Palisades Nuclear Plant

Union of Concerned Scientists

The director of the nuclear safety project for the Union of Concerned Scientists is in Michigan to talk about the Palisades nuclear power plant.

David Lochbaum is critical of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in his latest report on nuclear safety released in March.

Lochbaum says the NRC should have fined Entergy, the company that owns Palisades, over a water leak last summer.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Entergy Corporation, the company that owns the Palisades nuclear power plant, says the plant is on the “road to recovery” after a series of safety problems.

Federal regulators recently upgraded the plant’s safety rating from one of the worst in the country after it passed a major inspection last fall.

Palisades Vice President Tony Vitale outlined the steps he and his staff took last year to improve human performance at the plant, one of the main reasons for the safety rating downgrade.

He says a recent, independent study of the safety culture shows the plan is paying off.

Mark Savage / Entergy Corporation

This week Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner William Magwood came to South Haven to tour the Palisades nuclear power plant in nearby Covert Township.

Magwood did not respond to requests to comment on how his tour went or why he chose to come.

He’s the second commissioner to visit the plant in less than a year. NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng says that many high-level visits in such a short time is “not necessarily” uncommon.

“You can draw your own conclusions about that because I cannot do that for you,”Mitlyng said.

Kevin Kamps is with the anti-nuclear watchdog group Beyond Nuclear. Unlike the media, he and several others got a chance to sit down with Commissioner Magwood.

“There were some hints around the edges that it’s because of the problem plagued nature of Palisades and he even used the word disappointment for continued problems out there,” Kamps said.

2012 was a crazy year for the Palisades. Get a feel for it in our timeline on Palisades here.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

During an online public meeting Tuesday night, federal nuclear regulators reiterated their belief that the Palisades nuclear power plant in Covert, Michigan, near South Haven is safe.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission hosted the meeting to talk with the public about the strength of the vessel that contains the nuclear reactor and fuel. Radiation, high pressure and temperatures over long periods of time make the metal vessels in all pressurized water reactors more vulnerable at nuclear plants.

Palisades is the oldest nuclear power plant in the state, and it’s got one of the most brittle reactor vessels in the country. Older nuclear plants like Palisades have some copper in the mostly steel vessel; later designs have stronger steel, regulators said.

Mark Kirk is a Senior Materials Engineer in the Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research at the NRC.

“It’s unquestionably true that Palisades, one of the welds in Palisades, is one of the most embrittled in all of the plants operating in the US,” Kirk said. “Even so, Palisades continues to operate in compliance with the relevant NRC rules.”

By 2017 the plant’s vessel will become too brittle to legally operate.

Palisades reactor from ouside
Mark Savage / Entergy Nuclear Operations

Nuclear regulators will discuss the risk of “pressurized thermal shock,” one of the biggest fears anti-nuclear groups have about the Palisades nuclear power plant during an online meeting Tuesday.

Over time the radiation, extreme pressure and heat from the nuclear reactor wear on the metal vessel that contains it. That’s called embrittlement.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

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.

Palisades Nuclear Power Plant.
Entergy Corporation

Michigan Radio has been following the problems at the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant for the last several years.

Our West Michigan reporter, Lindsey Smith, has been on top of all the leaks, shutdowns, public meetings and visits from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Last February, after five shutdowns in one year, the NRC downgraded Palisades' safety rating. It was rated as one of the four worst in the country.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Company officials who run the Palisades nuclear plant in southwest Michigan say they are improving the safety culture among workers that led to “significant” safety concerns last year. But at a meeting in South Haven Tuesday night, Palisades Site Vice President Tony Vitale said the plant has a “long way to go” to reach “operating excellence.”

Mark Savage / Entergy

Top federal nuclear regulators will be in South Haven early next month to discuss the Palisades nuclear power plant’s recent safety rating upgrade with the community.

Mark Savage / Entergy

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.

NRC

DTE Energy's Fermi 2 nuclear power plant was shutdown yesterday morning after workers discovered excess hydrogen in a generator cooling system.

From the Detroit News:

DTE spokesman Guy Cerullo said Thursday that workers will be checking equipment to find the root of the problem. The company would not provide a timetable for the power plant to be back online.

"Customers won't see any difference," Cerullo said. "We are always are able to get additional power from other plants."

No one at the plant or in surrounding areas was in any danger, Cerullo said.

The Fermi 2 nuclear power plant is near Monroe, Michigan and it sits on Lake Erie.

There are 38 nuclear power plants operating in the eight Great Lakes states. Four are in Michigan. Five nuclear power plants are operating in Ontario.

Mark Savage / Entergy Corporation

The Palisades nuclear power plant is gradually returning to service after a brief shutdown this week.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission estimates between 5 and 50 gallons of water leaked in the form of steam from a broken valve at Palisades. The slightly radioactive leak was contained and regulators say there was no risk to public safety.

On Sunday the plant shut down when workers discovered steam leaking from the valve. In a written statement, Palisades spokesman Mark Savage says the valve has been replaced.

Palisades nuclear plant shuts down to repair steam leak

Nov 5, 2012
NRC.gov

Palisades nuclear power plant has shut down yet again.

The latest shutdown is the result of a steam leak inside the plant’s auxiliary building, the Associated Press reports.

From the AP:

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Officials from both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission shared their preliminary results Friday of an emergency drill at Palisades earlier this week. During the two-day drill officials from the plant in Covert Township had to react to a simulated release of radiation into the environment. Agencies from several counties in Michigan and Indiana took part in the drill as well.

NRC Senior Emergency Preparedness Inspector Bob Jickling evaluated how the licensee, Entergy, responds.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Operators of the Palisades nuclear power plant did not do anything wrong during a water leak that shut the plant down in August. At least nothing that resulted in any “significant findings” according to a report recently released by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Nuclear waste cools off in a storage pool, before being stored in dry casks. Most waste is stored on-site at nuclear power plants around the country.
NRC

Nuclear waste is the 800 lb gorilla for the nuclear power industry.

Where do you stash waste that can have a half-life of tens of thousands of years?

The federal government has been trying to figure out a long term nuclear waste plan for decades. Yucca Mountain in Nevada was to be the site, but that plan was defunded by the Obama Administration in 2010.

Without a long-term solution, nuclear waste is typically stored on-site at nuclear power plants around the nation.

NRC.gov

The federal agency that regulates nuclear power plants released more information on Monday about a leak over the summer at the Palisades plant near South Haven. The plant has one of the worst safety ratings in the US after a number of problems last year.

There have been at least three water leaks at Palisades in the past several months.

Mark Savage / Entergy

Documents released this week show a Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspector based at Palisades discovered the leak during a routine inspection on September 20th.  

Palisades is under more scrutiny this year after a series of problems earned it one of the worst safety ratings in the country. This is at least the third water leak (depending on exactly how you tally them) at the nuclear plant this year. You can find more details about the first leak from a large water tank above the control room here, and the second water leak from the actual reactor here.

Palisades Nuclear Power Plant.
Entergy Corporation

Michigan Radio has been following the problems at the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant for the last several years.

Our West Michigan reporter, Lindsey Smith, has been on top of all the leaks, shutdowns and visits from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

There's been so much news of late, it can get a little confusing.

To clear up what's been happening at Michigan's oldest operating nuclear power plant, we created this timeline.

Palisades Nuclear Power Plant.
Entergy Corporation

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A team from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has begun a special inspection of the Palisades nuclear power plant in southwestern Michigan.

The inspectors will be following up on two incidents in 2011 that caused the plant's safety rating to be downgraded, making it among the nation's poorest performing nuclear plants.

One problem was an electrical fault that caused a reactor shutdown and the other was failure of a water pump that cools safety equipment.

NRC spokeswoman Prema Chandrathil said Monday the eight-member inspector team began work Monday and will remain at Palisades for about two weeks. They'll be determining whether problem areas have been fixed and examining the plant's safety culture.

Afterward, they'll prepare a report that will determine whether Palisades' rating will go up, down or stay the same.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

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Palisades inspections start this week

"Federal inspectors begin a critical review of operations at West Michigan’s Palisades nuclear power plant beginning Monday. Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors want to determine if Palisades’ owners have addressed problems that have raised questions about the nuclear plant’s “culture of safety." The problems have resulted in four unscheduled reactor shutdowns. If Palisades doesn’t get very good ratings from the NRC inspectors, the west Michigan nuclear plant will be subject to a much more intensive inspection that could take 18 months. Despite the problems a federal official insists Palisades can be operated safely," Steve Carmody reports.

Michigan Civilian Conservation Corp gets support

"Colleges, universities, and community groups are lining up to support an effort to revive Michigan’s Civilian Conservation Corps. The corps puts unemployed young adults to work on conservation projects. Legislation at the state Capitol would turn the MCCC into a public-private partnership, which wouldn’t use any taxpayer dollars. But not everyone thinks the program can just sprout back up overnight. The program hasn’t had adequate state funding for years. But sponsors of the bi-partisan bill say the level of enthusiasm so far suggests the program can make a strong comeback," Jake Neher reports.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

A critical two week federal inspection of the Palisades nuclear power plant begins Monday.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors want to determine if Palisades’ owners have addressed problems that have raised questions about the nuclear plant’s “culture of safety”.

The problems have resulted in four unscheduled reactor shutdowns.

“It’s a very important inspection for us,” says Anthony Vitale, the plant’s site vice president,  “And it will give us a very good scrub as to where we are. We expect to come out of that with very good ratings.”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The owners of the Palisades nuclear power plant promised last night to improve their “culture of safety."   

But dozens of people at the public meeting doubted that promise.   Catherine Sugas spoke for many people who attended the meeting when she questioned why the problem plagued nuclear power plant is still operating.

“If you can’t shut down a plant that’s dangerous…what are you?    How can you keep a plant going that’s obviously dangerous,” Sugas asked a panel from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

The safety of west Michigan’s Palisades nuclear power plant will be the topic of a public meeting tonight in South Haven.

Palisades has one of the worst safety ratings in the country.

Maintenance mistakes and other problems led to four unscheduled reactor shutdowns at Palisades in 2011.  And there have been more problems this year.

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.

Palisades reactor from ouside
Mark Savage / Entergy Nuclear Operations

One of the biggest environmental stories in our state this year comes from the West Side of Michigan near South Haven, on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Palisades Nuclear Power Plant.
Entergy Corporation

The Palisades nuclear power plant is hosting an open house tonight in South Haven. It’s a rare opportunity for people to ask detailed questions about the plant.

It’s impractical to host the open house at the plant because of security reasons. Instead, it’ll take place at the same conference center where the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has held a number of public hearings this year about the plant’s poor safety rating. In fact, the NRC will host a public meeting next week at the same place to discuss those safety concerns in detail.

Palisades spokesman Mark Savage says the open house tonight will be informal… kind of like a science fair.

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.

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