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Pilgrim Nuclear Plant Heads Toward More NRC Scrutiny

Neil Sheehan
Public Affairs Officer
Region I
 

This likely won’t come as a surprise to those who closely follow the Pilgrim nuclear power plant, but the NRC will be bumping up its level of oversight for the Plymouth, Mass., reactor.

pilgAt the conclusion of every quarter, U.S. nuclear power plant owners voluntarily provide the agency with data that determines if there will be any changes to the Performance Indicators for each facility. The indicators cover areas such as the number of unplanned shutdowns, emergency siren functionality and the effectiveness of radiological controls.

Based on the update of indicator data following the third quarter of 2013, Pilgrim saw its Performance Indicator for Unplanned Scrams (shutdowns) with Complications shift from “green” to “white.” This indicator tracks unplanned scrams that require additional operator actions and that are more risk-significant than uncomplicated shutdowns.

This adjustment resulted in the NRC notifying Entergy, the plant’s owner, that additional scrutiny would be applied to the site. More specifically, the facility moved from Licensee Response Column of the NRC’s Action Matrix – connoting normal oversight – to the Regulatory Response Column – signaling additional inspections by the agency.

Now, with the finalization of 2013 fourth-quarter data, another indicator for Pilgrim has also gone from “green” to “white.” In this case, the Performance Indicator for Unplanned Scrams per 7,000 Hours of Operation is affected. This indicator makes that transition if a plant experiences more than three unplanned shutdowns during that period of time.

This will lead to Pilgrim moving to the Degraded Cornerstone Column of the Action Matrix and result in still more inspections by the NRC. There will also be greater interaction between NRC senior managers and plant management to reach a better understanding of actions taken or planned to address the problems.

Two Performance Indicators related to an increased number of unplanned plant shutdowns over the past year crossed the green/white threshold and shows the company needs to focus greater attention on understanding why this trend is occurring. For the NRC’s part, we need to apply more resources to assess Entergy’s efforts to determine the root causes and to implement corrective actions. The NRC will also conduct its own independent evaluation of the root causes.

In March, the NRC will issue its Annual Assessment Letters for each plant. That letter for Pilgrim will reflect its current status and list inspections the agency will be carrying out in response to the indicator revisions. The letters will be available on the NRC web site.

2 responses to “Pilgrim Nuclear Plant Heads Toward More NRC Scrutiny

  1. CaptD February 6, 2014 at 11:29 am

    As I have suggested to the Chairman of the NRC previously, these additional inspections should all be carried out by Senior Inspectors from another NRC Region so that both the Utility and the local inspectors can learn from them.

    This inspection methodology will help in three important ways:

    1. It will insure that what happened at San Onofre nuclear power plant (the too cozy relationship between the Utility and their NRC Regional Inspectors that resulted in an early decommissioning because of their in-house replacement steam generator design debacle) never happens again.

    2. It will insure that NRC Regulations are being completely enforced equally throughout the USA.

    3. It will give the both the Chairman and the NRC’s Senate EPW Oversight Committee a better “snapshot” of how successful current regulations are at insuring overall nuclear power plant safety in the USA, which is Job #1 for the NRC and especially all its inspectors, since the USA cannot afford even one Trillion Dollar Eco-Disaster like Fukushima.

    • Joyce Agresta February 7, 2014 at 8:41 pm

      It would certainly be beneficial to both the public and plant operators to invite another proven team of experts independent of the NRC and Plant Operators to consult with the current team rather than pull NRC inspectors from another region. As CAPd implies in the above post. There’s little public trust in the plan A you mention.
      The Union of Concerned Scientist have personnel ready willing and able to consult with security clearances already in place. Their expertise has proven beneficial to the NRC the US Government and public many times over already.
      Most of the time people are left with the impression that the NRC and the plant operators don’t understands just how psychologically terrorized the general public is in fear of Nuclear Power Reactor Accidents. Many living near Nuclear Power Reactors feel as if they are considered expendable Americans. More so when mishaps repeatedly happen such as in this case. Your right your recent findings comes as no surprise !

      The NRC has taught us the significance of an established “Performance Matrix” Admittedly the NRC has indeed done some amazing things to keep the reactors safe but we all know the effects of error. Two teams of undisputed experts inspecting and improving this plant could only lead to a better outcome than just the one team in place. Some things are just not happening as they should at this plant . Even as the NRC is watching and warning this plant is half way down the performance matrix and falling fast. Thank you in advance for finding the best remedy to this very concerning problem.

      Union of Concerned Scientists Mission Statement
      The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet’s most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

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