Safety Water Pump Fails; NRC Review Ongoing

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 @ 02:08 PM gHale

A special inspection is underway to review the failure of a service water pump component at the Palisades nuclear power plant, said officials at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Service water pumps help cool safety related equipment under regular and emergency conditions. The plant has three service water pumps and at least one needs to be operable in case of an emergency.

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Entergy Nuclear Operations Inc. operates the single-unit pressurized water reactor, which is in Covert, Mich., about 65 miles southwest of Grand Rapids.

NRC resident inspectors immediately learned about the incident on Aug. 9 and observed the utility’s actions. NRC staff identified the problem looked similar to a previously failed component issue from 2009. A metals and materials expert from the NRC went to the plant Aug. 11 to further inspect the issue.

Service water pump component that help cool safety related equipment failed at the Palisades nuclear power plant.

Service water pump component that help cool safety related equipment failed at the Palisades nuclear power plant.

A three-member NRC team specializing in metals, materials and pumps, will review the historical issues associated with the components at the plant, previous corrective actions, the utility’s ability to review industry operating experience, and the potential susceptibility on the other service water pumps.

“There are no immediate safety concerns involved with this failure,” said NRC Region III Administrator Mark Satorius. “Nevertheless, we want to gain a better understanding of exactly why the component failed and determine if there are steps the utility could have taken that would have prevented the failure from happening.”

The issue involved a component failure on a service water pump. The plant was operating under normal conditions when control room indicators showed there was a change in the flow of water from one of the three service water pumps. Utility staff stopped the pump, investigated the problem and replaced all the coupling components. A coupling is a connector used to hold two pipes together. The plant is operating safely and has since started using the service water pump again.

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