Costs cited in possible closure of Pilgrim nuclear plant
ntergy Corp. will announce some time this winter whether it will move forward with costly repairs and upgrades to the beleaguered Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station or simply decide the 43-year-old plant is no longer a moneymaker and close it down.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission downgraded Pilgrim to the bottom of the performance list for the nation’s 99 operating reactors two weeks ago, based on the frequency of forced shutdowns and equipment failures there since 2013.
The so-called Column 4 category is just one step above mandatory shutdown by federal regulators. Only two other reactors in the country are in that performance category, both at Arkansas Nuclear I and both owned by Entergy.
Spokeswoman Lauren Burm said Entergy is now faced with a big decision. “If the corporation finds the cost of making improvements exceeds the value of the plant, it may consider shutting Pilgrim down,” Burm said.
Burm also noted the challenges of the current energy market. “The wholesale market has dropped and natural gas is hard to compete with,” she said.
Entergy must produce a performance improvement plan for federal regulators within six months, but a decision on Entergy’s future should be made long before then.
David Noyes, Pilgrim’s director of regulatory and performance improvement, said the scope of required work — along with cost figures he anticipates will be in the millions — is nearly ready for review by Entergy’s corporate leaders.
“They will work out the business models in terms of profitability,” Noyes said. Whether the plant continues to be financially viable will then be determined.
Costs will include necessary equipment, experts to monitor and analyze plant data, and workers to make required changes and upgrades, since the 600 current employees of the plant are needed for day-to-day operation.
Entergy just recently spent $70 million on Pilgrim, on equipment and additional staff, during its April refueling, yet the plant has been forced to power down twice since then.