A special team of six federal inspectors is investigating the unplanned shutdown of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth. The reactor, which produces about 10 percent of the state’s electricity, lost power during last week’s blizzard and had to rely on generators to run the nuclear plant’s critical safety systems. WBUR’s Bruce Gellerman reports on the shutdown and investigation.
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.
Pilgrim shut down automatically at 4:05am Tuesday, January 27, 2015 after two transmission lines failed during Blizzard Juno around high tide – furthering concerns that the nuclear plant is seriously unprepared to weather the storm.
Dear NRC Commissioners:
The blizzard “Juno” hit the East Coast and Plymouth, Massachusetts on Monday, January 26, 2015 and increased in intensity until is finally wound down on Wednesday, January 28th. This storm underlined many of the risks and problems associated with Entergy’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station (Pilgrim). Pilgrim was forced to shut down on January 27th due to the loss of offsite power and according to the PRELIMINARY NOTIFICATION OF EVENT OR UNUSUAL OCCURRENCE (PNO-I-15-001), this scram with complications also included three additional failures:
- The High Pressure Coolant Injection System had to be secured due to failure of the gland seal motor.
- The station diesel air compressor failed to start.
- One of the four safety relief valves could not be operated manually from the control room.
Pilgrim lost offsite power during the storm, requiring a switch to diesel powered back-up generators. Pilgrim also experienced problems sending outgoing power to the grid. From what we understand, the transmission lines that deliver power from Pilgrim to the grid froze during the storm and “arcing” occurred in Pilgrim’s switchyard. While the cause of the arcing is still unclear, we do know that storm conditions especially wind-driven salt water could have been a factor.
We also question whether Pilgrim exceeded its “Design Basis” for flooding if storm-force waves and floodwater impacted the site during high tide. There were three high tide events during the storm, the worst of which occurred around 4:30AM, only a half-hour after Pilgrim shut down. This raises questions to whether flooding or waves impacted the switchyard, causing the arcing problem to occur. In addition to these problems, Pilgrim’s High Pressure Coolant Injection (HPCI) system was also declared inoperable around 9:45AM on January 27th.
All of the problems experienced by Pilgrim during Juno coincide with your agency’s recent decision to continue to rank Pilgrim in a degraded cornerstone category. In 2014 Pilgrim was placed in this category due to a variety of problems and unplanned shutdowns in 2013. Earlier this week on January 26th, your agency issued a new report stating that Pilgrim has “not provided the assurance level to fully meet all of the inspection objectives and have correspondingly determined that Pilgrim will remain in the Degraded Cornerstone of the Action Matrix by the assignment of two parallel White PI inspection findings.” Even after a year of additional federal scrutiny and thousands of hours of inspection by NRC staff, Entergy still has not fixed the problems at Pilgrim and the plant remains one of the worst performers in the nation.
In that report, Pilgrim’s switchyard and transmission system are identified as vulnerable to harsh weather, especially winter storms. Pilgrim had already experienced similar problems during past storms and Energy has yet to adequately address the problems. Given this, the NRC should have required Pilgrim to shut down as a preventive measure as Winter Storm Juno was forecast to hit the Plymouth area. On Monday, January 26th, five organizations representing thousands of citizens called for Pilgrim to be closed during the storm as a proactive measure, yet it was the storm itself that caused the scram and complications. While the NRC has already determined in the recent report that Entergy had not completed required corrective actions, this event proves the company is not above avoiding necessary updates for safety.
Had there been a need for implementing the emergency response plans, the Town of Plymouth and surrounding area roads were impassable with drifting snow several feet deep. It would have been impossible for any evacuation in these conditions.
Juno also highlighted problems with Entergy’s proposed FLEX plan. This plan would require workers or the Plymouth fire department to drive along the shore, set up a portable pump and hose on the shoreline to pull water from Cape Cod Bay to manually cool the reactor and spent fuel pool in a station blackout event. Juno brought hurricane force wind gusts, heavy snow, white out conditions, frigid temperatures and very rough surf impacting the Pilgrim site. We don’t believe Pilgrim’s FLEX plan would have worked in an emergency situation during the storm let alone putting the lives of the flex plan operators at risk. Was the flex plan practiced during those conditions on January 27th?
If Pilgrim is allowed to come back online, it’s clear that Entergy needs to be fully accountable to the public and produce an accurate and updated assessment of Pilgrim’s risks to extreme weather conditions including intense wind, storm surge, very heavy snow and blizzard conditions.
The NRC should require Pilgrim to carry out this assessment immediately. We ask that you consider Jones River Watershed Association’s Elevation Analysis (http://jonesriver.org/pilgrim-elevation-analysis) recently developed in conjunction with Northeastern Geospatial Research Professionals, Inc. The elevation analysis maps that were produced clearly show that our concerns are valid related to flooding and storm impacts on the Pilgrim site. It’s important for the NRC to bear in mind that, while Juno was intense, it was not the worse storm or conditions capable of impacting our area. For example extreme high tides did not occur during the storm and Juno’s high winds were gusts rather than sustained winds. If these conditions had occurred, it would likely have resulted in a far worse outcome for Pilgrim.
With all the problems that have plagued the Pilgrim facility over the years and especially the most current event this past week, we are urging the NRC to keep the Pilgrim reactor shut down and to strongly consider your mandate for public health and safety by not allowing this reactor to restart.
Thus, the undersigned groups request that the NRC not allow Pilgrim to restart since public safety cannot be assured.
Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth will continue to be classified by the federal government as one of the worst performers among nuclear power plants in the country, at least for now, based on a recent inspection.
Visit this page on the Cape Downwinders site for updates:
Pending Legislation in MA Regarding Nuclear Power
- Another Reactor Closes, Punctuating New Reality for U.S. Nuclear Power
- Pilgrim owner to begin moving radioactive fuel rods
- Presentation: Living in the shadow of a nuclear power plant (Jan 29)
- Public Hearing: DEP Clean Energy Standard (Feb 9 & 10)
- Pilgrim to move spent fuel into dry cask storage
- Opponents of emergency cooling system overflow Mayflower Meeting Room
- Pilgrim Nuclear’s flawed FLEX plan
- Opinion: Pilgrim Station’s Cyber Security Plan
- Entergy wants to tap money for emergency response from Vermont Yankee decommissioning fund
PLYMOUTH, MA – Residents will get a chance to hear representatives from Entergy, the Louisiana based company which owns the Pilgrim nuclear station, explain its plan for a new emergency water cooling system on public tidelands at a hearing before the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) at 10 a.m., Tuesday, November 18, in the Mayflower Room at Plymouth Town Hall, 11 Lincoln Street. Entergy has applied to DEP for a license for an emergency cooling water system to be put on public tidelands.
Entergy’s proposal is in response to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s new requirements created after the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, which destroyed nuclear reactors the same vintage and model as the one at Pilgrim.
“Entergy’s plan to put moorings and a manual pulley in the protected tidelands is not a fix,” said Anna Baker of the Pilgrim Coalition, a network of organizations and residents who keep an eye on developments at Pilgrim. “There are many questions about whether this system is adequately designed to prevent a nuclear meltdown at Pilgrim and whether it meets the requirements for the state’s Chapter 91 tidelands license.”
According to members of Pilgrim Coalition, the state tidelands laws (General Laws, Chapter 91, and regulations at 310 CMR 9.00) protect the public’s rights in beach between the low tide and high tide mark and under Cape Cod Bay. A corporation that wants to use the tidelands for private purposes must provide mitigation, compensation, or an occupation fee to the public and the project must serve a “proper public purpose.”
Entergy’s proposal for the DEP license involves two moorings in the Bay that are used to control hoses and pumps to get water from Cape Cod Bay. The system would be operated by Entergy workers or the Plymouth Fire Department and will require them to be on the beach during an extreme weather event such as a hurricane. Resident Bill Maurer says “this contraption does not pass the straight face test for keeping us safe in the event of a catastrophic accident at Pilgrim. Moreover, Entergy has not shown how they are going to capture this water once it becomes contaminated, raising questions about the pollution of Cape Cod Bay.”
Many in the group, which sent DEP comments in July 2014 and requested the hearing, say Entergy’s application fails to adequately describe how the project will operate under various conditions, how long Entergy plans to keep the system in place, and does not serve a proper public purpose.
For more information: www.capecodbaywatch.org/2014/10/entergys-waterways-application-state-grants-hearing-to-citizens/
- Public Hearing on Entergy’s Waterways Application (11/18)
- Voting results from this week’s election: Nuclear emergency zone has overwhelming support
- Why residents need potassium iodide
- 40-ton drops in Pilgrim’s fuel pool?
- Citizens aim to close another regulatory loophole
- NRC questions Vermont Yankee’s post-shutdown emergency plans
- Jets scramble over Pilgrim and show that restricted air space is not protected
- Fukushima, Miso Soup and Me
- Volunteer opportunities to help the cause
Nuclear emergency zone has overwhelming support
Cape and Islands Senate District voters, which includes those in 12 Barnstable County towns, along with Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, overwhelmingly endorsed the nonbinding referendum question to expand the emergency planning zone around the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station to include the Cape and Islands.
Update: Three more letters have been published within the last week in response to Noye’s letter about Meg’s tidelands article:
(Sept 5, 2014) Entergy’s article, “YOUR VIEW: Recent column disservice to readers” by Dave Noyes
(August 15, 2014) Original article, “OF NUCLEAR INTEREST: Pilgrim Nuclear and the public’s rights to the shoreline” by Meg Sheehan
(Sept 8, 2014) From the author: I am responding to Entergy’s Sept. 3, 2014 “Your View” column entitled, “Recent column disservice to readers” by Dave Noyes who was responding to my Your View column about Pilgrim’s pollution. Entergy’s article is fantastical fluff and itself devoid of facts. The facts in my article are straight from public records and based on the research of many volunteers, including myself. Here are a few reasons why Entergy’s article is pure fantasy.
1. The hot industrial cooling water Pilgrim dumps in to Cape Cod Bay is polluted. As Noyes should know since he’s in regulatory affairs at Pilgrim, the Clean Water Act law defines “pollution” to include “thermal pollution” –yes, “thermal pollution” means “hot water”! How hot? In June, 2014, the daily temperature of the water Pilgrim dumped averaged 95.7 degrees. On June 17 when Entergy shocked the system with chlorine to kill macroinvertabrates like mussels the average was 106.7 degrees.
2. Pilgrim’s own records report dumping chemicals and radioactive materials into the Bay. This includes tolytriazole, a corrosion inhibitor, chlorine used to kill macroinvertebrates, and sodium pentaborate. Deadly radiological materials are “diluted” into the industrial process water so the levels of radioactivity are just below the legal limits.
3. The “strict” regulators are asleep. Noyes claims Pilgrim’s chemical pollution is “strictly regulated.” As he knows, Pilgrim’s Clean Water Act outdated permit-to-pollute Cape Cod Bay expired in 18 years ago in 1996. In other words, those “strict” regulators just haven’t gotten around to it. And, Entergy is claiming to U.S. EPA that modern pollution controls are too expensive so the permit shouldn’t be changed.
4. “Pollution monitoring” – so what? Noyes says Entergy does “extensive” pollution monitoring. It’s not “extensive” but even if it is, even though the results show contamination, regulators are not requiring clean up. In January 2012 when I began researching Entergy’s pollution, I went to the U.S. EPA to look at public records. I found months of Entergy’s monitoring reports in sealed envelopes: EPA had not even opened them. What good are those monitoring reports when no one looks at them or requires clean up?
5. Leak now – maybe we’ll fix it, some day. Entergy’s reports show that since at least 2006, Pilgrim has been leaking radioactive materials into the Plymouth Sole Source Aquifer – our groundwater. These are unpermitted discharges of contamination to our environment. As Noyes says, its all posted on the state Department of Public Health website. Noyes cherry picks the surface water samples and asserts there’s no pollution. He ignores the hundreds of samples showing levels of tritium and other radioactive materials that are above background levels. Experts say there is no safe level for these materials-yet the leaks continue.
I’m not attacking Noyes personally, like he did me. Rather, I figure Entergy’s public relations team wrote the column for him. But those PR folks are trying to fool us all. They are trying to perpetuate the 1960s fantasy of the “safe” nuclear reactor that they sold our Town 45 years ago when Pilgrim was built. Today’s reality is that Pilgrim is too old, leaking, polluting and living on borrowed time. A PR makeover can’t change that.
Meg Sheehan is a public interest attorney and native of Plymouth, Massachusetts. She’s a long time advocate for clean water and healthy ecoystems.
The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth is storing more than 40 years worth of lethal radioactive waste in a “short term” storage pool built in 1974. Pilgrim is owned by Louisiana-based Entergy Corporation, the second largest power producer in the U.S. In order to keep running Pilgrim, in 2012 Entergy started building a new storage facility for the nuclear waste. Before construction, Entergy failed to apply for zoning approval from the town of Plymouth for the new, long-term nuclear waste storage facility. Once this failure was exposed by local residents, a permit was issued but the residents claim it violates local zoning.
Plymouth has a comprehensive system of zoning for land uses throughout the town. Zoning is a way for a community to ensure that land uses are conducted in a way that does not harm public health, safety and welfare, including the value of real estate. This way, local communities retain and exercise control over development and other activities carried out within their borders. Plymouth’s zoning laws are carefully crafted and are intended to ensure that large developments and industrial uses are allowed only under certain conditions set forth in the zoning law’s “special permit” provisions. The special permit laws give the public the right to participate in the zoning process by requiring a public hearing and the opportunity for zoning officials to impose conditions on the proposed use.
Local residents claim that Entergy’s new nuclear waste storage facility needs a “special permit” under Plymouth’s zoning laws. They claim that the 2013 decision by the building inspector to issue a zoning permit “as of right” without a special permit was wrong. When the citizens’ appeal of that permit to the Zoning Board of Appeals was rejected, they went to court. The goal of the citizens’ lawsuit over Entergy’s nuclear waste storage facility is not to stop the project. Instead, they say Entergy should apply for a special permit, which would result in a better project. They say the public and local officials should have the chance to thoroughly review the plans, including siting plans, and a public hearing should be held. The special-permit process requires the Zoning Board of Appeals to impose conditions to protect public health, safety and welfare, and gives the public a chance to suggest conditions that the Zoning Board of Appeals may adopt.
Entergy asked the court to dismiss the citizen lawsuit, claiming the 18 local residents who are plaintiffs did not have standing. That is, Entergy said the plaintiffs did not make an adequate claim that they would be harmed by the project, so the case should be dismissed. On Aug. 14, the Land Court judge rejected Entergy’s attempt to dismiss the entire case. The court found that Entergy’s nuclear waste storage facility may harm the economic value of those citizen plaintiffs residing within two miles of Pilgrim. This means these plaintiffs now proceed to trial on this and other issues.
Pilgrim’s nuclear waste has nowhere to go but Plymouth. It is likely to remain here forever. While this problem may seem too big to comprehend, enforcing local zoning laws meant to protect our health, safety and welfare is an important tool for local residents to use. Local laws, enforced by local officials for the benefit of local communities, give Plymouth the power and control it deserves in this situation.
Meg Sheehan is a public interest attorney who grew up in Plymouth. She is co-counsel on the zoning appeal lawsuit.
PLYMOUTH – When the Zoning Board of Appeals ruled last year that Entergy – the owners of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station – didn’t need a special permit to begin construction of a dry cask storage facility on the plant’s Manomet grounds, 18 residents appealed that decision to the state’s Land Court.
More than a year later, after a series of motions, the case is proceeding.
Most recently, the court issued an order “allowing in part and denying in part” Entergy’s motion to dismiss the entire case by summary judgment “for lack of standing.”
The court determined that 11 of the 18 plaintiffs originally named in the case – those residing within two miles of the plant – had standing based on the loss of property value that will result from the construction of the storage facility and the continued operation of the plant.” Because of that ruling, the court is now expected to hear arguments on the merits of the case – whether existing regulations require that Entergy should have obtained a special permit in the first place.
Meanwhile, Entergy has moved ahead at its own risk. It has spent a considerable sum on construction of the dry cask storage project.
In the past few weeks Entergy has even notified the presiding judge – as part of the court’s conditions – that it could begin transferring nuclear waste from the spent fuel pool to dry cask storage units within the next 90 days.
If Entergy were to lose the case and the conditions originally under discussion by the plaintiffs and others were made part of a special permit, it could face very expensive modifications to its dry cask storage project.
Asked to comment on the court’s ruling and whether it is taking a $140 million risk (the initial cost estimate for the site work and concrete pad required for dry cask storage), Entergy officials expressed confidence in the ultimate decision of the courts.
“Entergy is currently finalizing construction of elements of the fuel transfer facility at Pilgrim as well as performing dry runs to demonstrate proficiency to our federal regulator,” Entergy Corporation’s Patricia Kakridas told the Old Colony. “We expect to proceed as planned on schedule later this year after final approvals are received.”
Speaking for the plaintiffs, Earthrise Advisory Council member Meg Sheehan interpreted Entergy’s actions as “further reflection of the attitude that they can do whatever the want.
“I would say that since the beginning Entergy has flouted the town laws,” Sheehan added, “moving ahead without any permits whatsoever, and only obtaining a building permit when a citizen’s group raised the issue.”
If the plaintiffs win in court, Sheehan said, they would look to see the plans go back to the drawing board.
“They would have to apply for a special permit, there would be a public hearing on that application, and the public could ask for certain conditions to be imposed,” she said.
Sheehan referenced the Union of Concerned Scientists, which has established a number of conditions it says all dry cask storage facilities should include: a covering or roof over the units, to protect them from snow and other weather conditions and ensure the free circulation of air; the real-time monitoring of radiation levels; a shield that would protect the units from terrorist attacks; and dispersal of the units to eliminate what Sheehan referred to as “candlepin bowling for terrorists.”
Sheehan also noted that the final location of the units should take into consideration climate change and its possibly effect on sea level. Kakridas didn’t seem worried.
“Dry cask storage is the state of the art solution for the interim-term storage of spent nuclear fuel until the federal government fulfills its obligation to provide a permanent repository,” Kakridas said. “It has been safely implemented at dozens of other plants and regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. We are confident that the process of dry storage of used fuel will ultimately proceed at Pilgrim.”
- TOMORROW, Sept 1: Labor Day Rally at Sagamore Bridge
- Facing Our Nuclear Responsibilities on September 20
- PC will join the People’s Climate March on September 21. We hope you will, too.
- Pilgrim neighbors in Plymouth argue nuclear plant depresses property values
- Cape and Island voters will have say about emergency planning in November election
- Pilgrim nuclear plant working at diminishing power
- Volunteer opportunities to help the cause!
Martha’s Vineyard 360 (local climate change group) held a forum on Pilgrim on June 30th. For those of you who have never heard State Senator Dan Wolf speak on the subject, he presents at the one hour mark.
On May 1, 2014, the NRC had a public meeting to show the public that it is riding Entergy to improve procedures and infrastructure at the 42 year-old nuclear reactor. Many from the public made comments, and not a single comment expressed confidence with Entergy or the NRC. Frank Mand’s news report of the event is here.
Part 1 of this 3 part video of the NRC’s meeting in Plymouth, MA is a presentation by NRC & Entergy. Part 2 & Part 3 (below) are public comments & questions. Each part is approximately 50 min. in length. Video by Maxine Wolfset.
Public Comments, continued
PLYMOUTH – Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station officials are powering down the reactor to do some repairs, a spokesman for the plant announced tonight.
“After careful consideration we made the conservative decision to take Pilgrim off-line to perform necessary maintenance to address low-level equipment needs that could potentially challenge reliability for the remainder of the operating cycle,” spokeswoman Joyce McMahon said in an email. The timing of the outage had been planned in advance after a discussion with grid operator ISO-New England.
“Pilgrim’s power is vital to the grid,” McMahon said. “ISO-NE asked us to schedule maintenance at this time so Pilgrim can provide power during other power plants’ scheduled maintenance outages as well as during the coming peak summer demand.”
Maintenance will be done on piping, valves, pump seals and electrical equipment. “This maintenance will directly support increased reliability for the rest of our operating cycle, which ends with the next scheduled refueling in mid-2015,” McMahon said.
PLYMOUTH – Last Thursday night, in a windowless basement conference room of the Radisson Hotel, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Pilgrim-owner Entergy and a variety of anti-nuclear and environmental groups continued their debate on the safety of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant.
The specific motivation for this gathering was the NRC’s annual performance review of the plant’s operation.
Last year, 2013, was from any perspective a bad year for the plant. Several sudden shut downs of the reactor, including two federal regulators deemed “scrams with complications” and two other instances when the plant experienced an unplanned scram, resulted in the NRC placing the plant in the “Degraded Cornerstone” category of the NRC’s action matrix.
There were also more than a dozen lesser events at the plant in 2013, when non-critical equipment failed to work properly.
Of all of the commercial nuclear plants operating in the U.S., NRC District 1 Regional Administrator Bill Dean noted, 84 are in the “licensee response” category. That’s good.
Below that, facing additional scrutiny by the NRC, 10 plants are in the NRC’s doghouse, a category known as “regulatory response.”
And just eight plants fall into the “degraded cornerstone” category or worse – including Pilgrim.
It is often difficult to tell if and to what degree the NRC is unhappy with a plant operator. The agency is known for using obscure terms like “action matrix,” “degraded cornerstone,” “performance indicators” and color-coded ratings where white is bad and green is good.
So, Pilgrim Senior Resident Inspector Stephen “Max” Schneider, an NRC employee, made an attempt to cut through the jargon.
“These are not just numbers,” Schneider said, “these are indicators of the potential for what may be underlying issues.”
That may be as close as the NRC has ever come to calling Pilgrim dangerous. Remarkably, Thursday night’s meeting may have been the closest Entergy has ever come to agreeing.
When it was the company’s turn to explain its 2013 performance, plant officials didn’t argue with anything the NRC said. Instead, they offered a multifaceted plan for a “return to excellence.”
The three pillars of their plan, Pilgrim Site Vice President John Dent said, are leadership excellence, equipment performance excellence and excellence in performance improvement.
The clear inference is that in 2013 Entergy acknowledges there was no such level of excellence at Pilgrim – the perhaps the closest Entergy and its critics have come to agreement for quite some time.
But when it was their turn to comment, the plant’s critics did not go easy, on Pilgrim or the NRC. Keep reading (Wicked Local)