nuclear regulatory commission

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Dozens of people crowded around several small tables at conference center in South Haven, six miles north of the Palisades nuclear plant.

Each table features a different area of concern or interest at the plan; the reactor vessel’s embrittlement factor, a water tank leak, a coupling failure, replacement of a cooling tower, how spent fuel is stored, community projects Entergy supports.

Engineers and project managers point to pictures and diagrams to help answer questions. There are little freebies and even a raffle for a new Ipad.

The plant has one of the worst safety ratings in the country after a series of problems in 2011.

Mark Savage / Entergy

New documents show a team of nuclear regulators will begin a major inspection of the Palisades nuclear power plant this month. The inspection is a direct result of the plant’s downgraded safety rating that was issued earlier this year.

Mark Savage / Entergy

This post has been modified to correct language from the NRC.

The Palisades nuclear power plant is returning to service. It was shut down earlier this month to repair a water leak in the building where the actual reactor is located.  

Workers found water was leaking through several cracks in a device that sits atop the nuclear reactor. Palisades Spokesman Mark Savage says they completely replaced that control rod device.

Palisades Nuclear Power Plant on Lake Michigan near South Haven, Michigan.
NRC.gov

Palisades Nuclear Power Plant was shut down this past Sunday for a water leak inside a containment building. This is the second leak at the plant this summer that has triggered a shutdown.

The plant is operated by Entergy Nuclear Operations and is located in Covert, Michigan near South Haven.

Today, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced that a three member inspection team is at Palisades looking into the problem:

The three member inspection team will begin work Wednesday and look into the circumstances surrounding the leak. They will review the utility’s monitoring of the leak and subsequent plant shutdown, verify the adequacy of radiological controls, evaluate any potential degradation, and review the plant’s repair actions. The team will also review the plant’s reporting requirements and their plan for addressing the cause of the event.

Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith covered the shutdown in yesterday's Environment Report segment. She spoke with Entergy spokesman Mark Savage.

Savage says they’ve determined that a “control rod drive package” is the source of the leak. There are 45 of these control rods. Plant operators can raise or lower control rods to control the rate of the nuclear reaction.

“And occasionally these control rod drives will have a problem. In this case we couldn’t identify it until we actually shut the plant down. So we take aggressive action to shut the plant down, do the right thing, make the repairs and return the plant to service," Savage said.

Palisades has been the focus of significantly more oversight from federal regulators over the last year.

Mark Savage / Entergy

The Palisades Nuclear Power Plant near South Haven is shut down again. This is the second time this summer Entergy Corporation has had to shut down the plant for repairs.

The plant shut down to refuel in April; that was normal. It restarted in early May.

But then a water leak in a tank above the control room caused the plant to shut back down just a few weeks later. Those repairs took a month and on July 11th the plant started up again. Though that leak appears to be fixed, it is still under investigation by special federal agents with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

But as it returned to service in July, Palisades Spokesman Mark Savage says operators discovered a different water leak – this time in the building that holds the nuclear reactor. In a written statement Savage called the leak “minor.”

Mark Savage / Entergy Corporation

Update 11:05 a.m.

Palisades Spokesman Mark Savage issued these bullet points Tuesday in an email response to reporters about the report by Conger & Elsea:

Mark Savage / Entergy Corporation

The Palisades nuclear power plant is returning to service after being shut down for the last four weeks to repair a leaking water tank.

The tank is a giant aluminum sphere that holds 300,000 gallons of water in case of emergencies or a planned refueling outage.

The tank is made up of a bunch of aluminum plates welded together. There are 26 plates on the bottom of the tank.  Palisades spokesman Mark Savage says they found  “several minor through wall leaks” in the aluminum walls and some flaws in the welds themselves and repaired them all.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This story has been modified to correct a metric conversion and the reference to the substance tritium.

The Palisades plant near South Haven has an aluminum water tank that’s used in case of emergencies or when the plant needs to be refueled. Last month, Entergy, the company that owns the plant, shut the reactor down to fix a leak in the tank.

Palisades knew the tank was leaking for longer than the company first said

It appears that the water tank has been leaking for a lot longer than the company first admitted.

Mark Savage / Entergy Corporation

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.”

COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - A spokesman says work continues at the Palisades nuclear plant 10 days after the southwestern Michigan facility was shut down to repair a leak in a water tank.

Palisades spokesman Mark Savage said Friday that crews are analyzing and evaluating the tank.

The plant in Van Buren County's Covert Township voluntarily shut down June 12th.

Palisades reactor from ouside
Mark Savage / Entergy Nuclear Operations

The Palisades Nuclear Power Plant near South Haven has an aluminum water tank that’s used in case of emergencies or when the plant needs to be refueled.  That water tank has been leaking for several weeks.  On Tuesday evening, the Palisades plant was shut down so workers can fix the leak.

The shutdown this week was a planned outage – so, in other words, the plant operators saw this coming.

Mark Savage is a spokesperson for Entergy, the company that owns the Palisades plant.  He says this tank has been leaking for several weeks. It’s an old aluminum tank that holds 300,000 gallons of water.  He says the tank is the same age as the Palisades plant: 40 years old.

It’s considered to be a small leak and the company has been collecting the water and monitoring it for weeks.  But on Tuesday the amount reached 31 gallons per day... and that was the threshold where the company determined the leak had to be fixed. So that means taking the plant out of service.

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission is in charge of oversight on the country's nuclear power plants. NRC spokesperson Viktoria Mitlyng says the water leaking out of the tank does not pose any safety hazard.

"They’re collecting that water; it has no way of getting out of the plant. It cannot go outside and it does not pose a threat to plant workers and at this rate of leakage it does not compromise the plant’s stability or safety."

Entergy's Mark Savage declined to say how long the outage will last.  But he says the procedure is pretty straightforward:

"Shut the reactor down - which we’ve done, unload the water from the tank, find the leak, repair the leak, fill it up again and start the reactor back up."

This time around the shutdown was planned.  But Palisades had five unplanned shutdowns last year – and one of those was considered to be of substantial safety significance.  Because of that the power plant now has one of the worst safety ratings in the country, and that means the federal government is watching the plant more closely. NRC spokesperson Viktoria Mitlyng says they want to see how the plant operators handle this repair... and find out what caused the leak in the first place.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says operators of the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant must improve plant safety.

NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko shared his thoughts following a three-hour tour of the plant in South Haven Friday.

“There’s really a need to improve on fundamentals. Just some of the basics of nuclear safety really need to be worked on,” Jaczko said. “We’re starting to see some of that happen which is a positive but it needs to be sustained to ultimately get the performance where we’d like to see it."

Palisades reactor from ouside
Mark Savage / Entergy Nuclear Operations

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.

NRC.gov

A nuclear watchdog group is asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to take stronger enforcement actions against the Palisades Nuclear Plant in South Haven.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will increase scrutiny at the plant because of a downgrade in its safety performance rating.

But Thomas Saporito says that’s not good enough. “I think the conduct by the NRC is outrageous. I think the NRC misrepresented to the public that the plant is being operated safely. It most certainly is not operating safely,” Saporito said.

Officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission answered questions about safety violations at the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant Wednesday night. About 150 people attended the meeting in person, while others listened in over the phone.

Officials with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission were trying to ease the community’s concerns after 5 unplanned shutdowns last year (4 we’re reactor shutdowns).

But like many residents who spoke out at the meeting, Maynard Kaufman said he won’t feel better unless the plant is shutdown. Kaufman lives on a farm just ten miles away from Palisades.

“I don’t know why we’d take chances with the wonderful agricultural area downwind from this plant in Van Buren and Kalamazoo Counties. It would be a shame to wreck that. And it could happen,” Kaufman warned.

Palisades Nuclear Power Plant on Lake Michigan near South Haven, Michigan.
NRC.gov

This Wednesday the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a public meeting to discuss safety violations at the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in South Haven.

The plant had five unplanned shutdowns last year. As a result, the NRC downgraded the plant’s safety performance rating. Now it’s one of only four plants in the country with such a bad safety rating.

NRC.gov

The Palisades nuclear power plant near South Haven, Michigan has been listed as one of the nation's poorest performing in terms of safety violations, according to the Nuclear Regulatrory Commission.

More from the Associated Press:

COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has downgraded the Palisades nuclear power plant in southwestern Michigan following an investigation of two incidents last year that
raised safety concerns.

The NRC notified the plant Tuesday of its decision.

The agency groups nuclear plants into one of five regulatory columns depending on their performance, with the fifth category being the worst. Palisades was bumped from the second to the third column.

The Kalamazoo Gazette reports that Palisades is one of only four plants in the nation in either the third or fourth columns.

None are in the fifth.

Palisades spokesman Mark Savage tells The Associated Press the violations that caused the NRC investigation involved equipment or maintenance.

He says the plant is operating safely.

Palisades is owned by New Orleans-based Entergy Corp.

NRC

How many nuclear power plant employees does it take to screw in a light bulb? Evidently more than were on hand last September at the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in western Michigan. According to a report from the Detroit Free Press, an unplanned reactor shutdown at Palisades last fall can be attributed to a plant worker improperly replacing a light bulb.

From the Freep:

NRC.gov

Officials from Entergy Corporation, the company that operates the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant near South Haven, appeared in front of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Wednesday.

The company is hoping to avoid getting another safety violation; it was issued one already this month. “We’ve lost the trust of our neighbors. We’ve lost the trust of our corporation and we’re going to fix that,” said David Hamilton, general manager of plant operations. The hearing was about two separate incidents at the plant last year.

Entergy Corporation “concurs” with NRC’s findings

The more serious of the two incidents was a week-long shutdown of the power plant last September. It went offline because of an electrical outage at the plant that happened because a worker didn’t follow proper procedures during routine maintenance.  “This was an event that allowed my electricians to feel that they could put themselves at such risk; I apologize if I get emotional but I could’ve killed somebody on the weekend of September 25th,” Hamilton said.

Wednesday officials from the company that operates the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in South Haven will appear in front of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. An NRC investigation found a week-long shut-down of the power plant last September was of “substantial safety significance”.

Excelon Nuclear

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says a week-long shut-down of the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in September was of "substantial safety significance." The plant is located in South Haven about 55 miles southwest of Grand Rapids.

Excelon Nuclear

A team of experts from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is inspecting the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in southwest Michigan. There are no safety concerns and everything is now working properly at the plant.

Last week, a coupling that attaches to a water pump failed. The water pump is one of three at the plant that cool safety equipment. The part was replaced and the pump is back in service. The same water pump had a coupling fail in 2009.

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