Both Arkansas Nuclear units, Pilgrim facility getting more NRC attention at mid-year

Three Entergy (NYSE:ETR) power reactors were singled out for increased Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) oversight during the first half of 2016, NRC said Sept. 2.

NRC has issued mid-cycle assessment letters to the nation’s 99 operating commercial nuclear power plants regarding their performance through the first half of 2016. The mid-cycle assessment period concluded on June 30, with 96 plants in the two highest performance categories.

The NRC notes, however, that it has been paying extra attention to three units operated by Entergy.

Arkansas Nuclear One 1 and 2 (Arkansas), and Pilgrim (Massachusetts), were in NRC’s fourth performance category at the end of the mid-cycle assessment period and require increased oversight. Arkansas Nuclear One 1 and 2 were in this category because of two safety findings of substantial significance. Pilgrim was in this category because of long-standing performance issues of low-to-moderate safety significance.

At Pilgrim, Entergy finds itself in the position of trying to improve day-to-day performance a boiling water reactor (BWR) that it plans to retire in the first half of 2019.

“These assessment letters are part of our annual assessment process, involving a thorough review of plant performance, assessing any changes needed and communicating those results,” said Chris Miller, director of the Division of Inspection and Regional Support in the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. “They are part of the Reactor Oversight Process the NRC uses to ensure our nation’s nuclear generation facilities are safe,” Miller said in a Sept. 2 news release.

Of the 96 highest-performing reactors, 87 fully met all safety and security performance objectives and were inspected by the NRC using the normal “baseline” inspection program. Nine reactors needed to resolve one or two items of low safety significance.

For this performance level, regulatory oversight includes additional inspection and follow-up of corrective actions. Plants in this level are: the FirstEnergy (NYSE:FE) Davis-Besse (Ohio); Entergy Indian Point 3 (New York); Exelon (NYSE:EXC) Oyster Creek (New Jersey); Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL) Prairie Island 2 (Minnesota); Entergy’s River Bend (Louisiana); Public Service Enterprise Group (NYSE:PEG) (PSEG) Salem (New Jersey); Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Sequoyah 1 (Tennessee); and Southern (NYSE:SO) Vogtle 1 and 2 (Georgia).

There were no reactors in the third performance category with a degraded level of performance. For this category, regulatory oversight includes more NRC inspections, senior management attention and oversight focused on the cause(s) of the degraded performance.

TVA’s Watts Bar 2 facility in Tennessee was not in operation during the first half of the year and is evidently not counted in the 99.

The NRC mid-cycle report cards are about to become a thing of the past.

As part of the agency’s Project Aim initiative to become more efficient, the NRC has approved the staff’s recommendation to discontinue the mid-cycle assessments after this assessment period. The staff has determined this will not harm the NRC’s mission, principles or values. In place of mid-cycle assessments, the staff will use ongoing routine assessment activities for site-specific oversight, including continuous assessment activities and the continued use of the annual assessments.

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