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« NRC unlearns lesson from Fukushima at Oyster Creek | Main | A Fukushima Lesson Unlearned: NRC scraps public rulemaking on weak GE containments »
Thursday
Oct152015

Entergy announces early closure of Pilgrim nuclear power station in 2019 but continued operation means a more dangerous nuke in the interim

Entergy announced that because its Pilgrim nuclear power station in Plymouth, MA is losing more than $40 million annually, it has decided to close the reactor no later than June 1, 2019 rather than 2032 as relicensed. That's not half the story. Beyond Nuclear issued its statement the same day Entergy announced the project closure. 

Now that the profit motive is increasingly lost upon nuclear power's misadventures, the danger from the continued operation of reactors like the  Pilgrim  is amplified.

The New Orleans-based nuclear utility is closing  the 728 megawatt General Electric boiling water reactor early not only because of its failing economics but also the mounting  costs of operating a  fixer-up Fukushima-style reactor. However, in order to run the reactor nearly four more years with one more refuleing, Entergy would have to get permission from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to operate the reactor without a major required safety modification that is now part of Pilgrim's operating license put there by a federal Order issued by the Commission on June 6, 2013 and finalized on August 19, 2015.

Entergy's effort to stanch Pilgrim's financial hemorraghing means that the company will try to avoid a costly upgrade (in the range of $15 million) to its fatally flawed GE Mark I containment system; a system identical to those that failed under severe accident conditions at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. The first  modification (Phase 1) for a "severe accident capable" containment vent is required to be installed before the reactor would be allowed to restart following its May 2017 refueling outage. Entergy may in fact permanently close sooner (Summer 2017) rather than risk a fight.

Stay tuned.