Two meetings this week to discuss Palisades nuclear plant’s performance last year

Jun 23, 2014

Palisades Nuclear Power Plant.
Credit 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.

A survey found security officers fear retaliation if they raise concerns.

“The plant security officers are willing to raise issues that could impact nuclear safety and nuclear security but they are reluctant to raise internal issues such as work hours, overtime, communications with management and worker fatigue,” Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokeswoman Prema Chandrathil said.

The plant created a plan to address the safety culture, but the NRC released a letter to the plant Friday that states the plant’s actions “have been insufficient to assess and understand the cause of the chilled work environment” among security workers and “did not demonstrate a strong commitment to effectively improve the safety conscious work environment.”

“Specifically, significant gaps were found to exist in the security officers’ knowledge of the actions being taken to address the chilled safety conscious work environment and management’s commitment to improving the overall safety conscious work environment,” the letter said.

Overall, Palisades' performance improved in 2013 according to regulators, but the plant near South Haven still had a few problems.

The big news was when the plant accidentally leaked slightly radioactive water into Lake Michigan. Regulators say there was no risk to the public. After several attempts, workers did eventually fix the leak.

So far, 2014 has been relatively uneventful at Palisades. Workers fixed some longstanding issues that were causing a different leak from the vessel that contains the nuclear reactor. But during those repairs they also discovered a foreign object lodged in the vessel. Regulators don’t believe the object compromises plant safety.

Regulators will discuss these and other issues at a meeting on Thursday at 5 p.m. Meanwhile Entergy, the company that owns Palisades, will host an open house for the public on Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Both meetings will take place at the Beach Haven Event Center in South Haven.