Workers have shut down the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in South Haven to refuel.
Palisades had five unplanned shutdowns in 2011. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission downgraded the plant’s safety rating because of a series of problems – including one “significant” issue when the plant’s control room lost half its indicators. The power plant now has one of the worst safety ratings in the country.
There are more inspectors on site because of the planned outage, but they will not be addressing last year’s safety problems at this time.
“(The NRC) can only conduct those inspections after the company tells us 'we have done the work that we need to do to fix the issues that we have,” said NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mytling.
Entergy, the company that owns Palisades, will need to identify the root cause of the safety violations. It will also have to outline actions needed or taken to correct root cause and how to implement those actions. Then the NRC officials would evaluate to see if they believe Entergy does understand the root cause, if they’ve looked at the problems comprehensively enough. Then the NRC will determine if it has confidence Entergy will fix the issues.
Mytling says those separate safety inspections will take place later this year. Regulators say the plant is currently operating safely.
Entergy, the company that own Palisades issued this statement about the shutdown, which began Sunday afternoon.
During the outage, 64 new fuel assemblies will be placed in the reactor. Other major work to be conducted during the outage includes an inspection of the reactor vessel head, replacement of five control rod seal packages, an inspection of the moisture separator and re-heater heat exchangers, and an inspection of the plant’s two steam generators.
A total of 1,165 additional supplemental workers have joined the permanent Palisades staff in assisting with the outage work.
Palisades has to shut down to refuel once every eighteen months. Company officials did not say how long they expect the plant to be offline.