Entergy's Pilgrim atomic reactor to remain on NRC's "degraded cornerstone" list for second year, as winter storm bears down
As reported by The Enterprise, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has kept Entergy Nuclear's Pilgrim atomic reactor (photo, left), near Boston, on its "degraded cornerstone" list of worst performing atomic reactors in the country. Ironically, Entergy failed an NRC inspection, even though it told the agency when it was ready to be inspected. First of all, when do students get to tell the teacher when they're ready for the exam? And then fail the test?! Who's the regulator, and who's the regulated?!
This comes as a severe winter storm bears down on Boston. As the industry lobby and PR front, Nuclear Energy Institute, brags up nuclear power's supposed reliability during severe winter weather, anti-nuclear and environmental watchdogs near Pilgrim put out a press release warning that severe weather increases the safety risks of reactor operations and high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) management. Despite this, the reactor remains at 100% power, and inherently risky HLRW pool to dry cask transfer operations continue as if business is usual.
During Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the storm surge came precariously close to flooding safety-significant pumps needed to keep cooling water circulating in the HLRW storage pool at Pilgrim.
Pilgrim is an age-degraded, General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor, identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1-4.
AP has reported that the storm has forced Pilgrim to shutdown its reactor. Cooling systems are running on emergency back-up diesel generators. Luckily, they're working. U.S. Sen. Markey (D-MA) has documented scores of instances over just a decade when EDGs at U.S. atomic reactors did not function when called upon. A reactor at full power which shuts down still needs constant cooling for days to prevent a meltdown of the core.
The storage pool at Pilgrim, nearly four years after the Fukushima catastrope began, still is not required by NRC to be connect to EDGs. Thus, when disconnected from the electricity supply of the grid, the pool water begins to slowly heat up. If the cooling pumps remain inoperable in the pool for enough hours or days, the water will begin to boil. If the pumps remain dysfunctional for enough days or weeks, the pool water will boil away, exposing irradiated fuel assemblies to air and steam, risking their ignition and a catastrophic pool fire, and large-scale release of hazardous radioactivity, as former NRC Chairman Allision Macfarlane et al. warned in Jan. 2003.
In May 2011, Robert Alvarez of Institute for Policy Studies reported on the massive quantities of high-level radioactive waste stored in such pools as at Pilgrim.