NRC Downgrades Palisades Nuclear

Friday, January 6, 2012 @ 04:01 PM gHale


Because of improper maintenance by plant employees that led to the shut down of a water pump in May, Palisades nuclear plant bumped down a grade level and will have to go through an extra inspection, according to officials at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which released a final report of that incident Tuesday.

Another review, of a more serious incident in September, is in progress. If the preliminary finding upholds in that case, the plant could move even further down in grade level, said NRC spokesman Viktoria Mitlyng. That incident relates to an electrical fault that occurred during maintenance of the plant.

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The NRC places nuclear plants into five categories; the farther a plant drops on the list of category columns, the more inspections it has to go through, Mitlyng said. Tuesday’s action moves Covert Township, MI-based Palisades from NRC’s top “Licensee Response Column” (column 1) down a level to the “Regulatory Response Column” (column 2).

Most nuclear plants are in the top, Licensee Response, column, Mitlyng said.

Palisades parent company appealed the action and the report’s finding, considered a low- to-moderate safety issue, but the NRC rejected the appeal, she said.

The report released Tuesday confirms a preliminary finding issued by the NRC on Oct. 28, 2011, that details improper maintenance by plant employees that led to the shut down of a water pump at Palisades on May 10, 2011.

Palisades will have to schedule a follow-up inspection with the NRC once they correct the issue, Mitlyng said, at which time the NRC could remove the violation or change the determination based on findings.

Officials from Entergy Nuclear, the company that owns the Palisades plant, will have a chance to dispute two other preliminary findings currently pending final determinations at meetings scheduled for Jan. 11 in Lisle, Ill.

One preliminary finding is a violation associated with the failure of a service water pump identified Aug. 9, 2011. The second, identified during an NRC visit Sept. 25, 2011, is a more serious violation, associated with an electrical fault that occurred during maintenance of the plant.

Mitlyng said if the preliminary finding on that more serious violation becomes final, it would automatically bump Palisades down another level to the “Degraded Cornerstone Column” (column 3), she said.

Palisades was in the Regulatory Response Column (column 2) the first three quarters of 2010, Mitlyng said.



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