Indian Point nuclear plant officials say amount of radioactive steam released was 'Insignificant'
BY Abby Luby
SPECIAL TO THE NEWS
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.