Entergy Corp. (ETR)’s corporate policies should be examined by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to determine whether safety is being compromised at two of its power plants, the Union of Concerned Scientists said.
The NRC conducted four separate inspections last year at two Entergy plants, out of 15 safety and security reviews at U.S. reactors, according to a report today from the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based environmental organization.
“When conditions trigger special inspections at more than one plant with the same owner, the NRC should formally evaluate whether corporate policies and practices contributed to the shortcomings,” David Lochbaum, director of the group’s Nuclear Safety Project, said in the report’s executive summary.
The NRC is poised to issue its first orders to improve safety at 104 U.S. operating reactors after an earthquake and tsunami caused radiation leaks and meltdowns at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant a year ago. The agency may require reactor owners to have adequate instruments to monitor pools of water that store nuclear waste and enough equipment to overcome power failures.
The NRC increased oversight at New Orleans-based Entergy’s Pilgrim (NRC1PIL1) plant, 38 miles (61 kilometers) southeast of Boston, because of “security problems” that haven’t been publicly disclosed, according to the report. The agency in May began a separate inspection at Pilgrim after an unplanned shutdown caused by control-room operators who didn’t follow procedures when starting the reactor after a routine refueling.
The NRC in August began a special inspection at Entergy’s Palisades (NRC3PAL1) plant about 60 miles southwest of Grand Rapids, Michigan, after a pump used to provide cooling water to back-up equipment failed. In September, workers inadvertently knocked out power to some control-room instruments at Palisades, causing the reactor to shut down, prompting another inspection.
Entergy has “an unrelenting focus on safety at every one of our nuclear plants and across our entire business,” Michael Burns, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail. “Where performance issues develop, we concentrate on quickly identifying the root cause, taking immediate action to fix any issues and making sure we learn from them.”
Exelon Corp. (EXC) of Chicago and Dominion Resources Inc. (D) of Richmond, Virginia, each received two NRC special inspections at separate plants in 2011, according to the group’s report.
An NRC priority this year is managing “precursors of declines in performance” at U.S. nuclear plants, Chairman Gregory Jaczko told reporters Dec. 6.
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