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Feds begin safety inspection at Palisades plant

Associated Press Modified: September 17, 2012 at 4:30 pm •  Published: September 17, 2012

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A team from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission began a special inspection Monday of the Palisades nuclear power plant in southwestern Michigan, which has experienced a series of safety problems over the past year.

The eight inspectors will spend a couple of weeks at the plant on the Lake Michigan shore, agency spokeswoman Prema Chandrathril said. They will determine whether operators have corrected mistakes — one of which caused a weeklong shutdown — that caused the plant's performance rating to be downgraded earlier this year.

Also under review is the general safety culture at Palisades, a 41-year-old electricity generator in Van Buren County's Covert Township, owned by New Orleans-based Entergy Corp.

"We will bring a magnifying lens and look at areas where the plant has had problems to see what changes they have made," Chandrathil said.

Palisades' nuclear reactor shut down for a week late last September because of a short circuit that resulted from contact between two pieces of metal inside a breaker panel, which the NRC blamed on staff errors.

In another instance, a water pump that cools safety equipment failed because of a crack in one of the couplings that hold together rods in the cooling system. The same failure happened in 2009, and the commission said an inspection showed the plant had not done enough to prevent a recurrence.

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