Pilgrim No. 1 in U.S. for shutdowns

October 27, 2013

PLYMOUTH — From broken water pumps, leaky valves and steaming pipes to elusive electrical problems, it’s been a tough year for Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station.

Entergy, Pilgrim’s owner and operator, has poured $500 million into the 41-year-old plant since buying it from Boston Edison in 1999, yet mechanical problems and off-site power outages have forced the operation to shut down six times since January, making it No. 1 among the U.S. fleet of 100 commercial nuclear reactors for shutdowns this year.

Pilgrim has spent 79 days in shutdown since January, although company officials are quick to attribute 46 of those to planned refueling last spring.

Even when Pilgrim has been operating, the reactor has frequently been kept below peak level while workers address mechanical glitches. Between Aug. 22 and Sept. 21, for instance, the plant underwent two complete shutdowns and never reached peak power.

During July, a heat wave forced plant operators to frequently drop below peak levels because of the rising temperature of sea water used to cool the reactor. Federal regulations won’t allow use of seawater above 75 degrees.

Bill Mohl, president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities, agreed in a recent interview that Pilgrim has had more than its share of problems….

2013 Pilgrim shutdowns and glitches

Jan. 10-17: Both recirculation pumps tripped, followed by a head drain valve leak
Jan. 20-24: Leaking safety valve
Feb. 8-16: Winter storm, 169 hours down
Aug. 22-26: All three main water pumps shut down
Sept. 8-17: Steam pipe leak
Oct. 14-21: Off-site power to plant unavailable because of NStar problem, which caused initial shutdown. Plant remained closed for two days after power restored because of faulty mechanical pressure regulator, which caused water levels in the nuclear reactor to become too high.
July 15: Loss of control room alarms. Plant stayed online. Alarms came back on with no explanation. Reason for malfunction never found.
July 16: Heat wave warmed seawater temperatures, forcing the plant to power down to about 85 percent intermittently. Federal regulation required seawater, used for cooling the reactor, to be no warmer than 75 degrees.
Source: NRC website and Entergy press releases

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