Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station has an impeccable safety record. We are especially proud of the significant operational improvements we make on an ongoing basis to the safety and performance of our facility. We are able to maintain this record through the power of our people and the physical safety role of two of our most critical assets - the containment structure and the spent fuel pool.
Safety is a top priority at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station and nuclear stations in general are very safe. The lost-time accident rate* in 2006 was 0.17 for nuclear stations.**
Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station is a member of the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Acceptance into the VPP is OSHA's official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health. We are very proud of this designation which enables us-management and labor-to work with OSHA to implement a comprehensive safety and health management system.
There are several factors that help keep the plant and our neighbors safe: the dedication and training of our employees, the involvement of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and the ability of employees to react to any kind of onsite emergency.
The individuals who operate the nuclear reactor must complete thorough and intensive interactive training of one full week for every six weeks on the job. They must also pass a re-qualification test at the end of each training period. This is one of the most demanding continuing education requirements of any profession. And it ensures that our operators remain precise in the work they do every day, and are continuously prepared for abnormal situations so that no time is lost in correcting any event.
Many of our employees are also highly trained in radiological technology in order to respond to radiological emergencies on site, at the plant, and out in the community. We carefully monitor and train employees to ensure that industrial safety, nuclear safety and experience in handling materials remains at the highest possible level. In fact, Pilgrim Nuclear Power Stationprovides volunteers to the Nuclear Incident Advisory Team (NIAT) who can respond on a 24-hour basis to any radiation accident or incident within the Commonwealth. NIAT is run by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Another layer of personnel safety at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station - and nuclear plants across the country - is that our daily operations are conducted under the watchful eyes of our regulating agency, the NRC. Every nuclear site is required to house two full-time resident inspectors who monitor all of the operations of the plant.
In addition to our own outstanding record, our owner and operator, Entergy, has more than 85 years of operational experience and is considered one of the world's leading producers of safe and clean nuclear energy. Entergy consistently ranks very high among its peers in evaluations of U.S. nuclear plants by the NRC.
*The number of accidents resulting in lost work, restricted work, or fatalities per 200,000 worker hours.
**Source: World Association of Nuclear Operators.
Physical Safety of Our Assets
Nuclear safety relies on extensive employee training, multiple and redundant backup systems, and rugged containment structures to ensure the safe operation of the plant.
The containment structure makeup offers a significant safety feature. In addition to the role it plays in keeping the reactor secure from external factors, it also serves to keep the plant and our neighbors safe from any incident that may happen inside of the reactor. It will do exactly what its name indicates - it will contain any harmful materials in the unlikely event of a radioactive incident.
Another safety design feature is seen in the storage of spent fuel. It is all housed within the reactor building in what's called a spent fuel pool. The pool is filled with water which serves two purposes: 1) water is a natural barrier for radioactive particles; and 2) it also keeps the fue rods cool.
The walls of the spent fuel pool consist of several feet of concrete and a stainless steel liner. It is so well-protected within the reactor building that an attack on the plant would be costly, but inconsequential in terms of the dangers associated with radiation. Once removed from the reactor core, the 12-foot fuel rods are immersed in the pool of water. Redundant safety systems ensure that the water level is maintained and fuel integrity is not compromised.
The pool is 40 feet deep and the fuel rests in 13 feet in the bottom, leaving a total of 27 feet of water to contain its radioactivity. In the event of any incident, there are numerous back-up measures in place to ensure the pool stays full at all times.
The storage pool at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station has sufficient capacity to safely store the fuel until the expiration date of its current license in 2012. Once the fuel pool reaches its capacity, the oldest of the spent fuel will be moved into dry cask storage, a cluster of above ground mini-containment structures.