Palisades Nuclear Power Plant will remain offline until safety issues resolved

A Michigan congressman says a nuclear power plant in the southwest portion of the state should remain closed until safety issues are addressed.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) visited Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in Covert, Mich. Monday, along with a Nuclear Regulatory commissioner.

The visit was prompted by a small leak that shut the plant down last week. About 80 gallons of water escaped from a 300,000-gallon tank.

The tank’s since been drained and Palisades experts are inspecting it to determine what caused the problem. They’re performing six different tests on each of the hundreds of wells inside.

During a press conference, Palisades Chief Operating Officer Tim Mitchell said they found a half-inch crack in one of the nozzles at the bottom of the tank.

“That weld is under further investigation currently,” he said. “We are doing a detailed inspection of the entire tank bottom, every inch of the tank bottom. And, we will continue to do that to make sure we have discovered anything in that tank that needs to be corrected.”

Upton says until the issues are corrected, the plant needs to remain offline. He’s working closely with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to ensure industry standards are met.

“I have absolute assurance the NRC is going to make sure the safety checks are in place before anything moves forward,” Upton said.

The NRC had one of its own experts go inside the problem tank over the weekend and observe the inspections. They say they’ll continue to closely monitor the situation at Palisades.

“The NRC will not allow this plant to operate,” said Commissioner Kristine Svinicki. “Not just Entergy needs to be convinced the plant is safe, but we will independently need to be convinced, as well.”

But, a small group of area residents protested outside, saying that’s not enough.

They want more steps to be taken to ensure their safety.

“I think it’s time to shut the plant down,” said Benton Harbor resident Bette Pierman. “I think we’ve put up with enough of their band-aid fixes. They need to get serious about what they're going to do to solve the problem here and they haven't been serious so far.”

Pierman and other protesters say Entergy has neglected to upgrade the facility since taking it over, which is four decades old.

They would like old, hazardous equipment to be replaced.

“This one leaking tank is a serious problem, but to replace only it would make no sense because they have a long list of other safety repairs,” said Beyond Nuclear Radioactive Waste Specialist Kevin Kamps.

Inspections will continue on the leaky tank and could wrap up Tuesday.

Palisades will replace the cracked nozzle, along with two other similar ones to prevent further problems. They’re also considering installing a special seal around the base of the tank or replacing it all together.

The NRC has repeatedly said the unplanned leak caused no safety hazards; the amount of radioactive material in the water was undetectable.

Palisades’ parent company Entergy is hosting a public forum from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Beach Haven Event Center in South Haven Tuesday. Top officials will be available to discuss the situation at the plant.

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