Pilgrim nuclear plant working at diminished power

By CHRISTINE LEGERE

clegere@capecodonline.com
August 19, 2014

Editor’s Note: Because of incorrect information provided to the Times by a spokeswoman for Entergy, owners of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, the original version of this story was wrong about the status of the plant’s connection to the power grid. The plant has remained connected to the grid but is only producing power at 22 percent capacity, the spokeswoman said Tuesday. The story has been corrected.

PLYMOUTH – A crack in a heater that raises the temperature of water fed into the reactor caused operators to power down the Pil­grim Nuclear Power Station this weekend. On Monday, there were no answers as to when the plant could return to capacity.

The plant is only producing power at 22 percent capacity.

The plant is expected to be kept at the reduced power level until the steam leak is fixed, Lauren Burm, spokeswoman for Entergy, owner-operator of the plant, via email. She said the problem posed no threat to public safety, describing the feedwater heater as “a secondary plant component designed for thermal efficiency.”

This isn’t the first time this particular feedwater heater has gone on the fritz. “We have experienced and repaired at least one other shell leak on this heater,” Burm wrote. “But the current leak (in this exact location) was newly identified over the weekend.”

A senior resident inspector from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission went to the Plymouth plant Sunday to watch the ongoing repairs.

“Both our resident inspectors assigned to Pilgrim will stay on top of developments, including the repair work and checks on any previous repairs done to the feedwater heater,” commission spokesman Neil Sheehan said.

Sheehan said the plant might be required to shut down if the part can’t be fixed while the power station remains at its reduced power level.

Entergy workers continue to investigate last week’s malfunction, during testing, of an electronic indicator connected to a key safety system used to inject coolant into the nuclear reactor core after a severe accident.

At this time last summer, the 42-year-old Pilgrim plant was shut down because of the breakdown of one of three major pumps that supply water to the nuclear reactor. It marked the beginning of a 23-day run of problems at the Plymouth plant.

Pilgrim’s stuttered performance in 2013 caused federal regulators to downgrade the plant to among the nine worst performers in the country.

Follow Christine Legere on Twitter:@ChrisLegereCCT.

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