Palisades: a year in review

Dec 13, 2012

The Palisades Nuclear Power Plant near South Haven has been going through some significant challenges over the past couple of years. It’s been shut down eight times in two years, and federal regulators downgraded its safety rating to one of the worst in the country.

Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith has been writing about the plant through the turmoil. She joined me on today's Environment Report to take a look back at the events of the past year.

Last month, federal regulators upgraded Palisades' once poor safety rating to the best rating possible. Lindsey explained that the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the plant was always operating safely or they would have shut it down.

"It’s got a pretty low threshold for screw ups. So the safety rating is a very technical process to measure a plant’s performance. It can be really confusing to hear that the rating jumped so dramatically – even though there’s been a number of water leaks at the plant – as recently as last month it shut down to fix a broken valve."

Lindsey asked NRC’s Regional Administrator Chuck Castro: Why not gradually increase the safety rating if there are still problems?

Castro: "The two issues are completely resolved and we’re satisfied with the fix, but we have these other lingering sort of maintenance issues that aren’t risk significant but they indicate to us that there’s still some problems, underlying problems."

So the bottom line? Entergy fixed the two issues that landed Palisades the poor safety rating, but they have new problems with the leaks that aren’t directly tied to the safety rating that regulators still want to keep an eye on.

You can hear our conversation above.