“BUCHANAN — Another week, another set of challenges for Indian Point –
first, problems with a siren test Monday and then an unplanned reactor
The nuclear plants ran into what Indian Point officials hope was a glitch
when 123 of the new 150 emergency sirens failed to successfully complete an
The sirens are required to be ready to go by a week from Sunday, and county
emergency officials said they hadn’t expected to see a step backward so
close to the deadline.
“This test was clearly disappointing,” Anthony Sutton, Westchester County
commissioner of emergency services, said of the Monday morning test. “We
expected it to go in a positive direction, and it went in a negative
Then about 4:15 a.m. yesterday, Indian Point 3 workers shut down that
nuclear reactor as it was going back to full power from a 24-day refueling
There were low water levels in the plant’s steam generators, where steam is
used to help produce electricity.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission and local emergency officials commended
nuclear workers for their quick action, noting that unplanned shutdowns
occur more frequently when plants go back online than during routine
Jim Steets, a spokesman for Entergy Nuclear Northeast, which has owned and
operated Indian Point since 2001, said the shutdown went smoothly and the
appropriate notifications were made to the NRC and county officials, but
that there were no safety concerns.
“It’s a disappointment when it happens and frustrating for the workers,”
Steets said. “But it doesn’t affect public safety.”
The latest stoppage puts Indian Point 3 near its limit for unplanned
shutdowns per hours of operations.
Another shutdown between now and June 30 would push Indian Point plant up
to a white rating from green, the safest of four operational categories.
One area of public safety likely to create a great deal of discussion in
the next 10 days is how the new, $10 million siren system will do as it is
readied to take over from a system that caused emergency services and plant
officials headaches for more than two years.
After repeated failures during routine tests and other wholesale failures,
the company decided to replace the decades-old network of 156 sirens.
Congress decreed in 2005 that a backup system was required and Entergy
executives opted instead to start from scratch, saying they could have the
new one up and running by Jan. 30, 2007.
They ran into problems that the NRC agreed were beyond their control –
local permitting and construction obstacles – and asked for a 75-day
They will be testing again tomorrow to see if they were able to iron out
“We don’t think this is a matter of the sirens not activating,” said
Steets. “We think that it was largely about polling.”
The sirens must communicate with a central point to let county officials
know they’ve sounded. Without that polling from the 150 locations, police
and fire officials can’t be sure if the sirens alerted residents about an
emergency at the nuclear plant.
“If it comes up red on the computer screen, that means it didn’t sound as
far as we’re concerned,” said Sutton, the commissioner. “That was the
biggest trouble we had with the old system. We don’t want to be in that
same place with the new system.”
Steets said the system was being tested as part of the installation, and
problems were to be expected.
Two other tests Monday found a total of 12 sirens that didn’t work properly
– fewer than the number in earlier tests.
NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said if the system is not operational by
midnight April 15, the NRC could levy fines and other sanctions against
Opponents of the nuclear plant said yesterday that the siren issue is just
one of many facing Indian Point.
“This latest apparent fiasco with the new siren system raises serious
doubts as to whether Entergy will have it up and running by the NRC
deadline,” said Phillip Musegaas, a policy analyst with the environmental
group Riverkeeper. “In the meantime, Hudson Valley residents continue to
live with a jury-rigged system that may or may not work if the need
Steets said the company remains confident that the new system will be
operational by April 15.”
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