Violations and problems at Pilgrim’s Fukushima-style Nuke? No Problem!

Unfit reactor operators? ‘No problem’ sez the ‘regulators’.
‘Ultimate heat sink’ water too warm to adequately cool the reactor? ‘No problem’.
Insufficient room for the nuclear waste? ‘No problem’.
Control room instruments not working properly? ‘No problem’.
Design life exceeded? ‘No problem’ sez the ‘regulators’.

Thankfully, this guy wasn’t operating Pilgrim. But on July 17th the NRC found that even though the following violations occurred between March 2008 and October 11, 2011:

  1. Despite a blood pressure reading that exceeded limits, Entergy Nuclear qualified a reactor operator (RO) fit for service.
  2. the required biennial medical examinations administered to three Entergy ROs and two senior reactor operators at various times from March 2008 through October 11, 2011 did not include the required stamina tests (to assure the operators met respiratory and cardiovascular requirements to show they have the capacity and reserve to perform strenuous physical exertion in emergencies). The stamina tests were not conducted because of various ailments and disabilities reported to the medical examiner by the operators at the time of the exams.
  3. Entergy submitted renewal applications which certifed that the reactor operator licenses for two of the PNPS ROs received stamina tests when in fact they did not.
  4. Entergy Nuclear failed to notify the NRC within 30 days of learning of permanent disabilities or illnesses of two licensed ROs, and thus the NRC issued both ROs their renewed licenses on June 23, 2011.

NO PROBLEM! The NRC found that the Pilgrim Medical Examiner (ME) who conducted the exams was not knowledgeable of the standard or the minimum acceptable criteria and the ME failed to notify Entergy Nuclear of the RO’s medical condition. Therefore, the NRC concluded that there was insufficient and inadequate training of the ME, and insufficient oversight of the ME position by the site Operations Department. Accordingly, a civil penalty of $70,000 was considered. But because PNPS hadn’t been the subject of “escalated traditional enforcement action” within the last two years, the NRC decided that no penalty was in order for Entergy.

Pilgrim’s license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires the water being drawn from the bay to be no warmer than 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s been over that and the reactor is operating. Millstone Unit 2 in Connecticut had to shut down for several days last summer when Long Island Sound became too warm. The owners of Millstone Units 2 and 3 have since submitted a request to amend plant licenses to permit water temperature up to 80 degrees, and the NRC is reviewing that request.

ALL of Pilgrim’s “annunciators” failed to work on July 15, 2013 – these are warning lights in control room instruments.

Diane Screnci, Sr. Public Affairs Officer sent an email on July 17 stating, “All annunciators were lost.” REALLY. Yet the NRC allowed them to continue operating in this condition and for days afterward while they had no idea why they had failed.

Who needs warning lights?! Entergy doesn’t know why they stopped working or why they started working again. No problem, sez the NRC.

Pilgrim was originally licensed to store up to 880 bundles of irradiated fuel in its ‘spent’ fuel pool. But when it got full, the NRC allowed them to store a bit more: 3,279 bundles (373% of the original design, and 246% of the bundles in Fukushima’s Unit 4). The actual maximum permitted by the ‘regulators’ is 3,859, or 3,279 plus a full core offload.

Pilgrim was designed to last 40 years, just like all U.S. reactors. It’s now in it’s 42nd year and the NRC says 60 will be fine. Pilgrim was the 73rd U.S. reactor to request a 20-year extension and the 73rd to get that rubber stamp. And the industry is gearing up for additional license extensions so their cash cows can operate for 80 years.

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