News

“Indian Point’s emergency phone system silenced” by Glenn Blain

An emergency telephone system used by Indian Point officials to quickly notify local governments and the state about problems at the nuclear plants was out of service for at least part of the weekend.

Technicians making routine tests yesterday discovered that the Radiological Emergency Communication System was not working, said Jim Steets, a spokesman for plant owner Entergy Nuclear Northeast. The outage was traced to a computer problem and the system was restored by 9:15 a.m.

“It could have gone down over the weekend, but no sooner than last Friday,” Steets said. “The system checked out fine Friday afternoon.”

Steets insisted that the complex has backup systems that would have let it communicate directly with the state and county emergency service officials if necessary. If all else failed, he added, they simply could have called government officials directly.

“It is a dedicated phone system set up to communicate in a radiological emergency,” Steets said. “It is a phone line. So they would just go to a normal telephone system if we had to make the call.”

The outage was just the latest problem for Entergy. On Thursday, Entergy had to shut down one of the reactors at the complex because a pipe was found to be leaking water and steam into the containment dome that houses the reactor. The leak was repaired and the reactor resumed operation on Saturday.

Entergy recently announced plans to seek new federal licenses for the plants, which would keep them operating through 2035. The original 40-year licenses for Indian Point 2 and 3 are set to expire in 2013 and 2015, respectively.

Opponents of the nuclear plants say the telephone system’s failure is further proof that Entergy’s management of the facility is lacking and that the company should not receive new licenses.

“Time and time again we see Entergy management failing to maintain properly emergency equipment, such as sirens and now this phone system,” said Lisa Rainwater, director of the environmental group Riverkeeper’s Indian Point Campaign.

Susan Tolchin, chief adviser to Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano, said the communication system outage, while not a serious problem, was “not a good thing.”

Such communications difficulties, Tolchin added, were among the reasons why Spano believes the plants should not receive new licenses.

“They would have had to have called everybody on a normal phone line,” she said.

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