COVERT TWP., Mich. (AP) – The Palisades nuclear plant in southwestern Michigan returned to service Thursday following a shutdown that began earlier this month because of a minor steam leak.

The plant in Van Buren County’s Covert Township will be brought up to full power over the next several days, spokesman Mark Savage said in an email. It has more attention since being designated in February by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as one of the nation’s four worst-performing nuclear plants.

The NRC has been investigating the leak as well as looking at the plant’s safety culture. The agency said the leak was coming from a control rod drive, which is part of the mechanism for shutting down the reactor. It said steam was confined to the building that houses the reactor, and no radiation escaped into the environment.
Inspectors raised a number of questions about some of the inspections and analysis performed by the plant, NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng said, and the plant performed additional work to ensure the plant was safe to restart. The agency it will review plans for inspections going forward.

“The NRC provided strong oversight of analysis, repairs and testing,” Mitlyng said.

The plant owned by New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. was shut down starting Aug. 12.

Palisades has been under increasing NRC scrutiny because of a series of performance and equipment failures that led the commission to downgrade the plant in February. One lapse was an electrical fault caused by plant workers that shut down the reactor and half of the control room indicators and triggered safety systems that actual plant conditions did not justify. In another instance, a water pump that cools safety equipment failed.

Anti-nuclear activists have called for closing the plant. But the NRC told nearby residents this year there was no reason to fear for their safety.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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