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The Pilgrims arrived in 1620. In 1972 Pilgrim nuclear power station was commissioned. It legally discharges radioactive materials into the air and water of Cape Cod Bay routinely, even without an accident.
“Pilgrim faces more scrutiny for spent fuel panels
By Christine Legere
Posted Nov 21, 2017 at 8:08 AM
Potential problems connected to the radioactive spent fuel pool at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station are once again the focus of federal regulators, who are questioning how the condition of two of the panels, installed to prevent nuclear fission from occurring, can be accurately tracked.
PLYMOUTH — Potential problems connected to the radioactive spent fuel pool at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station are once again the focus of federal regulators, who are questioning how the condition of two of the panels, installed to prevent nuclear fission from occurring, can be accurately tracked.
Panels containing neutron-absorbing boron carbide are attached to the pool racks holding the radioactive assemblies to prevent fission in reactor pools.
The panels used at Pilgrim are a mix of three different trade names: about two-thirds are Boraflex, which has a known problem with degradation, and one-third are a mix of Boral and Metamic.
The NRC’s latest concern is with the tracking of two Boral panels installed on racks in Pilgrim’s spent fuel pool in 1995. Separate sheets of Boral, referred to as coupons, are supposed to be placed in the pool at the same time as the installation, and they are used to gauge the condition of the Boral panels on the racks.
Federal regulators question the accuracy of the information the coupons will provide.
“Please describe how the boral coupons are representative of the in-service material given the nearly five-year difference in time the material has been exposed to spent fuel pool conditions,” states the NRC letter to Entergy Corp., Pilgrim’s owner and operator.
A large portion of the five years in question predate Entergy’s ownership of Pilgrim. The company purchased the plant from Boston Edison in November 1998 and the license transfer wasn’t approved by the NRC until May 3, 1999. Based on the NRC’s current information, the test coupon for the Boral panels was installed six months after Entergy took over.
David Lochbaum, director of the Nuclear Safety Project for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the time gap between the installation and the insertion of the test panel would be more problematic if workers at Pilgrim were doing full-core offloads during refueling, which was a practice some plants were using.
The full-core offloads, which would entail removal of 580 spent fuel assemblies at Pilgrim, transferred a high amount of heat and radiation into the spent fuel pool. Partial offloads transferred less.
Because Pilgrim only did partial offloads, “the data collection since 1999 will more easily be used” to account for the nearly five-year difference, Lochbaum said.
A spokesman for Entergy said the company is reviewing the request from the NRC.
“We are actively working to answer the questions and provide information to the NRC in the 90-day response period,” Entergy spokesman Patrick O’Brien said last week, noting that Entergy had just received the NRC’s request for additional information related to monitoring in spent fuel pools. “Our response letter will be publicly available on the NRC’s website once we have provided that to the regulator.”
Entergy just recently finished a massive reshuffling of spent fuel assemblies in Pilgrim’s pool after discovering that nearly 900 Boraflex panels there were in danger of deteriorating.
Pilgrim’s pool, initially designed for 880 assemblies, currently holds just under 3,000, because a federally promised permanent repository for spent fuel was never built.
Panels containing boron carbide were installed in pools at reactors across the country, as they handled more and more spent fuel.
Heat and radiation have been eating away at the protective boron carbide compound in the Boraflex panels.
In the spent fuel pool environment, the minimum critical volume necessary to sustain a nuclear chain reaction may be as small as four fuel assemblies.
As a first step taken last summer, Entergy moved about 1,600 spent fuel assemblies away from the areas where the deteriorating Boraflex panels had been identified, to ensure against a radiological incident.
The company will take the second step sometime next year, removing 612 spent fuel assemblies from the pool and placing them in nine dry casks on a concrete pad outside the reactor.
Pilgrim has moved 544 spent fuel assemblies into eight dry casks.
The upcoming transfer will make room for the spent fuel that will be removed from the reactor when it shuts down permanently on May 31, 2019.
The NRC also asked Entergy for more information on three of its other reactors. NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said other plant licensees were being asked for similar information. © Copyright 2006-2017 GateHouse Media, LLC. All rights reserved • GateHouse News Original content available for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons license, except where noted. ” http://plymouth.wickedlocal.com/news/20171121/pilgrim-faces-more-scrutiny-for-spent-fuel-panels (Emphasis our own.)
The spent fuel casks currently used in the US constitute a major hazard, as explained here: https://sanonofresafety.org Pilgrim is using Holtec casks.
Search for Holtec and/or spent nuclear fuel in our (Mining Awareness) blog, as well.
“The number of children and grandchildren with cancer in their bones, with leukemia in their blood, or with poison in their lungs might seem statistically small to some, in comparison with natural health hazards. But this is not a natural health hazard—and it is not a statistical issue. The loss of even one human life, or the malformation of even one baby—who may be born long after we are gone—should be of concern to us all. Our children and grandchildren are not merely statistics toward which we can be indifferent.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy, July 26th, 1963