Entergy Corp. said that it was reviewing options for the 43-year-old Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station that included the possibility it would shutter the plant due to economic reasons.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said on Sept. 2 that it had increased oversight of the power plant in Plymouth, Mass., downgrading it to the Repetitive Degraded Cornerstone Column or Column Four of the agency's so-called Action Matrix. The NRC cited continued unplanned shutdowns which originally landed the plant in Column Three in late 2013. In December 2014, the NRC said, it found that Entergy had not properly evaluated the causes for the shutdowns. The NRC also said Entergy took shortcuts by not completing corrective actions as intended.
The NRC said in September that prior to an inspection in May the previous issues had been satisfactorily addressed. However, in January 2015, the plant experienced a “storm-induced unplanned shutdown … which involved the performance of the plant's safety relief valves … while the plant was in Column 3.” That incident dropped the plant to Column Four, which is one step removed from a mandatory shutdown.
In an administrative review of the incident in January, which took place July 8, Entergy said there was appropriate back up to the plant's safety relief valves. In response, the NRC categorized the incident as low to moderate in safety significance.
The Cape Cod Times noted that Entergy spent $70 million on new equipment and staffing since its April refueling shutdown. Yet, the plant has shut down twice since then.
“If the corporation finds the cost of making improvements exceeds the value of the plant, it may consider shutting Pilgrim down,” said Lauren Burm, a company spokeswoman.
Entergy, the Times noted, pays for inspections, which cost $1.8 million in 2014. This is expected to increase with the plant in Column Four.
A separate threat is the potential fine of $10,000 per year for each spent fuel bundle in the plant's spent fuel storage pools that would be imposed if a bill considered by the state government passes this fall. For Pilgrim, that would be a $33 million expense, given the plant has more than 3,000 fuel bundles in its pools.
Another $25 million expense per year could also be figured into the plant's finances if another bill, one that is meant to address decommissioning expenses, passes in the state.
“If those bills were to pass, that would be part of our evaluation of future viability,” said David Noyes, Pilgrim’s director of regulatory and performance improvement.
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