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Reactor shut down after electrical cable fails at Plymouth nuclear plant

Wicked Local South/Mariner

May 21-- May 21--A degraded electric cable led to a manual scram, or shutdown, Friday of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), control-room operators shut down the reactor at 11:03 p.m. when a circulating-water pump lost power.

"The shutdown was uncomplicated," stated Neil Sheehan, NRC Public Affairs. "One of our resident inspectors assigned to Pilgrim on a full-time basis responded to the plant and independently reviewed the operators' handling of the shutdown and equipment performance. He did not identify any immediate safety concerns."

A manual scram was implemented Friday evening when employees of Entergy, which operates the nuclear power plant, received indications that one of the two seawater pumps was not working. Pilgrim has a boiling water reactor which uses seawater for cooling. The water pumps take water from the bay and circulate it through tubes inside the condenser to cool steam produced by the reactor to spin the turbine.

According to Patrick O'Brien, Entergy's Senior Communications Specialist, control-room operators shut down the reactor in accordance with their procedures.

"After a thorough investigation, one of three electrical cables to the seawater pump B was found to be degraded," he said. "A plan was established to fix the issue and the electrical connection was repaired."

According to a scram report filed with the NRC by Entergy, the reactor was at 70 percent core thermal power at the time. The shutdown was initiated when a condenser vacuum began to degrade. According to the report, "all control rods are inserted as designed" and "the plant is in hot shutdown."

The scram report also stated, "This event has no impact on the health and safety of the public or plant personnel. The NRC Resident Inspector has been notified. The licensee will notify the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency."

Decommissioning of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant is scheduled to begin at the end of the month. Entergy would not comment if the reactor would be restarted before that date.

"Safety remains our number-one priority as we continue toward our final shutdown on May 31," O'Brien said.


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