On Friday Federal regulators upgraded the safety rating at the Palisades nuclear plant from one of the worst in the country to one of the best. That’s after Palisades passed a major inspection following a number of safety problems last year.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the poor safety culture among workers at Palisades has improved. That culture was blamed for the biggest safety issue that happened in September 2011 when a worker caused an electrical short that resulted in half the control room indicators going dead.
Although Palisades’ safety rating has technically improved, NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng says regulators will still have a heightened presence at the plant after a series of water leak there this year.
“Even though (the leaks) don’t have a high safety significance we still want to make sure that those issues are well understood,” Mitlyng said. The leaks have been in different water systems and in different areas of the plant.
The latest water leak was just this week. The plant had to shut down for a few days to make repairs.
“We have chosen to deviate from our normal process and continue our inspections at an elevated pace ensuring that all issues are resolved,” Mitlyng said. So while most plants in the top rated safety column Palisades is now in have about 2,000 hours of time with NRC inspectors, Palisades will have 3,000 inspector hours.
The NRC issued this statement:
“While (Palisades) has demonstrated satisfactory resolution of the most significant risk issues and we have no immediate safety concerns, other issues, such as the leaks that came to light during this year, continue to occur,” said Region III Administrator Charles Casto. “We have chosen to deviate from our normal process and continue our inspections at an elevated pace ensuring that all issues are resolved. Our inspectors will continue their relentless focus on reactor safety and ensuring the protection of the public.”