Blown bulb behind Palisades shutdown

Jan 16, 2012

How many nuclear power plant employees does it take to screw in a light bulb? Evidently more than were on hand last September at the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in western Michigan. According to a report from the Detroit Free Press, an unplanned reactor shutdown at Palisades last fall can be attributed to a plant worker improperly replacing a light bulb.

From the Freep:

Trying to fix a burned-out light bulb on an indicator button led to a serious incident that left the Palisades nuclear plant on Lake Michigan without half its electrical power on Sept. 25, 2011. A piece of equipment slipped while a worker was troubleshooting on a live electrical panel, causing an arc of electricity and a loss of half the indicators in the room that controls the reactor. Signals went haywire for a while. The plant shut down.

These new details about the cause of the week-long shutdown came from a hearing last Wednesday where officials with Entergy Corporation, the company that operates the Palisades plant, appeared before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Free Press reports.

Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reports that the purpose of the hearing was to investigate multiple incidents at the Palisades plant including the September shutdown. She writes that:

If the NRC finalizes its finding that the electrical outage in September was a significant safety concern, the Palisades plant could be downgraded further, and that would mean significantly more federal oversight at Palisades.

If that happens, the Palisades plant would be one of only three plants in the country with such a serious safety concern on its record.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom