Palisades Nuclear Plant

Former workers at the Palisades nuclear plant are accusing management of lying to regulators about attempts to fix a work environment where managers put a chill on critical feedback from employees. 

Thursday night’s meeting to review Palisades' performance last year started out pretty typically.

Regulators noted a survey that found security officers fear retaliation if they raise certain concerns.

Company officials got a chance to respond. Otto Gustafson, Director of Regulatory and Performance Improvement at Palisades, said management is taking the concerns very seriously and outlined a plan to correct the problem. 

But then Chris Malich stepped to the microphone during the public comment portion of the meeting and called Gustafson and other officials out.

“I’ve seen it over and over,” Malich told regulators, “They’ve said things are going to change, things are going to change, and they stay the same.”

Palisades Nuclear Power Plant.
Entergy Corporation

People will get two opportunities this week to hear how the Palisades nuclear plant is doing. Palisades was recently listed as one of the worst-performing plants in the country.

Regulators have raised the plant's official safety rating, but they say the safety culture among security staff still needs to improve.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The head of the nation’s nuclear regulatory agency toured two nuclear plants in southwest Michigan Friday.

NRC Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane wanted to see how the plants are doing in the wake of the disaster at a nuclear plant in Japan. Congressman Fred Upton joined Macfarlane for the visits to the Donald C. Cook Nuclear Plant and the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant, both of which are located in his district.

Nuclear regulators are requiring plants to upgrade equipment and emergency plans that take into account the meltdown of the Fukushima plant in 2011.

Jake Neher

This story was corrected to reflect how many security officers talked to the NRC.

Nuclear regulators have been interviewing certain Palisades employees as part of ongoing oversight to see if safety culture has improved at the nuclear plant near South Haven. That's after a third-party report found “examples of a lack of accountability at all levels at the Plant were evident.”

Love-Ramirez family

The Palisades power plant is proposing a new design that officials hope will help end a recurring problem.

The heat generated by its nuclear reactor is restrained in part by 45 control rods. The rod mechanisms at Palisades have an uncommon design (one of only two plants in the country) and have had a lot more problems than at other plants.

COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Operators of southwestern Michigan's Palisades Nuclear Power Plant say it's now offline for refueling and maintenance.

New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. says operators took the plant out of service at 11 a.m. EST Sunday. It's located on the shore of lake Michigan in Van Buren County's Covert Township, about 55 miles southwest of Grand Rapids.

Plant spokeswoman Lindsay Rose says workers will replace 64 fuel assemblies in the reactor as well doing maintenance, tests and inspections.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Public health should be about facts, but let’s face it -- it’s often also about perception and emotion.

The Palisades plant is located not too far from where I live in West Michigan -– but before I go there, allow me a quick digression.

I recently gave up diet soda.

I’m trying to be healthy and have been convinced by what I’ve read and been told that aspartame, the sweetener in diet pop, is really not a good thing to consume.

Is the evidence conclusive?

I don’t think so, but I certainly feel a whole lot better about myself now that I’ve kicked my addiction.

The emotional factors may not be so different with the Palisades nuclear power plant.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

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Palisades Nuclear Plant at risk of closing

A new study puts the Palisades Nuclear Plant on a list of 12 plants at risk of closing before their licenses expire.  The study was produced by Mark Cooper at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School.  The list weighs factors such as repairs and safety improvement, and also includes the Davis-Besse plant near Toledo.  Michigan Radio’s Lindsay Smith reports “Cooper says nuclear plants are simply more expensive to run safely as they age. Plus the falling price of renewable energy and natural gas make nuclear power less competitive.”

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Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A new study deems the Palisades Nuclear Plant one of a dozen in the country most at risk of closing before its operating license expires in 2031.

“I’m not making predictions here and I really do want to stress that,” the study’s author Mark Cooper told reporters on a press conference call Wednesday afternoon.

Federal nuclear regulators say it’ll be several weeks before they can determine if Entergy, the company that owns the Palisades Nuclear Plant, violated any regulations during an incident in May when 80 gallons of slightly radioactive water leaked into Lake Michigan.

Related: Read this for a brief summary of all the problems at Palisades

The leak happened in May. Regulators say there was no threat to public safety, and the leak is now fixed.

When workers fixed the leaky tank they discovered the sand bed that was supposed to be supporting the tank was never installed. Palisades was built in 1968.

“If the causes (of there being no sand bed) were so long ago and it’s not indicative of recent performance then it’s assessed a little bit differently,” Jack Giessner said during a public forum held online Tuesday afternoon. Giessner is branch chief at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“It still may have some follow up needed but in general, it’s not like we’re going to try to interview people from 1968,” Giessner said.

Federal regulators will host a public meeting this week to recap the latest shutdown of the Palisades Nuclear Plant. The plant restarted about a month ago after fixing a water leak.

user AndrewHorne / Wikimedia

Palisades returns to service

The Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in southwestern Michigan re-opened yesterday after finishing repairs to a tank that leaked slightly radioactive water into Lake Michigan. The plant has had nine shutdowns since September 2011; company spokeswoman Lindsay Rose says the tank has been redesigned to guard against future leaks. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says there was no public health risk from the radioactive release.

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“Orr’s plan suggests that spinning the water department off to an authority would allow it refinance its debt, and borrow more readily for capital improvements,” Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek reports.

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COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Operators have restarted the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in southwestern Michigan after finishing repairs to a water tank that leaked slightly radioactive water into Lake Michigan.

New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. idled the plant May 5 after operators found a tank leaking faster than regulations allow. Company spokeswoman Lindsay Rose says it returned to service about 2:10 p.m. Monday.

The plant is in Van Buren County's Covert Township, about 80 miles east-northeast of Chicago,

It’s been more than a month since the Palisades Nuclear Plant near South Haven shut down after an unexpected release of slightly radioactive water into Lake Michigan.

Nuclear watchdog groups are upset there was yet another leak into the plant’s control room last week.

David Defoe / flickr

Operators at Palisades Nuclear Power Plant announced yesterday that it will take until early summer to repair the plant and get it back online.

The plant was shut down after it was discovered that radioactive water had been entering Lake Michigan.

The leak came from a water storage tank that has continually caused problems at Palisades. Water from the tank dripped into the plant’s control room in May of 2011.

This time the water leaked onto the roof, down the roof drains, and out into the lake.

COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Operators of the idled Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in southwestern Michigan say repairs to a tank that leaked slightly radioactive water into Lake Michigan will take until early summer to complete.

The plant is in Van Buren County's Covert Township, about 80 miles east-northeast of Chicago,

Washtenaw Housing Alliance

Even though Palisades is temporarily shut down, the nuclear power plant last night held a public open house it had scheduled more than a month ago.

In a small conference center in South Haven Tuesday night, anti-nuclear activists mingled with federal nuclear regulators, residents, and plant workers. Palisades Site Vice President Tony Vitale says that's a good thing. He says the open house is designed for people in the community to come talk to some of the plant workers firsthand.

“We’re not hiding anything. We want to run, and will run, and I will demand we run a transparent operation,” Vitale said.

In West Michigan, crews are continuing to try and figure out what caused the release of slightly radioactive water from the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in southwest Michigan.

The plant was shut down a little over a week ago because of the leak, and crews say they have discovered a new crack in a water tank that's been leaking on and off for at least two years.

Michigan Radio's West Michigan reporter Lindsey Smith joined us today to talk about

Listen to the full interview above.

User: ellenm1 / flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced he will not run for re-election. What does this means for the city moving forward while currently under emergency management?

And we took a look at what's behind Michigan's high infant mortality rate.

And author, theologian, preacher, and social activist Jim Wallis joined us to talk about his book and The Common Good for America.

But first in the show, we got an update on the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant, where crews are trying to figure out what caused the release of slightly radioactive water.

The plant was shut down a little over a week ago because of the leak, and crews say they have discovered a new crack in a water tank that has been leaking on and off for at least two years. Michigan Radio reporter Lindsey Smith discussed the issue with us.

cdc.gov / cdc.gov

Crews are still trying to figure out exactly what caused an unplanned release of slightly radioactive water from the Palisades Nuclear Plant last week. They have discovered a new crack in a water tank that’s been leaking on and off for at least two years.

The plant was shut down a little over a week ago because of the leak.

“The risk to the plant safety was very small. There really was no increased risk,” Palisades Chief Operating Officer Tim Mitchell told reporters Monday afternoon.  

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