Safety improves but work cultural flaws persist at Palisades nuclear plant


The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says its keeping a close on eye on the Palisades Nuclear Plant. An inspection revealed problems in the work environment. The NRC held an open house Thursday to talk about the plant's performance.

The NRC completed that inspection in February of this year. It revealed some security staff at Palisades did not feel "free to raise safety concerns." According to a letter from the NRC to the plant's vice president, the employees interviewed "expressed reservations about raising issues or concerns for fear of retaliation." And they didn't feel there was enough confidentiality when it came to voicing those concerns.

At the public meeting, leaders of Entergy, the company that owns Palisades, admitted there's an erosion of communication in the security department. But Entergy's director of regulatory and performance improvement says they're trying to fix that through leadership development initiatives and a new safety review committee. He says they also brought in an independent consultant to help them understand where things went wrong. But an NRC representative says he doesn't understand why it took his group's involvement for this issue to be brought to light.

"The fact that in this case these were issues identified by our inspectors as a part of a special probe the licensee was already conducting to address this type of issue is not what we'd expect," said Kenneth O'Brien with the NRC. "It's less than the performance we'd expect from the licensee."

"Fundamentally we have a communications issue that has not been corrected, communications is a three way process, you obviously have a sender, a receiver, but the sender needs to validate that the receiver has understood the message," said Otto Gustafson with Entergy. "We have failed with respect to that and we vow to improve that."

O'Brien says the NRC will continue to inspect Palisades' activities and that it'll do a special inspection later in the year to see whether work conditions have in fact improved at the plant.

The NRC says Palisades has improved when it comes to actually operating safely.