by Christine Legere
PLYMOUTH — The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station now has the dubious distinction of its own page on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s website, allowing the public — with the click of a mouse — to access the plant’s troubled history, all kinds of inspection reports and related documents, Pilgrim’s current status, and upcoming events.
NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said creating a separate page for a nuclear plant isn’t standard procedure, although it does happen.
For example, a page has been created for Arkansas One. The two reactors at the Arkansas One site join Pilgrim as the three worst performers in the country, based on federal performance standards.
“In Pilgrim’s case, we saw there is a high level of interest in the plant and information on it,” Sheehan said. “We wanted to make clear, ‘Here’s what’s done, and here’s what’s going to be done.’”
Pilgrim's page can be accessed at capecodtimes.com/oversight.
Tabs there include background, inspection approach, schedule, assessment results, communications, frequently asked questions and a reference library.
“All that information is already available on the (NRC) site, but this makes it much easier to get it,” said David Lochbaum, director of the Nuclear Safety Project for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It’s one-stop shopping.”
Lochbaum agreed the page is not something the NRC routinely does. Such pages are generally connected to problem plants.
“They did it for Fort Calhoun in Nebraska,” he said. “That reactor shut down in 2011 to refuel and the outage lasted for two years. Similar to Pilgrim, the plant had wandered over to Column 4. There was a lot of concern over that, and some wanted to see the plant stay shut down.”
Column 4 is one step away from a forced shutdown by federal regulators based on standards of performance.
Entergy Corp., Pilgrim’s owner-operator, was upbeat regarding the new website, in a statement provided by spokesman Patrick O’Brien.
“We are committed to openly and transparently communicating with the NRC and external stakeholders throughout this process, and look forward to continuing to demonstrate Pilgrim’s improved performance,” the statement said.
Federal inspectors conducted the first of three phases of special inspections at Pilgrim in mid-January. The increased level of scrutiny is connected to the plant’s downgrade to Column 4 on the NRC’s performance matrix based on its number of unplanned shutdowns and shutdowns with complications.
The report, expected to be released Feb. 29, will be posted on the plant’s page.
Links to the two most recent reports, released last week, are posted on the new page. One reports a former security officer who had skipped more than 200 required fire checks during a two-year period, while falsifying logs to make it look like the checks had been done.
The second report was based on the plant's fourth quarter inspection. Four violations, classified as "more than minor" but "of low safety significance," had been found. Three of those were connected to operator performance.
William Maurer, Falmouth resident and longtime member of a citizens watchdog group called Cape Downwinders, has spent several years navigating the NRC’s website searching for documents. And while he is now skilled at rooting out information, the general public may not be.
“The NRC's Pilgrim webpage feature should make it easier for everyone to follow the developments at Pilgrim,” Maurer wrote in an email. “Casually searching the NRC's general website turns out to be a time consuming and painful process.”