In early February 2015, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) sent in a Special Inspection Team (SIT) to review Entergy’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station’s equipment problems and unplanned shutdown due to the Jan. 27th winter storm nicknamed “Juno.” The SIT inspection was carried out from Feb. 2 through Mar. 20.
The SIT’s investigation report identified a “white finding” based on the failure of Entergy to anticipate and/or prevent a safety valve problem. The safety valves are designed to reduce pressure during the reactor cool-down process. More specifically, Entergy failed to “identify, evaluate, and correct” the valve’s failure to open during the plant’s cool-down, following the shutdown caused by Juno.
In total, the SIT’s report identified eight violations of federal safety requirements. Pilgrim earned 1 white finding, 6 green findings, and 1 Severity Level IV non-cited violation. The NRC rates incidents from green (lowest safety significance) to white (low to moderate safety concern), then to orange and red (the most safety concern).
Entergy appealed the white finding related to the safety valve problem, and a regulatory conference was held on July 8th.
Yesterday (Sept. 1), the NRC announced that, after considering the information developed during the SIT inspection and the information provided by Entergy at the regulatory conference, it maintains that the finding is appropriately characterized as White.
The NRC also determined that the finding involved a violation of “Corrective Action.” “Corrective Action,” requires, in part, that measures shall be established to assure that conditions such as failures, malfunctions, and deficiencies, are quickly identified and corrected.
In 2014, the NRC degraded Pilgrim’s safety performance rating based on excessive shutdowns in 2013, placing it among the nine worst performing reactors in the country and requiring closer scrutiny by federal inspectors. A year later, the NRC continued to classify Pilgrim as one of the worst performers among nuclear power plants in the country, because Pilgrim had still failed to correct problems from 2013. Now, in 2015, Pilgrim has already had 3 unplanned shutdowns among a variety of other problems – likely making its way to the bottom of the performers list yet again.
According to the Cape Cod Times today, Pilgrim “is now at the bottom of the performance list of the nation’s 99 operating reactors, based on its forced shutdowns and equipment failures, and in a category just one step above mandatory shutdown by federal regulators. Only two other plants in the country are currently in that category: Arkansas Nuclear One and Arkansas Nuclear Two. Those two, like Pilgrim, are Entergy-owned.”