Pilgrim nuclear plant faces highest level of NRC oversight

Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth, Massachusetts, has been moved to the highest level of oversight for acceptable operations by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) following a finding from January regarding a forced shutdown of the plant.

“This is a unique issue where they had a problem with safety release valves,” NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said. “They had a shutdown earlier this year -- an unplanned shutdown during a snow storm -- and in the course of the shutdown one of the plant's four safety release valves failed to operate the way it should."

Following the shutdown, damage was discovered involving friction on the valve piston. The change in oversight is following incomplete evaluations of the unplanned shutdown by Entergy, the plant’s owner.

The increased scrutiny will be focused on understanding the weaknesses that caused the shutdown and one like it in 2013, and on the actions needed to pursue sustained improvements.

“We are also going to raise our oversight profile in other ways on the plant,” Sheehan said. “We're going to hold quarterly updates and we're going to ask the company to submit a performance improvement plan and we will be looking at the safety culture at the plant.”

The NRC will also be determining what, if any, regulatory action is necessary.

“We would expect the company is going to do everything in its power to address these issues,” Sheehan said.

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U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

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