The Northern Westchester Examiner

NRC Deems Indian Point Safe Despite Recent Concerns

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Indian Point protestors.
Indian Point protestors.

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Committee told those on hand for an annual hearing in Tarrytown last week the Indian Point nuclear power facility in Buchanan is running satisfactorily.

But many of the hundreds of people in attendance for the June 8 event at the DoubleTree hotel in Tarrytown told committee members several high–profile malfunctions at the site were good reasons to dispute that claim.

The five members of the committee gave a brief synopsis of issues at the site in the past year before giving their yearly diagnosis of the venerable plant, which will soon celebrate its 39th year in operation.

“Overall, Entergy operated the plant safely and within the conditions of their license,” said committee member Glen Dentel.

Dentel said the recent issues at the plant were of a very low safety significance and had no significant impact on public safety. Entergy addressed the issues in a timely manner, he added.

Unplanned shutdowns at Unit 3 exceeded the NRC’s threshold of three shutdowns per 7,000 hours of operation, which caused the performance indicator to go from green to the less desirable threshold level color of white.

“What that means is that the NRC will conduct supplemental inspections at unit 3 to ensure they fully understood the cause of the shutdown, evaluated any common cause between them, and taken proper corrective actions,” Dentel explained.

Fellow committee member Ray Lorsen said the Tritium leak at the plant that occurred in February had been mitigated. An NRC inspection into the leak is ongoing and results are expected to be released later this year, but investigators currently believe the leak has been identified and stopped, and the leak has been attributed to activities associated with the water storage tank.

“We have determined the actual dose, consequence or hazard in this event to be a small fraction of what is permitted under industry regulations, and a very small fraction of what all of us receive every year as normal background radiation,” Lorsen said.

Degradation of stainless steel bolts found in the Indian Point 2 reactor during required inspections, which have since been replaced. Committee member Jack McHale said inspectors found 227 of 832 bolts were potentially degraded or missing.

Those bolts hold a series of vertical metal plates in place that aid with the reactor cooling process. Radiation assisted stress-induced cracking, which is a known and expected occurrence in such units over long periods of time.

“The number of degraded bolts is the largest seen to date in a U.S. nuclear power reactor, so the NRC is closely monitoring this situation,” McHale said.

Entergy has pushed up the inspection of Unit 3 for such issues from 2019 to this year, but McHale said the NRC believes that unit will be less susceptible to such degradation due to the unit’s lower significantly fewer operation hours.

Another issue of concern addressed was the work underway at the Algonquin gas pipeline, a project that runs underground very close to the Indian Point plant from across the Hudson River and then travels northeast to Maine. The project, which has been approved by the federal regulators, is owned by Spectra Energy. It is expected to be completed later this year. The project has received intense scrutiny from environmental groups, residents and some state politicians, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has also called for the closing of Indian Point.

Committee member Mike McCoppin told those at the hearing the pipeline posed no danger to the public or Indian Point, and that any explosion that may occur in the pipeline would not prevent crews from closing off the pipeline.

Members of the public who spoke ran the gamut from supporters of Indian Point to opponents of the plant wanted it shut down as soon as possible, such as Judy Allen of Putnam Valley. Allen said she would be delivering a petition signed by 12,966 area residents calling for the plant’s immediate closure to the United States Congress. Allen told the NRC representatives they no longer had any credibility in her eyes.

“You have not been doing your job,” Allen remarked. “You have basically been a lapdog for Entergy and the running of Indian Point. There have been so many things that are wrong with that plant, and yet you continue to say everything is fine, the safety is fine, it’s green, it’s white, but it’s not any of those things. It’s really bad.”

Fellow plant opponent Paul Blanch, a nuclear power expert, accused the NRC of ignoring some of its own regulatory policies and said the NRC declined to investigate accusations of misconduct brought up by opponents such as himself, such as false documents accepted from applicants.

“The consequences of your wrongdoing, given Indian Point’s age, history, mismanagement, lack of oversight and (surrounding) demographics, is the most threatening man-made facility in the world,” Blanch said. “The risk of a major radioactive release is more than 100 times greater than acceptable by the NRC’s standards. Twenty million people are in danger.”

Other speakers argued the plant was necessary to provide the area with affordable energy. David Morris, an electrical engineer in the nuclear industry, said existing solar and wind facilities could not replace the energy output of Indian Point any time soon. “Under the existing growth rate of wind, combine with the growth of solar, it would take 20 years to replace the carbon-free energy generated in 2014 by Indian Point,” Morris argued.

Natural gas, which yields much higher carbon emissions, would also increase sharply if nuclear power was abandoned, he said.

Also speaking on behalf of the facility was new Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas. Abandoning nuclear energy would lead to higher fossil fuel use and increase the possibility of blackouts, Thomas said. The impact of carbon emissions is far more serious for seniors and those with respiratory illness, and Mount Vernon contains a disproportionate amount of people with significant health disparities.

“Too often, minority communities must bear the burden of pollution and poor air quality,” Thomas said. “Closing Indian Point would make the situation even worse.”

A video and transcript of the entire June 8 NRC hearing will be posted on the NRC’s website,, later this month.

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