Frank Mand, Wicked Local Plymouth Source →
Ten days ago it was a pump problem. Then, a few days later duck hunters came a bit too close for comfort. And Monday a valve leak set off alarms at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station. But, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, it does not, as of now, “see any commonalities between these events as two involved different valves and one was caused by personnel error.”
From a layman’s point of view, these three events – and another shutdown in May – could appear to form a troubling pattern. The plant, after all, is more than 40 years old.
Could these events be related to the age of the plant and, if so, should residents be concerned that multiple events might occur at the same time, making a simple leak or electrical problem a potential catastrophe?
Excluding the incursion by duck hunters, there have been three unplanned shutdowns at Pilgrim in just more than six months:
- Last May: Reactor scram from degrading condenser vacuum due to a valve failure
- Jan. 10: Reactor scram due to trip of both reactor recirculation pumps due to personnel error during testing.
- Jan. 20: Reactor shutdown due to a leaking safety relief valve (These safety release valves are a new design and have been installed since the last outage in 2011.)
Nevertheless, the NRC says no, there is no connection.
“We are constantly on the lookout for any problems or issues that could impact more than one area of plant performance,” NRS spokesman Neil Sheehan said this week.
“We would describe these as cross-cutting issues,” Sheehan added. “One example would be any training program weaknesses that could contribute to plant shutdowns or other events. If we saw evidence of such problems, we would not hesitate to require the company to take action in response, and we would follow up through inspections to ensure that occurred.”
But what about the age of the plant; is that a concern?
“Entergy must investigate and evaluate each equipment failure to determine if additional preventive maintenance measures may be necessary for a given component or system,” Sheehan said.
Sheehan said the reactor scram was due to personnel error during testing and not an equipment failure, and the safety relief valves had undergone work in the not-too-distant past.
The NRC does compile with what it calls “performance indicators,” Sheehan explained. These are the records of unplanned nuclear power plant changes and shutdowns.
“If the number of power changes and/or shutdowns crosses a predetermined threshold, for example, if more than three unplanned scrams occur more than the previous 7,000 hours – about 10 months – of critical operation,” he said, “that performance indicator would cross from ‘green’ to ‘white.’ ”
If that happened at Pilgrim, according to Sheehan, Entergy would have to perform a root cause evaluation and the NRC would evaluate the cause and the corrective actions Entergy took in a supplemental inspection.
“Pilgrim is currently ‘green’ in all performance indicator categories,” Sheehan said, “including unplanned shutdowns.”
But if another scram occurs in the next month or so, it would be time for a root cause evaluation.
Follow Frank Mand on Twitter at @frankmandOCM
BOSTON, MA — Citizens will rally tomorrow show their concern that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is not making nuclear power plants safe enough in light of lessons learned from the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan. The rally will be held June 7 at 9:15 a.m., outside the John W. McCormack Post Office and Court House, 5 Post Office Square, Boston.
Pilgrim Coalition, Clean Water Action and other public health, environmental, and watchdog groups will rally outside the courthouse before a 10 a.m. hearing with a NRC Atomic Safety Licensing Board (ASLB). The hearing was requested by Duxbury-based Pilgrim Watch, an opponent of the recent relicensing of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth.
Cape Cod Bay Watch Source →
While Pilgrim was in the middle of a shut down due to a cooling system malfunction, the NRC decided it was time to reissue the 20 year operating license. This is an outrage, and groups vow to continue the fight against the dangerous, polluting reactor in Plymouth.
“Sometimes equipment doesn’t operate as you would hope.”Entergy spokesman Jack Alexander, Entergy Manager of Government Affairs (in State House News Service, Andy Metzger, May 23, 2012)
Well, that about says it, Jack! You’ve admitted Pilgrim isn’t safe and that you can’t ensure that it will operate for another 20 years “the way you would hope”!
Entergy’s accident on May 22 sent superheated water from a backwash operation into Cape Cod Bay. The U.S. EPA and the state DEP are AWOL and refuse to answer our questions about what happened with this outdated cooling water system that’s falling apart.
Meanwhile, Entergy CEO J. Wayne Leonard CEO and lobbyists got their Republican buddies in the House to chastise the NRC for being “unfair” to Entergy. Pilgrim Coalition wrote back, blasting Fred Upton and his cronies on the House Energy and Commerce Committee for doing the bidding of Entergy, a Louisiana carpetbagger making $1-million a day off the backs of Massachusetts ratepayers: May 24, 2012: PC Letter to US House
And then the NRC decides to issue the new license – but the outgoing Chairman of the Commission blasts the decision as unfair to Massachusetts residents who have valid concerns over safety and the environment that have not been addressed. Read the Chairman’s Comments here: May 21, 2012: Jaczko blasts NRC
The NRC’s decision is ILLEGAL and we will pursue the many other avenues available to us to shut Pilgrim down. The fight to shut down Pilgrim has just begun!
Jones River Watershed Association, Inc. (JRWA) and Pilgrim Watch (PW) today filed a third legal challenge in front of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to Entergy’s once-cooling water withdrawals and pollution of Cape Cod Bay.
Entergy is violating state and federal water pollution control laws; lacks two state approvals that are prerequisites to relicensing; and the PNPS environmental impact statement is invalid. The application for relicensing Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station (PNPS) should, and must, be denied because Entergy cannot satisfy NRC regulations.
JRWA has already filed multiple contentions with the NRC for review of impacts to Cape Cod Bay’s natural resources; and is working with Pilgrim Coalition to encourage state agencies to act. Our senators and representatives are doing what they can to ensure the safety of the people and environment of southeastern MA; but citizen support is still crucial.
This is your opportunity to speak! Please show support for more conscientious oversight and safety fixes of the Pilgrim Power Station. For more information and to get involved, visit:
Political fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster is fueling local opposition to the Pilgrim Nuclear Reactor in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The aging facility’s operating license expires on June 8, 2012, and its owners want a 20-year extension. It looked like it had a green light from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which recommended an approval vote. But out of nowhere, local opposition to the license grew and spread from town to town, stiffening the backs of state and Congressional representatives, the state Attorney General, and the Governor, who urged the NRC to deny the vote until outstanding public safety and environmental concerns can be resolved. The organizers of that remarkable effort join us for this interview. With South Shore activists Anna Baker and Pine Dubois of the Pilgrim Coalition, and Paul Gunter of the DC-based group, Beyond Nuclear. Live radio interview by Amy Grunder, first aired on “Sounds of Dissent” on WZBC 90.3 FM Boston on May 12, 2012.
April 27, 2012: Letter to Gov. Patrick (Revised 4/30)
Time-sensitive Response to NRC Staff Request for Pilgrim Relicensing by May 8, 2012
April 13, 2012: SECY-12-0062
Supplemental Information Potentially Relevant and Material to Proceeding for the Renewal of Full-Power Operating License for Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station