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Palisades nuclear plant shut-down after leak

Published time: May 06, 2013 18:44
Image from nrc.gov

Image from nrc.gov

A Michigan-based nuclear power plant has been shut down due to water leakage from the tank, which exceeded its capacity. Inspectors are now studying the problem to see if there is any danger to the public.

The Palisades Nuclear Power Plant, located in Covert Township, Mich., was removed from service Sunday morning after the water tank exceeded its site threshold and leaked.

The incident marks the second time the injection and refueling tank leaked, according to federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng. During the previous leakage, water seeped into the plant’s control room.

“This tank has leaked before. It leaked in 2012. The plant had to shut down to repair the leak to the tank,” she told AP. “It’s a repeat occurrence.”

The tank holds up to 300,000 gallons of borated water, which floods the reactor during refueling outages. It also serves to remove heat from the reactor when there is a loss of coolant by sourcing the safety injection system. After last year’s incident, operators of the nuclear power plant set a 38-gallon daily leak limit, which was exceeded Sunday. Inspectors are now working to identify the source of the leak and repair the tank.

In previous years, NRC officials also found several other problems with the Palisades plant. In May 2011, investigators discovered improperly maintained emergency equipment. In October 2010, the manager of the control room was also found to have left the station without following protocols.

In August 2011, the plant experienced the failure of a water pump component, which holds the pipe together. The following month, there were a series of electrical failures that occurred as a result of two small metal pieces coming into contact with one another and shutting down the plant, Michigan Live reported.

After the 2012 leak, the NRC conducted an 11-day inspection of the Palisades plant and concluded that it has sufficiently addressed previous problems identified in 2011, but said it needed additional oversight to ensure that corrections were being properly made at the plant. The NRC determined that the plant would need to undergo an additional 1,000 hours of inspection beyond the 2,000 hours that occur at nuclear plants each year.

But even though the most recent case of leakage is the second time the problem has occurred, officials at the plant claim there are no risks to those working at or living near the facility. 

"There is no impact on the health and safety of plant employees or the public," Palisades spokeswoman Lindsay Rose told AP.

But the spokeswoman’s words may do little to reassure local residents: in 2012, the NRC downgraded the Palisades plant, classifying it as one of the four worst performing nuclear plants in the US. Although officials at the plant claim to have fixed the source of the previous leakage, its previous problems were not properly addressed.