Storm causes Entergy Pilgrim nuclear unit offline due to power line issue

The Entergy (NYSE:ETR) Pilgrim nuclear plant in Massachusetts was reported at zero generation early Jan. 27, according to a daily reactor status report from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

An Entergy Pilgrim spokesperson confirmed that the nuclear unit experienced an automatic shutdown during the morning as a result of the severe winter storm.

“In response to degrading offsite electrical grid conditions during winter storm Juno, Pilgrim initiated a plant downpower to 20% in accordance with plant procedures,” the company said in a statement.

“During the downpower, the distribution lines that Pilgrim uses to send electricity to the grid became inoperable and the plant subsequently shut down safely as designed,” Entergy said.

“The plant is currently investigating the exact cause of the trip and the plant is being safely powered by the onsite emergency diesel generators and offsite power remains available from the 23KV power supply, if needed,” Entergy added.

 “All safety systems worked as designed. Plant conditions are stable and there is no threat to the safety of plant workers or the public,” the company went on to say.

Pilgrim is a roughly 670-MW boiling water reactor (BWR) located in Plymouth, Mass. Plymouth is located about 40 miles south of Boston.

Plymouth was expected to see an additional daytime snow accumulation of seven to 11 inches on Jan. 27, according to the National Weather Service.

The NRC said in a Jan. 26 blog that all nuclear units in the Nor’easter path performed a checklist to ensure maximum readiness for the winter storm.

Among other things, NRC said plant personnel checked to see that doors designed to prevent flooding are ready to perform their task; fuel oil tanks for emergency generators are appropriately filled; and the site grounds do not have loose objects which could become airborne amid strong winds and cause damage.

The winter storm also affects energy prices in the affected regions.

For example, New York City saw a spot power price of $104.12/MWh, a level that was more than 21% higher than the previous day. New England had the nation’s second highest spot power price at $87.71/MWh, according to Energy Information Administration (EIA) data.

New York City also showed a spot natural gas price of $12.50/mmBtu. New England’s spot natural gas price was $10.65/mmBtu, according to the EIA data.

Market volatility in this major Northeast storm would probably be worse if it were not because of low residential and commercial demand for natural gas recently, according to a Jan. 26 analysis by Pedro Mulero and Natalia Mestvirishvili of Genscape.

The temperatures are forecast to remain in the low 20s, Genscape noted. While that’s cooler than the season’s baseload average, it’s not cold enough to drive strong gas demand in res/com sector,” Genscape said.

Also delivery of liquefied natural gas (LNG) has allowed some key generators like Exelon (NYSE:EXC) Mystic to keep providing power for the Boston area, Genscape said.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.