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.