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Palisades nuclear power plant inspection to begin this week

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

A critical two week federal inspection of the Palisades nuclear power plant begins Monday.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors want to determine if Palisades’ owners have addressed problems that have raised questions about the nuclear plant’s “culture of safety”.

The problems have resulted in four unscheduled reactor shutdowns.

“It’s a very important inspection for us,” says Anthony Vitale, the plant’s site vice president,  “And it will give us a very good scrub as to where we are. We expect to come out of that with very good ratings.”

If Palisades doesn’t get very good ratings from the NRC inspectors, the west Michigan nuclear plant will be subject to a much more intensive inspection that could take 18 months.

Chuck Casto is the NRC’s regional administrator.   He says Palisades’ owners claim to have made progress to improve the plant’s “culture of safety”.  Casto says this inspection will determine if those claims are true.

“Have they satisfactorily addressed the corrective actions….if they have, they will drop down…in our columns to a lesser column,” says Casto,  “If they haven’t they’ll go up to the next column.   And that will determine their fate with regard how the regulator view their performance.”

Despite the problems, Casto insists Palisades can be operated safely. 

Critics disagree.  Many people who attended a public meeting last week with NRC and company officials asked for the plant to be shut down permanently.

The findings of the two week on-site inspection at Palisades should be available by mid-November.

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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