One of the four worst performers of the U.S.’s 104 nuclear plants, the Palisades nuclear plant in southwestern Michigan, returned to service Saturday after a break of little more than a month for refueling and maintenance.
The 41-year-old plant, which sits along Lake Michigan near South Haven in Van Buren County’s Covert Township, has been under Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) scrutiny because of a series of safety problems in recent months.
The NRC said in one case an electrical fault caused by plant workers made the reactor and half of the control room indicators shut down and triggered safety systems that actual plant conditions did not justify. In another instance, a water pump that cools safety equipment failed, the result of a crack in one of the couplings that hold rods together in the cooling system. The same failure happened in 2009, and the commission said an inspection showed the plant had not done enough to prevent a recurrence.
Officials from Entergy Corp., which owns Palisades, said in March there had been a shift in the safety culture at the plant, with employees doubling the number of reports about problems at the plant in recent months.
Crews removed Palisades from service on April 8, and spokesman Mark Savage said it returned to service at 5:34 a.m. EDT Saturday, ending a 33-day, 19-hour and 8-minute outage.
During that time, he said, 64 new fuel assemblies went in the reactor, and other work included an inspection of the two low pressure turbines and four moisture separator and re-heaters; an inspection and cleaning of the main condenser; and an inspection of the reactor vessel head.
Savage said 1,200 supplemental workers helped the permanent Palisades staff complete the work.