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Mar 1, 2012 8:47 AM by AP

Regulators assure public Palisades plant is safe

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (AP) - Federal regulators have assured the public that the Palisades nuclear power plant in southwestern Michigan is safe despite concerns about the facility from nearby residents.

Last month, the NRC announced that safety violations had led them to downgrade the plant. The demotion means the plant will be under closer scrutiny and that a team inspection will be conducted to determine whether staffers understand what caused their violations and have taken steps to prevent them from happening again.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission told the dozens of people who turned out for a meeting in New Haven Wednesday night that they shouldn't be worried about their safety.

Still, people living near the plant expressed their concerns. Michael Martin, 69, of Gobles, said the Palisades plant should be shut down.

"I don't think this is going to change anything," Martin told the Kalamazoo Gazette of the meeting.

The plant in Van Buren County's Covert Township on the Lake Michigan shoreline is owned by New Orleans-based Entergy Corp.

"The plant continues to operate safely," Palisades spokesman Mark Savage said.

The NRC assigns the more than 100 nuclear reactors in the U.S. to one of five categories based on their safety performance. Most are in the top-performing group. Palisades was bumped to the No. 2 category in January. With last month's downgrade it joined two others in the third category.

The only reactor that ranks lower, in Alabama, is in the fourth category.

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