Pilgrim’s emergency scram and mechanical failures during Juno 2015 have raised many questions about the ability of Entergy to keep the public safe from a nuclear meltdown or spent fuel fire. Pilgrim’s dangers have attracted the attention of experts from around the U.S. One expert, Richard Andrews, a former nuclear industry engineer wrote to the U.S. NRC on February 9, 2015 expressing his concern. Here is his email:
Subject: What Would Rickover Do?
Date: February 9, 2015 at 12:50:51 PM EST
To: NRC Executive Secretary <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Ed Hackett <email@example.com>
What Would Rickover Do?
For starters Rickover would never tolerate repetitive safety equipment failures in any of his nuclear ships or subs. Rickover, I believe, is rolling over in his grave at the incompetence of Entergy and the NRC in properly dealing with on-going and persistent equipment failures at Pilgrim.
Let me bore you with a true story about Admiral Rickover as recorded in the book, Atomic America, by Todd Tucker.
Way back in 1954 Rickover was overseeing the construction of the first atomic-powered submarine, the Nautilus. As testing was underway in the engine room, September 16, 1954, a small pipe broke inside the hull. The break filled the engine room with steam. Casualty procedures were implemented and no one was injured. Rickover was livid. He ordered an immediate and rigorous examination of the problem. It was found that the pipe broke because it was rolled and welded and was not the high-quality seamless pipe it was supposed to be. Furthermore, due to poor records, those investigating could not assess, as we would say today, the so-called extent of the condition. In response, even though the accident caused no injuries; was in the non-nuclear portion of the plant; and would result in construction delays, Rickover ordered every inch of the pipe ripped out and replaced. Also Rickover mandated a new quality assurance system be put in place to prevent similar breakdowns including the creation of meticulous record-keeping.
If even one of Rickover’s nuclear vessels experienced a reactor scram with complications (i.e. equipment failures), he would have promptly made a personal visit to that vessel. He simply would not tolerate on-going scrams with complications jeopardizing the safety of his sailors, their reactors, and their vessels. Pilgrim has experienced automatic reactor scrams at a rate that is seven times the average of all US nuclear power plants. I was encouraged that a little over a year ago the Chairwoman of the NRC personally visited Pilgrim and shared her concerns about those Pilgrim reliability problems with the owner of Pilgrim and the public. She even was so concerned that she felt Pilgrim’s downward safety slide was reminiscent of the problems at the troubled Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station. I am sorry to say that after more equipment problems at Pilgrim, the NRC seems to be all talk and no action. The NRC needs to finally put public safety first at Pilgrim.