After Restart, MA Nuke Shuts Back Down

Monday, September 19, 2016 @ 10:09 AM gHale


Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station was slowly powering up last week until another mechanical malfunction forced operators to shut the reactor back down.

A turning gear that helps spin the turbine and maintain it in proper balance was not functioning properly, said Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Sheehan said it will have to be repaired before the reactor can restart.

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Since the problem is on the turbine side, rather than on the nuclear reactor side of the operation, public safety is not a big concern, according to the NRC and Entergy, the Plymouth, MA, plant’s owner-operator.

The plant will return to full power when repairs are completed, said Entergy spokesman Patrick O’Brien.

“Information on when we expect to return to 100 percent power is business sensitive and proprietary, and we are therefore not at liberty to make it public,” he said.

Operators shut down the reactor Sept. 6 because a faulty regulator valve was allowing too much water into the reactor building. That valve, and a second one, have been repaired, Sheehan said.

Last Friday, while the plant was still in shutdown, there was a leak of 2,680 cubic feet of hydrogen gas in the turbine room which then went into the atmosphere, forcing plant operators to file reports with state and federal regulators.

Pilgrim was also shut down for four days last month due to a malfunctioning steam isolation valve designed to prevent radioactivity from leaking into the environment during a nuclear accident. Problems in that same valve system had caused a shutdown in August 2015.

Pilgrim, ranked by the NRC as one of the three worst performers in the country’s fleet of 100 reactors, is on schedule to close May 31, 2019.

Meanwhile Entergy spokesman Joseph Lynch told a group of Plymouth officials Tuesday the company has notified federal regulators Pilgrim is ready for a full inspection, the final one in a series of three special inspections required because of the plant’s poor performance.

Lynch said a team of NRC inspectors will arrive Nov. 28 for a two-week scrutiny of Pilgrim. Inspectors then return in January to wrap up, Lynch said.