Yes. Our first priority at Palisades Power Plant is to operate our nuclear facility safely. Palisades is a safe and secure facility, and we have a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license to operate through 2031. We remain in Column 1 – the highest safety category – of the NRC’s Reactor Oversight Process, alongside nearly 80 other safely operating US nuclear plants.
The plant staff is frequently and rigorously trained, drilled and evaluated to respond to any emergency. We have an aggressive inspection process to identify and mitigate minor issues before they become problems. The plant can be shut down and the nuclear fission process stopped in less than two seconds. In fact, the plant will shut down automatically if even one safety component malfunctions.
Structural safety is another intrinsic element to ensure the continued safe operation of our facility. Our systems themselves have multiple physical layers of protection built in:
In fact, Three Mile Island is a perfect example of how well all of these components work. Studies conducted by the University of Pennsylvania at 10 and 20 years following the 1979 incident show there were no adverse health effects from the event, further supporting the claim that the safety systems worked as they should have.
Nuclear power plants are very safe and nuclear power generation has proven to be the safest way to produce large amounts of electricity. The U.S. nuclear industry has operated for more than 30 years without a single nuclear-related fatality.
No, a nuclear explosion cannot occur at commercial nuclear plants. Fuel for nuclear plant uranium is mined from the earth and then goes through the process of "enrichment." From that process, comes uranium-235 (which makes up approximately 4% of nuclear fuel used at a commercial facility) and uranium-238 (which makes up the other 96% of the fuel). In order to have an explosion, unranuim-235 must make up nearly 100% of the fuel. Scientifically speaking, an explosion at a nuclear facility in the U.S. would counter the laws of physics.
No. Though people often compare U.S. nuclear facilities to Chernobyl, U.S. nuclear facilities have several safeguards that Chernobyl did not, including a high-integrity containment building and multiple safety systems.
There are several significant distinctions that should be understood:
There was no containment structure at Chernobyl. Instead, there was a graphite cylinder with a tin roof that surrounded the nuclear fuel. All U.S. plants are required to have a high-integrity containment structure in place.
Safety systems at the Chernobyl facility were disconnected prior to the explosion.
The explosion at Chernobyl was a hydrogen explosion, not a nuclear explosion. Hydrogen was used to generate the heat that powered the turbines and generators to create electricity. In the U.S., steam is used to operate the turbines.
Once the top of the reactor was literally blown off by the hydrogen explosion, irradiated graphite was scattered into the distance which is why the effects were seen so far away. The radioactive isotopes from the nuclear fuel (because of their weight) remained in the reactor.
The type of uranium used at a commercial facility in the U.S. and the structure of the containment dome required to operate a plant here would rule out the possibility of any Chernobyl-type event. That type of plant could NOT be - nor has one ever been - licensed in the U.S. because of the substantial design flaws at Chernobyl. Thus, the accident that occurred there could not be duplicated here in the U.S.
Consider the only nuclear accident that has occurred in the U.S. in the 35-year history of nuclear power, Three Mile Island - the containment dome successfully contained the radioactivity preventing dangerous exposure levels from ever leaving the core, much less reaching the public. And, even though no one was harmed in that accident, the industry learned from the event and implemented even more safeguards in the form of plant equipment and training.
Spent fuel is stored in either our spent fuel pool or inside federally approved dry casks. The fuel stored in both the pool and dry casks is well protected by multiple robust barriers. Our spent fuel pool has a stainless steel liner surrounded by three to four feet of concrete. It is designed with its own redundant safety features to ensure that fuel integrity will not be compromised.
Spent fuel is also stored in federally approved dry casks, where it awaits shipment to a federal nuclear waste repository. Dry fuel storage has been used at Palisades since 1993 and is a safe and secure method for storing used fuel. The casks are very robust and are designed to prevent fuel damage during accident conditions such as tornados, floods, snow and ice, earthquakes, or explosions.
For additional information on dry fuel storage, visit the dry fuel storage section of our Web site.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has strict rules, regulations and limits for all aspects of nuclear plant operations. This includes a program to monitor reactor vessels and the potential impact of a rare accident scenario — pressurized thermal shock — in which a large amount of cold water would be injected into the reactor resulting in rapid cooling of the reactor vessel. Every pressurized water reactor plant in the nation is required by the NRC to continually update its calculations to confirm reactor vessel strength. This means every plant must conduct periodic reactor vessel inspections and analyze reactor vessel samples.
Palisades regularly conducts these inspections and analysis, and most recently completed an inspection during our refueling outage in early 2014. An updated evaluation will be submitted to the NRC for review in the summer of 2014. Palisades has every reason to believe that the test results will again demonstrate the safety and strength of the plant’s reactor vessel – which will enable us to continue operating through the end of its license in 2031.
The Palisades plant is safe and the reactor vessel meets all current NRC requirements. Palisades is committed to the health and safety of everyone in the community, including our families and friends in the public as well as our own employees. As part of that commitment, we have a rigorous inspection and evaluation program in place to ensure our reactor vessel meets or exceeds all NRC requirements, even in the most unlikely scenarios.
Entergy's unrelenting commitment to nuclear safety extends beyond the plant’s boundaries. Palisades has a detailed plan for responding in the unlikely event of an emergency that could affect the public. We test the plan regularly with the participation of local and state response organizations. As part of this constant state of readiness, information booklets about emergency planning are updated and sent to residents within a 10 mile radius of Palisades every year. Read more in the 2013-2014 Palisades Emergency Preparedness booklet.
At Entergy, there is no higher priority than operating our power plants safely. This responsibility also includes preparing for the unlikely event of a nuclear emergency. Working closely with national, state and local emergency management agencies, Entergy's nuclear plants have developed detailed emergency plans that address actions to be taken to protect the health and safety of the public up to 50 miles from any one of our plants. These plans are practiced routinely with oversight from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Since September 11, 2001, a focus on security has become increasingly visible everywhere, including the security measures on site at Palisades Nuclear Power Station. Since that time, additional security measures at Palisades include increased surveillance activities, greater restrictions on persons and deliveries entering the site, and further support from and coordination with local, county, state and federal law enforcement authorities.
No. Palisades is a safe and secure facility, and we have a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license to operate through 2031. Opponents charge that Palisades Nuclear Power Station's age renders the plant less safe than newer plants. The fact is that the external structure of Palisades Nuclear Power Station was constructed to last well beyond its original license of 40 years. Internally, millions of dollars in upgrades have been made to the plant —to the point where its parts are almost entirely new.
There is also routine maintenance that occurs every day to ensure the safe continued operation of the plant and to minimize the need for unscheduled shutdowns.