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Palisades critics still doubt nuclear power plant's management's commitment to safety

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The owners of the Palisades nuclear power plant promised last night to improve their “culture of safety."   

But dozens of people at the public meeting doubted that promise.   Catherine Sugas spoke for many people who attended the meeting when she questioned why the problem plagued nuclear power plant is still operating.

“If you can’t shut down a plant that’s dangerous…what are you?    How can you keep a plant going that’s obviously dangerous,” Sugas asked a panel from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Earlier, Palisades’ officials discusseda third party group’s assessmentof the plant’s workforce attitude toward safety.    The assessment found workers did not have confidence in management,   doubted the plant’s leadership’s commitment to improving plant performance and felt efforts to make workers accountable were more punitive. 

Palisades’ owners spent two hours outlining their efforts to improve the “culture of safety” at the plant…where problems led to four unscheduled reactor shutdowns in 2011.

Anthony Vitale is the plant’s site vice president.  He says the goal is "perfection".

“Do we ever get there…maybe not,” Vitale conceded outside the meeting room during a break, “But perfection is the only acceptable bottom line for work in nuclear power.”

Federal regulators begin a two week inspection of the plant on Monday to look into its safety culture.

Chuck Casto is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s regional administrator.

He says the plant’s owners have pledged improvements to the safety culture at Palisades, but that his inspectors will have the final word. 

“Regardless what they say.   Regardless of what they propose. We’re doing our own inspection and our own check,” says Casto.

Despite its problems, Casto insists Palisades is safe to operate.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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