Plymouth is expecting another winter storm battering this Valentine’s Day weekend. This comes on top of winter storm Juno less than two weeks ago that knocked out Entergy’s Pilgrim nuclear station for 10 days. Local groups have again asked that Entergy shut down Pilgrim as a precautionary measure in advance of a winter storm. Entergy ignored similar requests in February 2013 and more recently in January 2015 in advance of Juno.

The upcoming storm, nicknamed Neptune, will bring bitter cold, high wind and heavy snows. Although probably not as bad as Juno, these are basically the same conditions that knocked out Pilgrim on January 27, 2015 and in February 2013 during winter storm Nemo. On January 26, 2015, the day before Juno forced Pilgrim into a “scram” or emergency shutdown, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a report saying Pilgrim failed a safety inspection that followed Pilgrim’s four scrams in 2013. One of these scrams was caused by Nemo.

Severe weather challenges Pilgrim’s aged infrastructure, as described in detail in the NRC report, and results in emergency scrams. The NRC has limits on how many scrams a reactor can have because this type of emergency shut down can have serious public safety consequences.

In related news, this week, Jones River Watershed Association’s (JRWA) issued a report identifying “inaccuracies and misrepresentations” in Entergy’s site plans for Pilgrim’s infrastructure and nuclear waste storage facility. JRWA says these inaccuracies raise concerns about climate change patterns such as flooding and storm impacts, and undermine the ability of Entergy and the NRC to make sound operational decisions about Pilgrim. JRWA asked the NRC and Entergy to update the plans. See the letter, report and plans →

Here are some weather details:

  • According to Bill Ryan’s storm report (professor of meteorology Penn State) the storm will intensify rapidly almost directly over Cape Cod early on Sunday. Based only on pressure, this would be the strongest storm so far this winter. Read Bill Ryan’s full report here. Wind gusts are expected to be 40-70 mph along the coast.
  • For the Plymouth area, according to NOAA’s National Weather Service, there is a blizzard watch (Feb. 14, 7pm until Feb. 15, 7pm), a coastal flood watch (Feb. 15, 4am-1pm), a hazardous weather outlook, and a hurricane force wind watch (Feb. 15, 4am-7pm) in effect. [as of today 2/13, 12:30pm)
  • Using NOAA’s station #8446493, tides are not predicted to be extreme this weekend, which will help prevent some major flooding. However, keep in mind the tide predictions during “Juno” ended up being much lower than what actually occurred in our area. There are three high tides between Saturday night and Sunday night – with Sunday morning’s 7:44am high tide (10.18’) being the biggest concern.
  • Here are the high tide cycles expected Saturday night through Sunday night:
02/14 Sat 07:22 PM 8.71 H
02/15 Sun 07:44 AM 10.18 H
02/15 Sun 08:18 PM 9.08 H
  • According to NOAA, we can expect a storm surge of 2-2.5 feet, highest being in the northern Mass. coast. Waves will approach 20 feet just offshore, especially during Sunday morning’s high tide.

Yet another storm is expected by mid-week. As the NRC’s inspection report makes clear, such winter storms and the resulting scrams raise serious safety concerns. The NRC’s 56 page letter report is entitled “Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station-NRC 95002 Supplemental Inspection Report 05000293/2014008 and Assignment of Tow Parallel White Performance Indicator Inspection Findings” and is available on the web.