Thursday, December 24, 2009


Indian Point nuclear plant officials say amount of radioactive steam released was 'Insignificant'

BY Abby Luby

Friday, December 11th 2009, 4:00 AM

Traces of radioactivity were released via steam leak at Indian Point nuclear power plant, but officials said there was no cause for concern. Related News·Massive blackout in Brazil plunges millions into darkness ·Three Mile Island leak exposes workers to radiation ·Obama to pledge major U.S. greenhouse gas cuts at Copenhagen climate conference ·EPA on global warming: Greenhouse gasses endangering people's health, according to report ·Blowing us away! GE inks largest wind turbine deal ever · That cloud spewing out of the Indian Point nuclear plant last month wasn't a smoke signal - it was radioactive steam.For two days starting Nov. 2, an estimated 600,000 gallons of boiling, radioactive water escaped through a valve that was stuck open in the Unit 2 reactor of the nuclear power plant in Westchester. The superheated water instantly turned to steam and spread out over the lower Hudson Valley in a cloud containing tritium, a cancer-causing radioactive isotope. A spokesman for plant operator Entergy said the company wasn't concerned about the amount of radioactivity released into the atmosphere. "The steam was from a non-radioactive secondary system," said spokesman Jerry Nappi, "that contains slight amounts of tritium and is insignificant." The accidental release, however, prompted an inspection from the regional office of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. According to NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan, the commission ordered a report from Entergy that is due within 60 days. The report will detail exactly what happened during the steam release. "We will be documenting our own findings in an inspection report covering plant activities for the fourth quarter of 2009. It will be due out in late January," said Sheehan. According to Kevin Mangan, a senior NRC inspector on site at Indian Point, the water was highly pressurized at 750 pounds per square inch before it jettisoned for about 42 hours. It took two days for plant owner Entergy to realize the valve was leaking before the plant automatically shut down. Although Entergy officials dismissed the seriousness of the incident, operations at the plant were abruptly halted for four days. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, a test of several emergency sirens that warn of an accident at Indian Point performed poorly, according to the NRC. There are 172 sirens within 10 miles of the Buchanan based plant, and 37 of them failed to respond to a radio signal. The new $30 million emergency siren system was installed last year to alert some 300,000 residents living within a 10 mile radius if the plant has an accident. According to the NRC, in Wednesday's test, one out of every 16 sirens in Putnam County failed, rating the utility company's performance at 78%. The NRC requires a 90% average for emergency siren tests. The last test for the Indian Point sirens was in October, when all the sirens scored perfectly. Entergy has applied to the NRC for a new operating license that would keep its two reactors running for an additional 20 years. Indian Point earns about $1 million a day for Entergy.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Indian Point's contamination woes: Entergy wants 20-year extension to run nuclear plant


Updated Friday, August 28th 2009, 8:23 PM

The Indian Point nuclear power station in Buchanan, N.Y., 35 miles north of midtown New York City.

The Indian Point nuclear power plant is sitting on enough contaminated soil, by federal estimates, to fill Yankee Stadium with radioactive sludge a foot deep.
Years of radioactive leaks have saturated some 1.63 million cubic feet of soil at the Westchester County plant, according to a letter from a Nuclear Regulatory Commission official to plant owner Entergy.
The leaks are from the reactor's 40-foot deep spent fuel pools that store used radioactive fuel, said John Boska, Indian Point's project manager with the NRC.
"Some of the contaminated soil may also have PCBs [polychlorinated biphenyls] that leaked from large electrical transformers, which are cooled by oil which often contained PCBs," said Boska.
Entergy has applied for a new operating license to keep the plant running an additional 20 years after their license expires in 2015. After 2035, when the new license expires and the plant is due to close, Entergy has 60 years to get rid of the contaminated soil and radioactive waste and clean up the entire site.
Officials said there is no immediate danger or public health threat, since the soil is below ground.
The NRC says Entergy won't have enough funds to remove the toxic soil when it finally closes the plant and clean up the site.
Entergy will need $400 million for each of the three units to be closed down. The NRC claims Entergy is short $100 million from the market meltdown.
In light of the shortfall, Entergy has committed an extra $110 million in 2026 to its decommissioning fund, a mandated fund required by the NRC of all 103 nuclear power plants in the country.
The utility company pulls in more than $2 million a day and more than $700 million a year in profits from plants countrywide.
"We believe there are appropriate levels set aside in the decommissioning trust fund and that we are in compliance with NRC rules," said spokesman Jerry Nappi of Entergy.
Removing contaminated soil at Indian Point involves digging out utility tunnels and underground systems and demolishing many plant buildings where electricity is generated and where radioactive fuel is stored.
Boska said the contaminated soil and other radioactive waste is usually shipped by truck or rail to a waste disposal site in Utah or Texas.
"The waste is put in a container which can be made of flexible plastic, which prevents the soil from falling on the roadway or scattering in the wind," Boska said.
In June, Entergy asked the NRC if it could use their decommissioning funds to pay for storing spent fuel at the plant in special dry casks.
Boska didn't specify when the NRC would respond to Entergy, adding: "We have not yet reached a conclusion if the funds are adequate."
Read more:

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Thursday, July 9, 2009



The following is a story published last week in the Daily News about the recent ruling expected to eventually impact the use of closed cycle cooling at Indian Point. Two links to the article are included below.
Additional information at the end of the post in BOLD was provided by Phil Musegaas of Riverkeeper, and helps to understand this particular judicial process

Officials at the Indian Point nuclear power plant — which has been called responsible for killing more than a billion fish each year — will have to figure out another way to cool its giant heated steam turbines, a state court has ruled. The plant sucks in and returns more than 2.5 billion gallons of Hudson River water daily—2 million gallons per minute—in a system
that pulls in and kills fish, eggs, larvae and plant life. The hot water flushed back into the river is fatal to some 1.2 billion fish every year, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The cooling system doesn’t use radioactive water from the reactor core.
Last week, acting state Supreme Court Justice Gerald Connolly turned down plant owner Entergy’s bid to overturn a year-old DEC decision that faulted Indian Point’s water intake system for killing the fish. The judge said Entergy’s appeal was premature, stating: “Petitioner’s claims are not ripe for review by the Court at this time.” The ruling now gives the DEC the green light to push for a new cooling system that would reduce fish-killing water usage by 95% at the Westchester County plant. Entergy spokesman Jerry Nappi said the court’s decision determines how the utility company will “ultimately obtain a water use permit that makes the most sense environmentally and economically for the area around Indian Point.”

Entergy has balked at the $1.4 billion price tag for the new cooling system. Nappi said the plant already has spent more than $100 million to protect fish by installing special screens to reduce the number of fish pulled inside. The DEC estimates a new cooling system would cost $740 million, and $145 million a year to run — or 5% to 6% of Entergy’s annual gross revenue.
Entergy makes more than $2 million a day — and more than $700 million a year — from electricity produced at Indian Point.
The court ruling was a victory for the DEC and the environmental group Riverkeeper, which have been waging court
battles with Entergy for years over the fish kill. Riverkeeper’s chief prosecutor is Robert Kennedy Jr. Indian Point, 24 miles outside the city, is applying to renew its operating license and keep running until 2035. If the license is renewed, Riverkeeper
and the DEC say, the power plant would be forced to build a cooling system if it wants to stay open. Hearings on the
new draft water-use permit for the plant, which would mandate closed-cycle cooling, are tentatively scheduled for next year. Nappi said Entergy is weighing an appeal of the court ruling.

According to Phil Musegaas of Riverkeeper the ruling impeded Entergy from slowing and complicating the process moving towards next year’s DEC hearing, when the state is expected to issue a final permit, which will require closed cycle cooling if Indian Point is re-licensed.

Musegaas said that he expects Entergy to appeal the ‘adverse impact’ ruling, along with any other rulings or conditions they don’t like after the final permit is issued, probably late 2010.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Decommissioning funds in question

If Entergy’s license renewal application for Indian Point Unit 2 is turned down by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the company wouldn’t have enough decommissioning funds to close down in 2013 when its license expires. The multi-billion dollar utility company also wouldn’t have enough money to decommission and close down Unit 1, the oldest of the three plants at Indian Point in Buchanan.

Entergy is asking the NRC if it could use their decommissioning funds for storing spent fuel at the plant in the dry cask storage operation. The NRC would have to approve an extension to the decommissioning regulations to allow Entergy to re-direct some of the funds.
When the Indian Point plants actually do close down, the funds are slated to pay for the removal and disposal of subsurface contaminated soil, including the demolition of several buildings.

According to recent NRC documents sent to Entergy, the decommissioning fund for Unit 2 as of December 31, 2008 was $321.39 million and $218.39 million for Unit 1. The NRC estimates that over $400 million is needed to decommission each unit. Regulations provides for a 60 year shut down process.

Entergy has said that although the economic meltdown has decreased the funds, they will have enough money in the future.
“Entergy meets all current NRC decommissioning funding account guidelines and regulations, and will meet those that change in the future,” said Jerry Nappi, Entergy spokesperson.

Westchester County Legislator Mike Kaplowitz (D-Somers) said Entergy shouldn’t be allowed to tap in to the decommissioning funds for non-decommissioning uses.
“Entergy makes $2 million a day and over $700 million a year in profit. They shouldn’t have to tap into this fund for any other purpose.”
Kaplowitz said he expects the NRC to approve these extensions. “They’ve never turned down one. Now that there’s a move in the country towards more nuclear power, the sea of change is in their favor.”

John Boska, the NRC Indian Point Project Manager said Entergy can come up with the needed decommissioning funds though financial maneuvers.
“For short-time swings in the financial markets, licensees could establish supplemental trust funds to cover the deficiency if the NRC approves it, and remove those if the financial market recovers.” Boska said NRC approval would be needed to remove the funds. Other financial fixes include adding a periodic amount to the fund every year for a number of years or add a lump sum amount now to the fund.

According to NRC spokesperson Neil Sheehan, a private call is being scheduled with Entergy within the next few weeks to discuss decommissioning funds for Indian Point.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Clearwater Contention against Entergy Denied

The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) announced last week that they have rejected a new contention submitted by Clearwater against the re-licensing of Indian Point. In March Clearwater argued against the license renewal by Indian Point’s owner, Entergy, until a water safety study is done. Clearwater was acting on the pending application by United Water New York to build a desalination plant that will, if built, extract water from the Hudson River and provide municipal drinking water to Rockland County. The desalination plant would be located across the Hudson River, 3.5 miles downstream from the power plant. Clearwater’s concern is that the treatment plant is not equipped to effectively filter out radioactive isotopes that Indian Point regularly discharges into the Hudson River along with contaminants in Indian Point’s groundwater which are suspected of finding their way to the river as well.

The ASLB, three-judge panel said Clearwater’s arguments didn’t present new information and that “the issue involving the desalination plant will be encompassed by another contention from Clearwater that was admitted to the proceeding.”

The ASLB, who works in tandem with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), has been reviewing arguments, or contentions, against issuing a new operating license to Entergy who applied in 2007 to extend their license to keep Units 2 and 3 running 20 more years to 2033 and 2035.

Manna Jo Greene, environmental director at Clearwater said she wasn’t disappointed with the ASLB decision since it indicated that concerns about the water treatment plant would be looked at under a previous contention submitted by both the environmental group Riverkeeper and Clearwater.
“It’s really a case of bad news and good news,” said Greene. “They are saying the proper place to look at how contaminated, radioactive water leaking under the plant and into the Hudson River would impact a water desalination plant is being addressed in an earlier contention. They left the door open.”

Earlier in the review process the board denied a request from Entergy to reconsider turning down a contention regarding impacts groundwater contamination from leaks at Indian Point and the possible effects on drinking water, especially if the source is the Hudson River.

Entergy spokesperson Jerry Nappi said the recent ASLB ruling speaks for itself.
“This issue was already referenced in an earlier filing, and further, this contention will be encompassed by another contention that has already been admitted. Entergy looks forward to a thorough review by the ASLB and is working to provide them with any information they need in advance of future hearings.”

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said the judges saw nothing "new and significant" in Clearwater’s contention. “As part of their consideration of that contention, the judges believe the issue of impacts on the river will also be addressed.”

Entergy’s license renewal application has elicited 154 contentions opposing the continued operation of the plant. According to the NRC it’s the largest number of contentions for a license renewal proceeding to date. Out of 154 contentions the ASLB has accepted 15 including contentions submitted by New York State Department of Conservation, the Attorney General’s office, Riverkeeper and Clearwater.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Fire Safety Regulations at Indian Point Challenged

Last year the Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted a request from Entergy that allowed the utility company to change the type of fire safety protection used at their Indian Point Nuclear power plants to a material that resists fire for a shorter amount of time. The request was granted as an “exemption” from Entergy’s operating license.

On Monday, May 11, a case arguing that the NRC lacked the authority to grant the exemption was heard at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City. Arguing against the NRC was Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) and New York State Assistant Attorney General John Sipos.

Granting an exemption does not require public input but a public hearing is required when amending a power plant’s operating license. Brodsky and Sipos argued that the regulatory agency mischaracterized the request as an “exemption” rather than an amendment to the license and the NRC “failed to consider relevant evidence in making its decision.”
At the crux of the case was the impact of reducing the fire safety protection at Indian Point. If a fire broke out at the plant the new fire resistant materials lasting 24 minutes as a barrier to a blaze, would not be enough time to catch a fire especially with current inspections scheduled every hour, Sipos and Brodsky argued during the proceeding that lasted over an hour. They also argued the dangerous consequences of fires in electrical junction boxes carrying 480 volts of power to cables that control safe, emergency shut downs, if needed.

NRC attorney Robert Rader held that the NRC staff determined there was “reasonable assurance that the fire-protection measures approved by the exemptions would control any credible blaze in affected areas at Indian Point.” Rader held that the agency's rules for granting an exemption are spelled out in the Atomic Energy Act as part of the “comprehensive regulatory framework” and the “ongoing review of nuclear power plants located in the United States.”
The NRC claimed that using lower quality fire barriers have been allowed at many other plants in the country and have granted ‘exemptions’ to certain fire safety standards over the last 8 years.

Yesterday’s hearing marks the first time the NRC’s right to grant these exemptions without alerting the public has been challenged. Of the three judges hearing the argument was the Honorable Sonia Sotomayor who is widely rumored to be on Obama’s list of choices for the Supreme Court. It is unclear when the judges will rule on the case.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Underground at Indian Point: pipe leaks and cables

Last week Matt Wald of the New York Times reported about a leak discovered at Indian Point in February.

Wald’s lead, however, seemed to indicate the leak was new and the actual date of the leak followed some three sentences later.
The news hook for Wald was that Congressmen Ed Markey (D-Mass) and John Hall (D-NY) had just sent a high pitched letter dated April 30, 2009, to the NRC about the February leak saying “We are shocked that a 1.5 inch diameter hole, leaking at a rate of 18 gallons per minute, could develop without detection.” Undoubtedly this was a serious leak and when Entergy located and plugged up the hole in the corroded, buried pipe, it was estimated that 100,000 gallons of water laced with low levels of tritium had escaped.

The local papers reported on the leak in February but the New York Times did not. Instead, the paper ran a metro brief about Congress calling for an independent safety assessment of Indian Point.

My story about the February leak appeared in The North County News,

It’s important to note that the New York Times needed a national hook to report the two-month old leak, the "after the fact" has become a growing trend for the “paper of record” and veers away from local coverage, even if it does affect some 30 million people.

Washington usually deals with the issue of nuclear power in the greater context of energy, so the news media gives us less information about potential problems at aging nuclear power plants, such as Indian Point, and how they are being regulated.

The story about the leak is the tip of the iceberg when dealing with inaccessible sprawling networks of underground pipes and cables necessary to run a nuclear power plant. Failures in these systems can come from a variety of things, including age, water damage, earthquake shifting, rats or other burrowing vermin.

Questions to be asked: How does the NRC monitor these underground systems when they can’t see them? Is there a list of inaccessible underground cable systems and pipes showing when they were installed and the rates of failure?

In a letter from the NRC to Entergy dated October 30, 2008, the regulatory group thanks Entergy for supplying some information about how they assess their underground cables.

The NRC also requested the information from other plants including Oyster Creek in New Jersey because of a failed buried cable needed for emergency operation of a diesel generator and from the Palisades Nuclear Plant in Michigan for aging affect that were unmonitored.

The three page letter basically says the NRC has all the information it needs, but at
the time, Lochbaum said the NRC asked plant owners only one basic question: it they had buried cables for key systems that might age faster than expected – a good question but too narrow, too focused.

The question that would garner a more detailed response would have been: Are there underground cables or pipes in environments harsher than was assumed that is speeding up the aging process?

Arguments against Entergy’s license renewal application for continued operation of the two reactors has included one made by the NYS Attorney General about old pipes. The AG argues that Entergy does not provide an adequate Aging Management Plan for buried pipes, tanks and transfer canals that contain radioactive fluid. Those contentions are being considered in the re-licensing process.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Will de-sal plant filter out radioactivity?

Questions to ask:

Will a desalination water plant make Hudson River water drinkable?

If a water treatment plant is built on the banks of the Hudson River right across from the Indian Point Nuclear Power plants, will water holding radioactive isotopes regularly discharged from the power plant into the river, be made drinkable?

The environmental group, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater doesn’t think a de-sal plant can filter out Indian Point’s radioactive discharges. The desalination plant is expected to be built by United Water New York in Haverstraw, Rockland County, and the application is being reviewed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Clearwater is arguing that Indian Point’s owner, Entergy, shouldn’t have their license renewed until a water safety study is done. Entergy has applied to extend the operating license for reactor units 2 and 3 for 20 more years. The application is in the final stages of being reviewed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB).

“They need to look at the transport of radioactive isotopes in the Hudson River and they haven’t done that,” said Manna Jo Greene, environmental director at Clearwater about Entergy’s license renewal application. “Can the isotopes move across the river? Can they be removed using reverse osmosis?”

Reverse osmosis is an expensive filtering process which extracts out radioactive Strontium-90, which is a particulate. Extracting tritium is more difficult because it is a radioactive form of hydrogen.

The desalination plant will draw up to 10 million gallons of river water daily and could take in up to 20 million gallons per day for 12 hours during the low tide.

The majority of contentions against Entergy’s re-licensing application were filed last year with the ASLB who have accepted contentions filed by the DEC, Riverkeeper, Clearwater and Attorney General’s office.

This latest contention filed by Clearwater would come under “new and significant” information. Neil Sheehan of the NRC said the plans for the desalination plant have been known for quite some time. “It was discussed in our Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the application. In any case, the ASLB judges would need to consider the motion to submit a new contention and rule on it.”

Question to ask: When will the ASLB judges rule on Clearwater’s contention?

Sheehan’s answer: “The judges rule when they're ready; there is no exact time frame.”

Monday, April 13, 2009

Juggling radioactive fuel at Indian Point

Juggling radioactive fuel at Indian Point

Entergy is asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission if they can increase the handling of high level radioactive spent fuel at the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plants in Buchanan, NY.

Instead of taking spent fuel from the Indian Point Unit 3 spent fuel pool and directly placing it in concrete canisters for storage at the plant, Entergy wants to first transfer the fuel to Unit 2.

Currently the process includes extracting used fuel assemblies out of the spent fuel pools, placing them in concrete casks, driving them to a dedicated storage concrete pad onsite.

Because Entergy only owns one 125-ton crane (located at Unit 2, pictured here) needed to lift the canisters holding the fuel assemblies, Entergy claims it would be more cost effective to transfer the Unit 3 spent fuel to the Unit 2 spent fuel pool, then use the Unit 2 crane to place the fuel into storage casks. Entergy will purchase a newly designed transfer cask to transport the fuel across the site from Unit 3 to Unit 2.

Entergy spokesperson Jerry Nappi said the cost of a new crane is $30 million. “There are no plans to purchase a new crane for the Unit 3 fuel storage building.” Nappi added that it cost significantly more to install a new crane in Unit 3 because the current layout of the building wouldn’t support a new crane.

Spent fuel pools at both Indian Point reactors are nearing capacity, with bundled assemblies of spent fuel rods now being stacked dangerously close to one another. The rods contain plutonium and other radioactive isotopes needed in the reactor to create electricity.

John Boska, NRC Senior Project Manager for Indian Point, said he expects an official request from Entergy for the license amendment some time in July, which will start a 30 -60 review process. The NRC will then issue a notice to the Federal Register.
“The public will have hearing opportunities when we issue a Federal Register notice.” A public hearing request can be filed at that point with the NRC.

The Federal Register site is Information on requesting a public hearing is at the NRC site:

Boska also added that the request would not affect Entergy’s license renewal application.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Pump Problems Indian Point

The Indian Point 2 reactor had to be shut down on Friday morning, April 3, because of a problem with the main boiler feed pump. The pump feeds water through the reactor and into the steam generator, the converted steam goes to the turbines that generate electricity.
Jerry Nappi of Entergy, the company that owns Indian Point, said the pump stopped working because there was a drop in oil pressure in a line carrying oil to the main boiler feed pump. Plant workers fixed the pump and Unit 2 was up and running next day. Neil Sheehan of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the shut down went smoothly and plant workers followed procedures.
A year ago in March, pumps pulling in water from the Hudson River malfunctioned causing another quick shut down. Two months later a broken water valve at Unit 2 forced Entergy to temporarily withdraw the plant from feeding into the state’s electrical grid.

Indian Point Reactors are Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR). PWRs keep water under pressure so that it heats, but does not boil. Water from the reactor and the water in the steam generator that is turned into steam never mix. In this way, most of the radioactivity stays in the reactor area. In the image of the reactor, the pump is located between the condenser and the reactor.