches.
PLYMOUTH — Critics of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station had their chance to critique the plan to install dry cask storage units at the Rocky Hill Road nuclear power plant Tuesday, but they spent much of their time trying to convince the Board of Selectmen it can and should act on its own.
Last week Pilgrim management delivered a presentation that outlined its plans to build a concrete pad and install several dozen casks adjacent to the reactor building at the plant, while defending the company’s intention to transfer only as many spent fuel rods from the pool as needed to be able to continue operations.
The existing spent fuel pool at the plant has more than 3,200 rods, and if the plant had no other storage option, it would run out of sufficient storage space in less than two years.
This week the selectmen offered the plant’s critics an opportunity to formally address the issue.Keep reading
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
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.
PLYMOUTH – Entergy began firing up Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station Sunday night, exactly a week after shutting the plant down for a steam leak associated with the water supply system to the reactor. Spokeswoman Carol Wightman wrote in an email that Entergy, the owner-operator of the Plymouth plant, “took advantage of the plant being offline to perform other maintenance that cannot be done while the plant is operating.”
With the recent closure of the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor, and the ongoing disastrous radiation leaks at the Fukushima reactor, there is heightened awareness of the problems at our Pilgrim nuclear reactor. There are a handful of state representatives who have filed bills at the state house to increase public protections such as widening emergency evacuation zones around Pilgrim. In July, representatives Jim Cantwell and Sarah Peake and many residents, including myself, went to the state house to testify about the importance of these nuclear safety bills. These bills are STILL stalled and will remain stuck in the Joint Committee on Public Health unless we encourage other legislators to help move them out of committee to a vote. I am writing you now to ask that you send the House and Senate Chairs of this joint committee an email asking that they focus on making these bills a reality. I have included a sample email below for you to use, or to edit/amend and make your own. I have also included the Chairs’ email addresses to make it easy for you. Information on all 4 pending bills is at bottom.
If you can, please let me know if you have contacted them so that I can keep track of how many emails the legislators are receiving.
Send to: John.Keenan@masenate.gov AND Jeffrey.email@example.com
Dear Senate Chair Keenan and House Chair Sanchez,
I am writing to encourage the movement of nuclear safety bills H.2045, H.2046, H.1906 and H.1907 out of the Joint Committee on Public Health and to a vote. These bills have direct bearing on our lives, particularly considering the damage that Fukushima has caused its neighbors and the broader world. The bills will provide the Massachusetts Department of Public Health with sufficient monies from assessments of nuclear power plants. This funding will adequately provide oversight jobs at the Department of Public Health which it needs to protect citizens impacted by Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station. The bills also provide additional funds for real-time monitoring stations, expanding potassium-iodide distribution to residents in harms way, and will expand the Emergency Planning Zone to protect more of us. These bills are no-brainers, and we need your help to turn them into a reality.
Information on the bills:
Rep. Cutler, Calter and Cantwell’s bill (H.1907) amends state law to increase Mass Dept. of Public Health’s (MDPH) assessment from a maximum $180,000 per annum, per nuclear power plant to not less than $400,000 per reactor. The current assessment does not give MDPH enough money to perform its obligations of environmental surveillance and monitoring of emissions into our communities from Pilgrim, Vermont Yankee, and Seabrook. This assessment is not a tax on us. Rather, it recognizes that it is industry’s responsibility to pay the monitoring and emergency costs that the Commonwealth incurs as a result of their commercial operations. Louisiana-based Entergy (owner of Pilgrim and Vermont Yankee) and Florida-based NextEra (Seabrook) chose to buy reactors here. They can afford to satisfy their obligations. According to Business Week, Entergy had annual revenues of $10.3 billion in 2010 and projected revenues of $11.5 billion in 2014. According Forbes, the total compensation of Entergy’s CEO Wayne Leonard in 2012 was $15.11 million and he will receive $108.57 million over 5 years.
The two other identical bills (H.1906 and H2045) put forward by Rep. Jim Cantwell from Marshfield and supported by testimony from Rep. Josh Cutler would expand the radiological emergency planning zone from 10 to 20 miles, including all of the Cape and Islands. The US Government advised Americans living within 50 miles of Fukushima to evacuate yet our EPZ is only 10 miles. It makes no sense. Folks living 10-20 miles away need plans that make sense, so that they will know when to shelter with potassium iodide first, so that those closer to the plants can evacuate if needed, and when themselves to get out. The bills would provide potassium iodide to those communities, and real-time radiological air monitors so that the state will know where a plume actually is in order to base protective action calls in a disaster, and also to do research on radiation health impacts.
The last bill H.2046 authorizes MDPH to assess each nuclear reactor impacting Massachusetts (Pilgrim, Vermont Yankee and Seabrook) not less than $400,000 to cover costs to purchase, install, and maintain real-time radiological air monitoring stations that will be located in Massachusetts communities impacted by these reactors, including the Cape. This addresses a need, separate from that addressed by the bill advanced by Representatives Calter, Cutler and Cantwell, to provide real-time radiological air monitors in the communities around these three plants. Town Meeting recognized that what is presently in place is inadequate, and voted to have Duxbury buy a monitor that DPH would install, maintain and monitor. This bill would make possible the additional monitors, both close to the reactors and farther afield, that all of the affected towns need for emergency planning and health research. Absent this bill, MDPH simply does not have the money to do this.
Let’s support our representatives and community, and all contact the Joint Committee of Public Health to voice your support.
Last year, without fanfare, Louisiana-based Entergy Corporation started work on a nuclear waste storage facility, using “dry casks” to store radioactive spent nuclear fuel at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station (PNPS). Various estimates put the cost of the facility between $165 million and $400 million.
In Pilgrim’s reactor, nuclear fuel assemblies heat water to make steam that turns turbines to create electricity. Pilgrim’s reactor holds 580 fuel assemblies. After a few years, the fuel is “spent,” and needs to be replaced. However, the spent fuel is highly radioactive and will remain dangerous for thousands of years.
PNPS needs a new storage place for spent fuel assemblies; it is running out of room in its spent fuel pool. There is currently no place to send the spent fuel. In 2010, the federal government abandoned the proposed Yucca Mountain geological repository, and no headway has been made on another site. Thus, producers of nuclear power throughout the U.S. expect to store their spent nuclear fuel onsite for a long time; estimates run as high as 300 years.
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.
PLYMOUTH — Two weeks after an electrical malfunction caused the shutdown of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station’s reactor, the plant is still not at full power. Representatives from Entergy, which owns and operates the plant, initially attributed the delayed return to standard procedure. Shutdowns provide opportunities to address items on a reactor’s “to do” list, they said.
But federal nuclear energy officials confirmed Tuesday that a failed motor in one of three massive pumps that supply water to the reactor was keeping the plant from operating at peak. The burned-out motor, within days of the wiring problem, had nuclear watchdogs talking.
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
Decision driven by sustained low power prices, high cost structure and wholesale electricity market design flaws for Vermont Yankee plant – Focus to remain on safety during remaining operation and after shutdown
(PRNewswire) NEW ORLEANS – Entergy Corporation (NYSE: ETR) today said it plans to close and decommission its Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station in Vernon, Vt. The station is expected to cease power production after its current fuel cycle and move to safe shutdown in the fourth quarter of 2014. The station will remain under the oversight of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission throughout the decommissioning process.Keep reading
“This was an agonizing decision and an extremely tough call for us,” said Leo Denault, Entergy’s chairman and chief executive officer. “Vermont Yankee has an immensely talented, dedicated and loyal workforce, and a solid base of support among many in the community. We recognize that closing the plant on this schedule was not the outcome they had hoped for, but we have reluctantly concluded that it is the appropriate action for us to take under the circumstances.”
The decision to close Vermont Yankee in 2014 was based on a number of financial factors, including:
– A natural gas market that has undergone a transformational shift in supply due to the impacts of shale gas, resulting in sustained low natural gas prices and wholesale energy prices.
– A high cost structure for this single unit plant. Since 2002, the company has invested more than $400 million in the safe and reliable operation of the facility. In addition, the financial impact of cumulative regulation is especially challenging to a small plant in these market conditions.
– Wholesale market design flaws that continue to result in artificially low energy and capacity prices in the region, and do not provide adequate compensation to merchant nuclear plants for the fuel diversity benefits they provide.
Making the decision now and operating through the fourth quarter of 2014 allows time to duly and properly plan for a safe and orderly shutdown and prepare filings with the NRC regarding shutdown and decommissioning. Entergy will establish a decommissioning planning organization responsible for planning and executing the safe and efficient decommissioning of the facility. Once the plant is shut down, workers will de-fuel the reactor and place the plant into SAFSTOR, a process whereby a nuclear facility is placed and maintained in a condition that allows it to be safely secured, monitored and stored.
“We are committed to the safe and reliable operation of Vermont Yankee until shutdown, followed by a safe, orderly and environmentally responsible decommissioning process,” Denault said.
Commenting on the future of nuclear power, Denault said: “Entergy remains committed to nuclear as an important long-term component of its generating portfolio. Nuclear energy is safe, reliable, carbon-free and contributes to supply diversity and energy security as part of a balanced energy portfolio.”
Entergy plans to recognize an after-tax impairment charge of approximately $181 million in the third quarter of 2013 related to the decision to shut down the plant at the end of this current operating cycle. In addition to this initial charge, Entergy expects to recognize charges totaling approximately $55 to $60 million associated with future severance and employee retention costs through the end of next year. These charges will be classified as special items, and therefore, excluded from operational results.
The company noted that the estimated operational earnings contribution from Vermont Yankee was expected to be around breakeven in 2013, and generally declining over the next few years. As a result of this decision and based on continuing operations into fourth quarter 2014, the estimated operational earnings change, excluding these special items, is expected to be modestly accretive within two years after shutdown, and cash flow is expected to increase approximately $150 to $200 million in total through 2017, compared to Vermont Yankee’s continued operation.
Regarding decommissioning, assuming end of operations in fourth quarter 2014, the amount required to meet the NRC minimum for decommissioning financial assurance for license termination is $566 million. The Vermont Yankee decommissioning trust had a balance of approximately $582 million as of July 31, 2013, excluding the $40 million guarantee by Entergy Corporation to satisfy NRC requirements following the 2009 review of financial assurance levels. Filings with the NRC for planned shutdown activities will determine whether any other financial assurance may be required and will specifically address funding for spent fuel management, which will be required until the federal government takes possession of the fuel and removes it from the site, per its current obligations.
Vermont Yankee, a single unit boiling water reactor, began commercial operation in 1972. Entergy acquired the plant from Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corporation in 2002. In March 2011, the NRC renewed the station’s operating license for an additional 20 years, until 2032.Additional information regarding today’s announcement is available in the Frequently Asked Questions section of www.entergy.com.
Entergy Corporation, which celebrates its 100th birthday this year, is an integrated energy company engaged primarily in electric power production and retail distribution operations. Entergy owns and operates power plants with approximately 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, including more than 10,000 megawatts of nuclear power, making it one of the nation’s leading nuclear generators. Entergy delivers electricity to 2.8 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
In this news release, and from time to time, Entergy makes certain “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Except to the extent required by the federal securities laws, Entergy undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
Forward-looking statements involve a number of risks and uncertainties. There are factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements, including (a) those factors discussed in this release and in: (i) Entergy’s Form 10-K for the year ended Dec. 31, 2012, (ii) Entergy’s Form 10-Q for the quarters ended March 31, 2013 and June 30, 2013 and (iii) Entergy’s other reports and filings made under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934; (b) uncertainties associated with rate proceedings, formula rate plans and other cost recovery mechanisms; (c) uncertainties associated with efforts to remediate the effects of major storms and recover related restoration costs; (d) nuclear plant relicensing, operating and regulatory risks, including any changes resulting from the nuclear crisis in Japan following its catastrophic earthquake and tsunami; (e) legislative and regulatory actions and risks and uncertainties associated with claims or litigation by or against Entergy and its subsidiaries; (f) conditions in commodity and capital markets during the periods covered by the forward-looking statements, in addition to other factors described elsewhere in this release and subsequent securities filings and (g) risks inherent in the proposed spin-off and subsequent merger of Entergy’s electric transmission business with a subsidiary of ITC Holdings Corp. Entergy cannot provide any assurances that the spin-off and merger transaction will be completed and cannot give any assurance as to the terms on which such transaction will be consummated. The spin-off and merger transaction is subject to certain conditions precedent, including regulatory approvals.
SOURCE Entergy Corporation / CONTACT: Media Relations, (802) 258-2143,(802) 258-2144, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Paula Waters (Investor Relations), (504) 576-4380, email@example.com / Web site: http://www.entergy.com
PLYMOUTH — The Pilgrim nuclear power plant resumed power production shortly before 2 p.m. Monday, after being offline four days when the plant’s water pumps developed electrical problems last Friday. This is the second time this year that Pilgrim had been shut down because of pump-related problems.Keep reading