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NRC cites failures at Pilgrim, but plant remains safe enough to stay open

David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File

The Pilgrim nuclear plant near Plymouth.

By Globe Staff 

US Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials have concluded that Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station remains safe to operate after a team of 20 inspectors conducted a three-week review of the Plymouth plant.

Yet the facility will likely remain under close scrutiny, the officials said Monday in an interview with Globe reporters and editors.

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“They are clearly a plant with problems, but they are making strides to improvement and are currently safe to operate,” said Donald E. Jackson, who oversees reactor safety for the NRC and led the investigation. “We brought in our best inspectors, kicked the tires, and that’s what the team came away with.”

In 2015, Entergy Corp., which owns Pilgrim, announced it would close the nuclear plant by June 2019. The 45-year-old facility has been watched closely since the NRC downgraded its safety ranking in September 2015, designating it as one of the nation’s three least-safe reactors.

Plant officials and federal regulators have insisted that Pilgrim remains safe, even as company officials acknowledged the plant was losing about $40 million a year. Complying with new inspections, they said, would cost tens of millions more.

In the past three weeks, inspectors identified 11 “performance deficiencies” at Pilgrim, on top of two identified by Entergy, officials said.

Among those were problems with the plant’s safety culture.

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“We found some significant issues … and there was a lack of rigor for how they put supervisors on a performance plan to change their safety culture,” said Daniel H. Dorman, the commission’s regional administrator.

Despite the problems, “operators have the knowledge and the skills to put the plant in a safe condition,” he said.

Inspectors also cited problems in Pilgrim’s response to a failure of one its two primary emergency diesel generators. NRC officials will present a report of their findings Tuesday at a public meeting at Plymouth Memorial Hall in Plymouth. It begins at 6 p.m.


David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com
Follow him on Twitter @davabel.