Regulators keeping close tabs on Mich. nuke plant

Associated Press

COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Friday it will continue extra inspections of the Palisades nuclear power plant in southwestern Michigan despite concluding the plant has been taking care of safety problems plaguing the facility.

Regulators said in a report stemming from an 11-day inspection in September that the plant in Van Buren County's Covert Township has "adequately addressed" problems identified last year. But additional oversight is needed to ensure that the remaining corrective actions are properly carried out, and leaks that occurred this year are fully understood so they don't lead to additional safety problems, it said.

The NRC places each of the 104 nuclear reactors in the U.S. in one of five categories based on their safety record. The NRC returned Palisades to the top-performing group last month from the third category, where it had been since late last year, but officials decided to keep the facility under heightened review. The plant will undergo 1,000 hours of inspection next year beyond the 2,000 hours of so-called baseline inspections at nuclear plants annually.

"We have chosen to deviate from our normal process and continue our inspections at an elevated pace ensuring that all issues are resolved," said Charles Casto, a regional administrator for the commission. "Our inspectors will continue their relentless focus on reactor safety and ensuring the protection of the public."

Palisades spokesman Mark Savage said the plant has worked closely with the commission and that won't change.

"We shared all of our information with the agency," Savage said. As for the stepped up inspections, he said, "It's the NRC's process. For the NRC to conduct those, we'll support that and continue to work with them."

The plant's most recent shutdown was from Sunday until Wednesday because of an internal leak of radioactive steam.

Palisades last year was designated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as one of the nation's four worst-performing nuclear plants, but specific issues that put it in that category have been addressed by the plant.

The plant is owned by New Orleans-based Entergy Corp.

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