COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has downgraded the Palisades nuclear power plant in southwestern Michigan following an investigation of two incidents last year that raised safety concerns.
The NRC notified the Palisades Tuesday of its decision.
According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the downgrade stemmed from two major incidents at the plant in 2011, though the plant was temporarily shut down at least five times in the last year.
The first incident of the two major incidents occurred in August 2011, when a water pump failed that provides cooling to safety related equipment. The failure was caused by cracks in one of the couplings that wasn't properly repaired after a similar incident back in 2009.
This incident resulted was the least severe violation, or what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission described as a "low to moderate significance to safety."
The most severe incident took place in September 2011. The NRC concluded an electrical fault resulted in a reactor trip and loss of indicators in the control room. This caused safety systems to kick in when actual plant conditions did not warrant them.
Palisades spokesman Mark Savage says violations that caused the commission investigation involved equipment or maintenance.
"These violations represent activities, maintenance activities, that were performed on equipment and components," Savage told 24 Hour News 8. "When the violations occurred, we made repairs to them, so they're fixed. But the violations are what they are."
Savage said the plant is operating safely.
"At all times the plant operated safely," said Savage. "It operated safely yesterday, it operated safely today and it will operate safely tomorrow."
Plant officials said that as a result of the downgrade, the Palisades plant will have to undergo more rigorous and intrusive inspections that will require hundreds of man hours to prepare for.
Palisades is owned by New Orleans-based Entergy Corp.
The agency groups nuclear plants into one of five regulatory columns, depending on their performance. Palisades will join two others in the third category: the Perry Nuclear Power Plant's Unit 1 generator near Cleveland and the Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant's Unit 1 generator in Berwick, Pa.
The only reactor that ranks lower is Browns Ferry Unit 1 near Athens, Ala.
The NRC will hold a public meeting on Feb. 29 to answer any questions and concerns.
The meeting will run from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at teh Beach Haven Event Center located at 10420 M-140 in South Haven, according to the NRC.
24 Hour News 8's Marc Thompson contributed to this report.
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