energy
2:01 pm
Thu June 28, 2012

Federal agents launch investigation of Entergy; company that operates Palisades Nuclear Power Plant

The investigation launched this week concerns a leaking water tank. Two weeks ago, Palisades shut down so crews could repair the leaky tank. At that time, Entergy reported they knew about the leak for several weeks. But Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors at the plant say they’ve been monitoring the leak for more than a year.

The tank is used in emergencies or planned refueling outages. The plant remains shut down, and the company never shares how long they expect planned outages to last.

The special federal agents are from the NRC’s Office of Investigations.

According to the NRC’s website:

“OI (Office of Investigations) may commence appropriate investigative activity when a matter is brought to the attention of OI indicating that wrongdoing is alleged to have been committed by a person or entity within NRC jurisdiction. Investigations may also be conducted of any matter within NRC jurisdiction that the Commission desires to be investigated.”

The office “assists the NRC staff in pursuing enforcement options and the Department of Justice in prosecution of criminal violations.”

A Palisades spokesman declined to comment on the investigation.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng says she can’t say too much either.

“You don’t want to be on that end of an investigation, but sometimes they don’t turn up anything," Mitlying said. 

In 2011, the Office of Investigation completed 121 investigations. Agents are looking into allegations of wrongdoing related to the leaking water tank. But specifics aren’t really available. Neither is the timeline for the investigation to conclude.

The plant remains shut down until the tank is repaired.

Palisades has one of the worst safety ratings in the United States after a series of problems last year.

Federal regulators want to know more about what Entergy is doing to improve the safety culture at the plant. An independent safety study completed this spring has not been made public. The third-party contractor looked at the safety culture among workers at the plant.

Inspectors with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have reviewed the study but don’t have a copy on file. Mytling says the results are in line with what the agency “already knows.”

“It’s a matter of making sure that Entergy takes corrective actions to address this problem in an effective manner,” Mitlying said.

Officials at Palisades say they have taken steps to improve the safety culture at the plant. The company says it will submit the independent safety assessment within 30 days. But the NRC wants more details about the company’s plans.

The federal agency will hold a public meeting about the study within the next two months.