Legal & Regulatory

NRC Begins “Wide-Ranging” Inspection of Pilgrim Nuclear Plant

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is beginning a comprehensive three-week inspection of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth, Mass., as a result of the plant’s repeated performance deficiencies, the agency said in a November 28 statement.

The inspection, planned for more than a year, is part of the NRC’s heightened oversight process, begun in September 2015 after the agency moved Pilgrim into the Multiple/Repetitive Degraded Cornerstone Column of its oversight Action Matrix. That action was the result of repeated problems with unplanned shutdowns and owner Entergy’s “continuing weaknesses” in addressing the underlying issues, the NRC said at the time.

This is the third and largest inspection that is taking place as part of the greater oversight of Pilgrim. According to the statement, the inspectors will look particularly at the plant’s human performance and safety culture, “which enables employees to freely and openly raise safety concerns.” They will also look at the plant’s procedures and its corrective action program. Plans call for the inspectors to be on site for three weeks in December and January.

“This inspection represents the most comprehensive element of our increased scrutiny at the Pilgrim nuclear power plant,” said NRC Region I Administrator Dan Dorman. “Our team will work hard to closely examine the adequacy of the plant’s recovery plans, as well as actions that Entergy has taken to address safety performance issues at the facility. Just as importantly, the inspectors will assess whether those activities have yielded tangible and lasting improvements.”

The NRC said it will issue a report on the inspection within 45 days after it concludes early next year, as well as a formal list of corrective actions Entergy will need to take to transition Pilgrim back to normal oversight levels. That list may be long, given that the plant has continued to experience unplanned shutdowns well into 2016 and that the two previous inspections both identified additional green findings (indicating very low safety significance).

Entergy plans to retire Pilgrim by 2019 because of its poor economics.

—Thomas W. Overton, JD is a POWER associate editor (@thomas_overton, @POWERmagazine).

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