NRC upgrades Palisades Nuclear Plant's safety status

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. -- The Palisades Nuclear Plant has been rated one of the three most dangerous plants in the U.S. and it’s right in Michiana’s backyard.

For months, the Palisades Nuclear Plant in Covert, Michigan, has had dozen of leaks -- with a total of seven shutdowns in the past two years because of safety issues within the plant.

However, on Tuesday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said the plant is no longer unsafe after increasing the number of inspection hours at the facility.

Charles Casto, the region III administrator for the NRC said Tuesday that its officials conduct about 2,000 hours of inspections each year at all the nuclear plants around the country, including the Palisades plant. 

To address the safety concerns at the Palisades Nuclear Plant, NRC officials increased the hour of inspections by 1,000 and will do so again in 2013 despite the fact it is not required after the plant's improved status change.

Despite the reported improvements, dozens of people from the community showed up asking that the plant be shut down for good. It’s one of the oldest plants in the country and community members feel it's just a disaster waiting to happen.

"We regard it as a catastrophe waiting to happen. It’s like playing radio-active Russian roulette on the great lakes shoreline. They have had so many close calls," said Kevin Kamps, a specialist for the local watchdog group Beyond Nuclear.

"I want to see it shutdown," said Bette Pierman. "The key issue is that it is falling apart all around us."

Pierman has lived within the Palisades Nuclear Plant evacuation zone for years and says she is very concerned about her neighborhood's safety because of how old the plant is.

"It’s just gotten worse and worse with time. The Palisades is in its break down phase at this point. They are having a leak a week and a breakdown each month," said Kamps.

Yet, the NRC said the plant is safe and back up to its safety standards.

However, because of the problems at the plant, the NRC has stepped in to regulate and inspect it more than is required.

This past year, the NRC required that 1,000 additional hours be put in by nine of its inspectors in order to get the plant's safety rating and status upgraded.

Still, those in the community feel its status change came too soon.

"Just taking care of the personnel issues and safety culture isn't enough," said Pierman.

Amid the doubts, the NRC said all the problems at the plant have been addressed and fixed.

However, the agency will continue to do additional inspections throughout 2013 to address how the plant responds to future problems.

"We think it prudent to continue to look at the technical issues, the low level technical issues and to assess the behaviors," said NRC Region III Administrator Charles Casto. "We believe the process and the procedures are adequate. The behaviors are adequate, but we just want to see that they are sustained over the next year."

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