NRC chairman says Pilgrim’s performance ‘needs improvement’
PLYMOUTH — Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Dr. Allison Macfarlane insisted that neither the recently announced layoffs at Pilgrim Station nor the drop in its performance rating – and not even the debate over dry cask storage – had anything to do with her visit to Plymouth. But you have to admire her timing.
She was in town, Macfarlane explained, as part of her ongoing plan to visit all of the nation’s power plants and meet with local officials and interest groups. She answered question from the media following a tour of the plant and a discussion with the two NRC onsite inspectors and Pilgrim’s leadership.
In a brief opening statement, Macfarlane put a positive spin on those talks, asserting that the resident inspectors had accomplished their main goal – providing the NRC with a kind of early warning of developing problems at the Plymouth nuclear plant.
Macfarlane also addressed concerns about dry cask storage and emergency planning, again emphasizing the effectiveness of processes already in place.
But when she began taking questions from the dozen or so media representatives seated at the Entergy Training Center, off Sandwich Road, the chairman acknowledged that, despite the presence of the NRC inspectors, conditions at the plant are headed in the wrong direction.
The plant has only recently seen its color-coded rating for the category of “unplanned scrams with complications” go from green (the top rating) down one level to white, which automatically results in increased inspections by the NRC. Just more than a dozen plants across the country fall in the same ratings group.
According to NRC officials, a second performance indicator – for unplanned scrams per 7,000 hours of operation – is also expected to go in the wrong direction (and change from “green” to “white”) when fourth-quarter performance data is updated in early 2014.
“If that occurs,” NRC Spokesman Neil Sheehan confirmed this week, “Pilgrim would move to the ‘Degraded Cornerstone Column’ of our action matrix and receive even further attention.”Keep reading