Pilgrim in Cold Shutdown Due to Nemo-the-Nor’easter

Neil Sheehan
Public Affairs Officer
Region I

True to forecasts, New England states bore the brunt of the winter storm dubbed Nemo. With respect to nuclear power plants in the region, only one – Pilgrim, in Massachusetts – had its operations interrupted by the powerful Nor’easter.

pilgAt 9:17 p.m. Friday, three off-site power lines that provide electricity for plant safety systems were knocked out of service. In response, the reactor, as designed, automatically shut down and the facility’s emergency diesel generators activated to provide that power.

One of the criteria for a plant to declare an “Unusual Event” – the lowest of four levels of emergency classification – is the loss of off-site power for more than 15 minutes. As such, Pilgrim made that declaration at 10 p.m. Friday. The NRC issued a press release early Saturday morning.

After one of the lines was restored, the plant was able to terminate the Unusual Event as of 10:55 a.m. Sunday. But there was a setback later in the day when the 345-kilovolt line experienced new problems. Once again, the emergency diesel generators started and will supply the power needed for safety systems until the lines are fully restored.

Since the reactor was already in “cold” shutdown condition, Pilgrim did not need to again declare an Unusual Event.

NRC inspectors, and for a good part of the weekend the NRC Region I Incident Response Center, closely monitored the storm recovery efforts at Pilgrim. That will continue as repair work is carried out and plans for placing the unit back in service are developed.

Author: Moderator

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

15 thoughts on “Pilgrim in Cold Shutdown Due to Nemo-the-Nor’easter”

  1. NO ESCAPE FROM THE CAPE:! The PILGRIM NUCLEAR REACTOR POWER STATION IS A THREAT TO CAPE COD< ITS CITIZENS & ITS TOURISTS…..650 jobs in Plymouth should immediately be turned into Clean-Up with two-hour rotating shifts….Maybe Entergy can ask its oldest & nearest retirment age to do the dirtiest work like they did in Fukushima. Nuclear Energy.We should be ashamed to be even discussing 'safety measures". Insane. Creating MORE RADIOACTIVE WASTE? MORE INSANE! SHUT IT DOWN! Our children & grandchildren's lives are in the balance. PEOPLE & PLANET BEFORE PROFIT, NRC!

  2. The Pilgrim emergency diesel generator (EDG) fuel storage tanks are buried underground, just below the 23-foot above-sea level elevation, underneath an asphalt overlay similar to a parking lot. These tanks are vented through piping that runs vertically along the height of the EDG enclosure building for approximately 12 feet above the 23-foot above-sea level site elevation. As such, there would have to be an event resulting in water intrusion at the site at least 35 feet above sea level for the tank vents to be affected.

    During a response to comments left on the blog post last week, we pointed out that there had not been an event in the history of the Pilgrim plant that led to flooding at the 23-foot above-sea level site elevation. The plant came online in 1972.

    Neil Sheehan

  3. What about the fuel storage tanks, I don’t mean the day tanks, the bulk tanks.

    At Fukushima, the tanks were placed right on waters edge, for ease of refueling from ship. They were scrubbed off the second the tsunami hit.

    An underground storage tank always has vents, so underground isn’t the solution either.

  4. The ground elevation of the Protected Area buildings at the Pilgrim nuclear power plant is 23 feet above sea level. The plant’s emergency diesel generators (EDGs) are housed in a structure that provides robust protection from the elements and is designed to withstand flooding, seismic activity, missile hazards and more. Also, a breakwater exists along the facility’s canal and intake structure that serves to lessen the impact of storm wave action on the intake structure and shoreline revetment.

    Flooding studies done for the Pilgrim site evaluated the impact of postulated significant storm surge events. They concluded that no flooding would occur that could affect buildings containing nuclear safety-related equipment, including the EDGs. We are not aware of any storm surges that have impacted any Protected Area buildings at Pilgrim since it came online in 1972.

    We would point out that as part of the NRC’s multiple post-Fukushima actions, the NRC is continuing to reassess the ability of U.S. nuclear power plants to withstand severe flooding. Visual inspections of all critical infracture, including the EDG building, are part of this process. The results of those reviews will be made available to the public once they are completed.

    Neil Sheehan

  5. Is it true that the plant and its emergency generators are only about 20 feet above sea level and that now all it would take is for a storm with a good size swell to take them out, creating the fukushima style problem?

  6. Mr. Nuclear guy,
    There are tons of words to be spoken for and against Nuclear energy production. And, as you say, having factual information is pretty important. I do believe there are all sorts of measuring devices to detect levels of radiation working to prevent any problems. The problem is these devices were created by humans and are monitored by humans. The cherry on top is the whole process is run by a government designed arrangement. I worked for my state government for 11 years and was in the was in the military for four years. I have a pretty good idea of how things work with the government and it does not make me feel better about Nuclear energy. Of course, any monitoring is better than none but to question a government process is fruitless. Any change or attempt to investigate a concern from lowly citizen is satisfied with a few bread crumbs and a whole bunch of words. I know I have attended and spoke at several Public Service Commission meetings. I have an engineer friend that works for a crane company that installed the cranes at many of the Nuclear reactor sites. These cranes are used to remove and insert the rods that run the reactors. There was a time he had to inspect one of the cranes that was malfunctioning. He was required to attend 1-2 weeks class about the environment before he could check out the problem. Of course, this is a good thing. It also indicates how dangerous the environment is. This fact and what great detail and special handling is required to store spent Nuclear rods is all I need to know about Nuclear energy that it is a bad idea.
    You spent time doing the radiation comes form everywhere speel. This, as always, does not take away, but also adds to my fears, that Nuclear energy production is bad for our environment. I know you feel the need to talk up your field of Nuclear development. Everyone needs to justify their job. All I know is there are so many natural energy resources “above ground” that are in endless supply and all we need to do is harness it. Oh yes, oh yes, there can be accidents with solar and wind harnessing devices, but these accidents will not cause an endless destructive domino affect on the environment.

  7. Mountain out of a mole hill

    I just discovered a new type of false argumentative technique, its called “Trivializing the Issue”

    Even in a geologically stable deep storage situation, the chance of something going awfully wrong is still present, and the results could be extinction level, so no, this is not trivial.

  8. Mr. Mathews,

    Nuclear power plants have devices which record any radiation release from the facility during normal and abnormal opeartions. All releases are recored and submitted to appropriate agencies including the EPA and NRC on an annual basis. Levels exceeding regulatory limits are reported and require actiosn to be taken up to and including shutdown of the facility in order to terminate the release. Plant buildings are kept at a vacuum with respect to the atmosphere so that radioactive material is held within the building to be filtered and prevent or limit released to the environment such that only heavily filtered releases occur, and levels are limited in nature. The combination of these methods, monitoring, a bias for action, filtering, all prevent uncontrolled releases of radioactivity and assure adequate protection of public health and safety. Your concern about radiation is a valid concern, however one needs to go well beyond nuclear plants to see radiation levels that could harm public health. The average person receives about 320 mRem of radiation per year. A person living near a nuclear power plant typically receives less than 1 mRem of additional radiation. In the grand scheme of things this is negligible to public health. For comparison, flying across country will give you greater than 1 mRem of exposure, as will X-rays, CT scans, cardiac cath/Tc-99 and thyroid iodine treatments, spending a lot of time in concrete/granite based buildings, or living by a coal plant. All of these are things the public does on a daily basis and considers a negligible risk. I encourage you to check out the radiation facts page on the nrc website for more details.

  9. Mr. Greenidge, I guess you believe there is no other alternative for energy than Nuclear. Well, surprise, there is. This country is sadly behind in the technologies of solar wind and other renewable resources. It’s easy to go along with what you can’t change. Oh yes, oh yes, breathing coal and oil toxins in the air is bad, no doubt. Conversely, you would never know you are ingesting, or breathing Nuclear toxins. You can’t see it. You can’t smell it. You can’t taste it. It’s only detectable by a mechanic device. That, of course, appears to be ok with you. It is not ok with me. We do have other Natural resources available for creating energy. The simple fact is that if the Nuclear industry does not figure a way to re-use nuclear waste, we will absolutely run out of space to put it. And, like you said, you can volunteer your backyard for it.

    James Matthews
    Columbia SC

  10. Nuclear waste is a political issue and a technical non-issue. Any high school grad can tell you how to put truly exhausted fuel away. It’s wind-vane politicians and a skittish science illiterate public making a mountain out of mole hill on putting it in places it ought to go. Till then, I’d rather babysit several thousand tons of quiet nuclear waste that isn’t going anywhere than happily breathe in tens of millions of tons of oil and coal waste that greets you inside your own homes every day.

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  11. I was referred to this site anonymously from the NRC after I sent the NRC a letter to thme about my concerns with Nuclear waste. I am personally against Nuclear energy because there is no way known yet to dispose the tonnage of Nuclear waste produced from the electrical energy. From this posting, all I can say is yes, oh yes, you all did a good job, as in this is your job and it is required. I know having a job, any job, today, is very important. The problem is, I can not speak to anyone that can make any difference about discontinuing Nulear energy. Of course, it is too late, now that we have all this safety stuff in place. Where was I when all the decisions were being made about going ahead with developing Nuclear energy ? I was working my ass off trying to raise a family, like everyone else in the same position. We trusted the powers to be to make the right descions for us because we did not have the power to stop it. Now we are stuck with Nuclear power and I hate the fact that I can’t do anything about it. So you dam well better do a good job because this is what the powers to be decided for us !!!

  12. The Pilgrim plant has sufficient fuel oil to operate its emergency diesel generators for more than a week. The tanks used to store that fuel can, of course, be refilled as needed. Efforts to restore off-site power to the facility are ongoing, with the objective of returning to that normal mode of power supply as soon as possible. In the meantime, the emergency diesel generators can meet all of the power needs for key safety systems.

    Neil Sheehan

  13. Per their operating license, they are requried to have over 30k gallons of fuel on hand per generator. This is over 1 week per generator at full load.

    The standard for nuclear plants is a requirement for 7 days of fuel per generator, unless it takes longer than 7 days to get resupplied fuel to the plant. Then it takes 7 days + extra resupply time.

  14. How many days of diesel do they have on site right now, and what will that power?
    Please be specific under various scenarios, thanks!!

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