On December 6th, a member of the Cape Downwinders was mistakenly included on an internal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) email. The email contains what are essentially field notes from the first two weeks of the major NRC inspection now underway at Pilgrim Nuclear. The inspection is happening due to the degraded category Pilgrim was placed in last year due to a slew of mechanical problems, unplanned shutdowns, and other problems.
The email discusses lack of resources for the staff, “procedural non-compliances, poor maintenance, poor engineering practices, and equipment reliability problems,” as well as an overwhelmed staff. It goes on to say that “we are observing current indications of a safety culture problem that a bunch of talking probably won’t fix.”
The email, no doubt, has raised even more safety concerns among local communities and representatives.
The Plymouth Board of Selectmen held an emergency meeting last night, where they agreed to ask the the entire Massachusetts delegation to be part of a letter to the NRC, demanding they appear before the Board and explain what is happening at the plant. The Board was not pleased about the lack of communication from the plant and the NRC — saying there was no excuse for the lack of information being provided to the host town. The Board only learned about the issue from the media.
The NRC did respond to the mistake, saying that the inforamtion is preliminary, and they have 45 days after the inspection formally ends in January to document any final results; therefore, they will not have any further comment on it.
Pilgrim is due to refuel in the spring and officially shut down in May 2019. If the inspection results come back with problems, then the NRC could force Pilgrim to shut down earlier.
For more information, here is a list of media articles about this issue:
NRC email fuels concerns about Pilgrim nuclear’s safety, South Coast Today
Pilgrim Nuclear Plant Staff said to be ‘Overwhelmed’, Boston Globe
NRC email: Pilgrim nuclear plant ‘overwhelmed’, Wicked Local Kingston