After intense NRC scrutiny that confirmed the plant is safe to operate, the Palisades nuclear power plant in Michigan restarted Monday after more than a month shutdown.
In total 10 NRC inspectors performed a wide range of inspections to ensure the leak in a refueling water tank, the reason for the shutdown, was fixed.
Entergy employees identified a leak from the tank on May 5.The leak exceeded the level Entergy had committed to the NRC, which required the plant to shut down to ensure structural integrity of the tank.
The tank is used during refueling outages and to supply water to the reactor during emergencies. It has leaked before. That’s one reason why, in a July 2012 letter, the plant made a commitment to measure and trend daily leakage from the tank, and shut down the plant if the leak exceeded certain limits.
The NRC responded quickly once the leak was reported. The resident inspectors headed into the plant that Sunday, May 5, to closely follow Entergy’s actions to shut down the plant and inspect their efforts to identify the leak. We also sent a specialist with a background in materials engineering to further inspect the plant’s detailed actions to identify and repair the leak.
And we had additional inspectors review and assess the plant’s test and repair plan, look into the area beneath the tank, understand and analyze the stresses on the tank, review the root cause of the leak, and observe the actual welding and testing of the tank components.
NRC’s Region III also continued our commitment to openness and transparency by publicly documenting phone call discussions between Entergy and NRC management on this issue. Additionally, the region held a webinar on radioactive releases during which Region III staff addressed the public’s questions and concerns about the tank leak. More than 70 people participated in the webinar.
Going forward, the NRC will continue to make sure the tank remains safe. We will independently inspect the areas around the tank where leaks can be identified and will follow Entergy’s actions to monitor the tank. If small leaks are discovered we expect Entergy to evaluate them according to the NRC’s rules, and take appropriate action.
We have received dozens of calls and inquiries about this issue. We want to assure you that the public and plant workers continue to be safe. We remain committed to being open and transparent about issues of concern to the local public. To that end, we will hold an internet event to discuss NRC regulations regarding this tank and why Palisades was safe to restart. Once a date has been determined details will be posted on the NRC website.