“BUCHANAN — Indian Point 2 workers found a small leak of radioactive water in late August that company officials and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission felt wasn’t significant enough to be made public, a move that angered county officials yesterday.
The leak, which company officials announced yesterday, is between a half pint and a pint per day and probably came through cracks in the spent-fuel storage building at the nuclear power plant that were discovered during a construction project to reinforce walls.
“There is no radiological hazard to workers or the public and the potential environmental impact is minimal,” officials from Entergy Nuclear Northeast, which owns the plant, said in a prepared statement sent to media outlets a little after 2 p.m. yesterday. “Soil samples taken three feet from the area where the moisture was detected showed normal background levels of radiation.”
The water contained trace amounts of radioactive cesium and cobalt, both of which are present in the storage pools, company officials said.
Michael Slobodien, one of the company’s top on-site emergency experts, said the amount of radiation was more than 100 times below levels detectible by the average Geiger counter, less than the amount in a typical smoke detector.
With little information available yesterday, the details of the leak worried county officials some, but not as much as the lack of communication by the company and the public entity overseeing it.
“We just met with Entergy, the NRC and the Department of Homeland Security last week,” said Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano. “They let us know about the most minuscule things and didn’t say anything about a leak. When did they think they should tell us?”
NRC officials said yesterday in a press release that they had already started an investigation and had learned about the leak Sept. 2.
“The risk significance is low in terms of public health and safety,” said Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the NRC. “We’re talking about a small amount of water. We’re doing a special investigation because we want to make sure that (Entergy) has their hands around the extent of the cracking, the extent of the leakage, and determine exactly where this moisture originated.”
The construction project is part of the company’s effort to change the storage of radioactive rods used to generate electricity from water to a dry-cask storage facility on the site in Buchanan by the end of next year.
Entergy officials said earlier deep-core borings taken in six locations near the pool as part of the dry-cask storage project showed no elevated levels of radioactivity.
“Structural and civil engineers inspected the cracks and determined they are typical of cracks seen from shrinkage during post-construction concrete curing,” said Geoffrey Schwartz, Entergy’s manager of Indian Point 2’s dry storage project. “The cracks do not weaken the wall, and the pool is structurally sound.”
Entergy engineers and health physics technicians are continuing to analyze soil samples and will monitor the area around the fuel storage building in addition to routine radiological monitoring.
Sheehan said the agency had a public health official and a structural engineer on-site already and was satisfied the 400,000-gallon pool was sound. He said there was little likelihood that enough water had leaked to make it into nearby water supplies.
Riverkeeper, an environmental group that has called for the closing of Indian Point’s two working nuclear plants, wasn’t satisfied.
“It’s outrageous that we have yet another safety breach at Indian Point,” said Alex Matthiessen, the organization’s president. “When is it time to say enough is enough?”
Matthiessen called on New York’s U.S. senators — Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton — as well as Gov. George Pataki to launch a complete investigation of the spent-fuel storage facility and to test the drinking water supplies of the surrounding communities.
Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef expressed frustration similar to Spano’s about the leak, but said he was equally concerned about what else might be wrong at the nuclear plants.
“Something like this erodes confidence about getting timely information about Indian Point, which is critical,” Vanderhoef said. “But the second question is, what else is there that we don’t know about? Are there any other tanks with cracks in them? This raises more questions than it answers, and none of it is good.””
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