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Risky Business

Pilgrim is a 685 megawatt (MWE) Boiling Water Reactor; GE Mark I design. It was designed in the 1960’s and was licensed to operate for 40 years in 1972. Its current license expires in 2012.

Structural Problems include, for example: aging; flawed design; modifications made without proper analysis of their safety impact; counterfeit and defective parts; malfunctioning components; neglected maintenance.

Re-licensing is not worth the risk. Nuclear power reactors are similar to cars or any other piece of complicated machinery – they have a limited shelf-life. When it gets old it breaks down. Real maintenance costs money and is avoided. Entergy does not want to incur large expenses in a deregulated (competitive) electric market; and they are a limited liability company.

David Lochbaum, former Nuclear Safety Engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists and currently with the NRC, stated:

In 2003, the industry saw the highest number of safety system actuations since 1995, the highest number of scrams while critical since 1996; the highest precursor occurrence rate since 1991; and reported the highest [generating] capacity factor in history. The reason that capacity factors are at record levels and safety is dropping fast is related to the first item -- the NRC is prioritizing business at the expense of safety. If NRC keeps it up, they are going to kill somebody.


Boiling Water Reactors:  More

Aging: Extreme temperatures, a corrosive chemical environment and intense radiation bombardment have caused components to thin and crack, compromising structural integrity. For example, core shroud cracking was repaired but its existence is an indicator that other reactor internals are experiencing age-related degradation. More

Flawed Design: A serious design flaw was identified in GE Mark I reactors whereby in certain accident scenarios the containment would not hold in the event of pressure build up. A cheap fix was put into place – the Torus Vent. The vent will release unfiltered material directly into the air - instead of into a charcoal bed underground. More

Substandard and Counterfeit Parts: identified in GAO/RCED 91-6, October 1990 not replaced - nuts, bolts, pipe fittings, circuit breakers, fuses. More

List of actual and suspected un-repaired, partially-repaired or broken parts: includes, for example - faulty water level indicators; lack of quality assurance for fuel pool cooling system during a LOCA/LOOP; Motor Operated Valves, some not all replaced. More

As of July 2008, the NRC was not aware of any reactor, including Pilgrim, meeting  its 1980 fire protection regulations or meeting alternative fire protection regulations adopted in 2004. Pilgrim's fire “barrier” system is separation (distance between the walls), question remains whether the spaces have been regularly checked to assure that they remain empty and have not been filled with potentially flammable materials over the years. More

Track Record - Evidence of Problems: scrams; licensee event reports; engineering review of operating transients. More

Emergency Diesel Generators: Nuclear Reactors need electricity to operate – without a supply their safety systems would be disabled. They do not generate their own electricity. Like all of us, they depend on the grid – offsite power. If offsite power fails, they depend on back up generators (EDGs). If the EDGs fail, the chance of an accident approaches certainty. There is a history of problems with their emergency diesel generators. More

Deregulation: The risk posed by aging components is greater today. Shutting down a reactor for one day to perform maintenance or safety checks can cost a reactor owner $300,000 or more to purchase power from other sources. Dr. Shirley Jackson, the former director of the NRC, testified to Congress her concern that private ownership of nuclear reactors combined with less profitability in the competitive market place may lead companies to run plants longer and resist these costly shutdowns, compromising maintenance and safe operations. More

Technical Specifications: The technical specifications under which Pilgrim operates are a hodge-podge of requirements dating back over its operational history. It should be required that the NRC demonstrates to the public that these technical specifications are as stringent as the technical specifications required of a newly built reactor in order for Pilgrim to continue to operate; and they should not operate unless they meet all those specifications. More

Worker Problems: Mental instability, drugs, alcohol. More