“WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — A small amount of slightly radioactive water has leaked from the spent-fuel pool at the Indian Point 2 nuclear power plant, officials said Tuesday.
Spokesmen for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and for Entergy Nuclear Northeast, owner of the Westchester County plant, said the water was found several feet underground and was no danger to the public or to plant workers.
Less than a pint a day has been collected since the water was spotted in late August and soil samples show no radioactivity a few feet away, the officials said.
“We see nothing at this point that indicates any widespread contamination,” commission spokesman Neil Sheehan said.
He said there was “nothing to the extent that anyone exposed to it would suffer any severe health effects.” Nevertheless, the NRC launched a special inspection, he said.
Indian Point’s critics said the leak was another indication that the plant should be closed, and Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano said he should have been informed long before Tuesday.
“It’s absolutely unbelievable that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Entergy would keep us in the dark,” he said. “This leak could be small; it could have reached the Hudson (River); it could have been going on for years.”
The 40-foot-deep pool, which has a steel liner, holds the highly radioactive fuel assemblies that have been used in the nuclear reactor. The rods of fuel are submerged to shield them from the air, and the water in the pool becomes slightly radioactive from the fuel.
Entergy said the pool remained structurally sound.
The water was found along hairline cracks on the outside of the pool’s walls, which are 4 to 6 feet thick, during an excavation and reinforcement project, Entergy spokesman Jim Steets said. Entergy is converting its spent-fuel storage from pools to dry casks, and the reinforcement was part of that plan, he said.
Test results showing that the water was from the spent-fuel pool were not complete until Monday, he said.
The pool often has been criticized by opponents of the two Indian Point plants in Buchanan, 35 miles north of midtown Manhattan, not because of leaks but because they claim it is not protected well enough from an air attack. If fire burned off the water, the radioactivity from the fuel rods could be catastrophic.
The pool is refilled automatically if any water leaks out, however.
Alex Matthiessen, president of the environmental group Riverkeeper, called the leak “yet another safety breach at Indian Point” and demanded an investigation of the plant’s spent-fuel storage system and a test of the drinking water of the communities around the plant.
Steets said the hairline cracks are not necessarily the source of the leak because they were typical of cracks that develop from normal concrete curing after construction. He said there was even a chance that the newly discovered water was left over from a leak that was repaired 13 years ago.
Discovery of the leak has not interrupted the reinforcement project, Steets said. And it might not even have to be repaired if the amount of water lost does not reach 25 to 30 gallons a day, he said.
Sheehan, the NRC spokesman, agreed that “it remains to be seen” if a repair will be necessary.”