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Entergy uses open house to show workers “are returning Palisades to excellence”

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio

Dozens of people crowded around several small tables at conference center in South Haven, six miles north of the Palisades nuclear plant.

Each table features a different area of concern or interest at the plan; the reactor vessel’s embrittlement factor, a water tank leak, a coupling failure, replacement of a cooling tower, how spent fuel is stored, community projects Entergy supports.

Engineers and project managers point to pictures and diagrams to help answer questions. There are little freebies and even a raffle for a new Ipad.

The plant has one of the worst safety ratings in the country after a series of problems in 2011.

Entergy Corporation bought Palisades in 2007. Company officials say they wanted to give people a chance to ask questions and meet plant employees who are working to resolve the safety concerns.

“This is an opportunity to meet people that are returning Palisades to excellence," Palisades Vice President Tony Vitale said. Vitale came to Palisades in July 2011.

Vitale said some people had questions for him: “We’ve read something in the newspaper and heard some things on the radio about Palisades. What’s your perspective? What plans so you have?”

Next Wednesday federal nuclear regulators are hosting a more formal public meeting about the safety culture at Palisades. An independent firm reported to the company this spring there was “a lack of accountability at all levels”at the plant.

Vitale says the plant has worked to correct those problems and is ready for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to “give us a good scrub.” This month the plant will undergo a major inspectionthat could result in an improved safety rating. But that will depend entirely on what the inspection team finds.

Covert Township Supervisor Barbara Rose says some people have asked her about the plant lately. But she wouldn’t say it’s a “top priority” for residents.

"Our concerns are there, but at the same time we know that there’s talented people out there that know their jobs. They’re catching things that are going array and they’re taking the steps that they have to do to correct it. That makes a difference,” Rose said.

“Transparency is always good,” Kenneth Harrington Covert Township trustee said. “We’re not engineers but at least give us some explanation of what’s going on and what they’re doing to remedy the situation.”

Harrington says some people talk about Palisades when it’s on the news for being shutdown but otherwise he also hasn’t heard too much concern from constituents.

Both elected officials expressed appreciation for being able to talk directly to those responsible for the plant. “It gives us a contact that, if we have questions, we know who to go to,” Rose said.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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