Palisades Nuclear Power Plant is back online, but officials and regulators are searching for clues as to why the plant keeps shutting down.
For the fifth time this year, the staff at the aging facility in Covert, MI, shut down the reactor because of mechanical failure. This time they said the problem was a valve failure that led to the automatic shut down of two feed water pumps, and the manual shut down of the reactor, which is the proper procedure.
Officials have had plenty of practice dealing with emergencies as the Lakeshore reactor has had one problem after another. Just last month the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said the staff did not follow proper procedure in September, causing an electrical short circuit that led to another shut down of the reactor.
The NRC has been threatening closer monitoring of plant operations all year, and are investigating this repair as well.
A week-long shut-down this September was of “substantial safety significance,” the NRC said.
The plant was offline because of an electrical outage at the plant. The outage occurred because a worker didn’t follow proper procedures when he was doing routine maintenance, the NRC investigation showed.
The procedures at the plant were improper anyway, said NRC spokeswoman Victoria Midlyng, adding managers at the plant had given that worker the green light to do things differently.
“Nobody took the time to really focus on the safety significance of this activity,” Midlyng said, “Nobody stopped in their tracks and said ‘hey, what are we doing here? We need to rethink this.’”
A spokesman for Entergy, the company that owns and operates the plant said they haven’t decided on the response to NRC yet.