The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced it will deploy a special inspection team to investigate the August 9th failure of an emergency service water pump at New Orleans-based Entergy Nuclear’s Palisades nuclear power plant on the Lake Michigan shoreline, a few miles south of South Haven, just 35 miles upwind of Kalamazoo.
The water pump is needed to operate safety equipment essential for cooling the nuclear fuel in the atomic reactor core. The incident is one of many reported issues dating back to the 1960s.
The NRC announcement noted that Palisades suffered a similar incident in 2009. Palisades has three emergency service water pumps, and is only required to have one function during an accident.
"This current safety-related breakdown is but the latest of countless episodes," said Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, a national environmental watchdog group in Takoma Park, Maryland. "Palisades has been a lemon from the very beginning, and the catastrophic radioactivity risks have only grown worse as the atomic reactor has aged over the past 44 years."
Kamps also serves as a board member of Don’t Waste Michigan, representing the Kalamazoo chapter. Don't Waste Michigan was an official intervener against the 20 year license extension granted by NRC to Entergy at Palisades in 2007, after it had bought the reactor from the previous owner, Consumers Energy Company.
The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, approved an operating license for Palisades in 1967. However, Consumers Energy sued the reactor's design and construction firms over major flaws. Operations did not actually commence until 1971, after an out-of-court settlement provided Consumers Energy monetary compensation, but required little to no rectification of the design and construction errors. Around a decade ago, taking advantage of the four year delay in start up, Consumers Energy persuaded NRC to interpret its original 40 year operating license as applying from 1971 to 2011, rather than from 1967 to 2007, in effect granting a four year extension. Despite an environmental intervention, in 2007 NRC granted a 20 year license extension at Palisades, allowing operations to continue from 2011 to 2031.
"Palisades has one of the most brittle reactor pressure vessels in the country, risking rupture like a hot glass under cold water if cooling systems are activated in an emergency," said Kamps. "Failure of its thin-walled steam generator tubes could likewise cause a loss of coolant accident in the core. We call for Palisades' shut down, to prevent it's melt down," he added.