News

“Indian Point over safety hurdle for relicensing” by Mary Dempsey

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Indian Point is one step closer to being relicensed.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission released Wednesday, Aug. 12, its safety evaluation report on the nuclear power facility and concluded that there are no outstanding issues that would prevent Entergy’s request for a 20-year licensing renewal. The facility’s 40-year operating license for units 2 and 3 is set to expire on Sept. 28, 2013.

“The NRC’s report is another step in the process of relicensing,” said Jerry Nappi, an Entergy spokesman. “It’s an important step in the process and demonstrates how Entergy has met all of its obligations to ensure the plant will run safely through the period of licensing renewal, or the next 20 years.”

The safety report is one of two areas the NRC focuses on during its relicensing process. The report “marks the completion of the NRC staff’s safety review that is published and subsequently reviewed and publicly discussed by the agency’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards,” according to the NRC.

With the safety review completed, the NRC is reviewing the environmental portion of the plant’s license renewal application. The commission must complete the environmental review before a final decision on the license renewal can be made, according to the NRC.

Riverkeeper, based in Tarrytown, questioned the results of the NRC’s safety report, said Deborah Brancato, a Riverkeeper staff attorney.

“We don’t agree with the NRC’s report,” Brancato said. “Riverkeeper has raised several safety concerns that the final report doesn’t address.”

The environmental group will continue to submit safety concerns regarding the Indian Point plant with federal regulators at future public hearings on the issue, she said.

“We will raise our issues with Indian Point during the hearing process,” Brancato said. “We are focusing on the hearings and we will press the issues as far as we can.”

Although Riverkeeper plans to make its case concerning safety issues at Indian Point during the hearing process, the group has not ruled out taking the issues to court.

“It’s too hard to say at this point if we would go to court,” Brancato said.

The release of the report comes two days after a lightning strike shut down Indian Point’s unit 3 nuclear power plant. It is expected to be offline for a few days, Nappi said.

“Our belief is that a lightning strike caused an electrical disturbance in the Buchanan switchyard located across the street from the plant,” Nappi said.

A lightning strike near the switchyard is the probable cause of the problem, he said.

“We quickly realized what the problem was,” Nappi said. “A lot of the systems have to be checked out and evaluated before we go back online but it should be back up within the next couple of days.”

There was no release of radioactivity and no threat to the safety of workers or the public, he said.

Although the shutdown was caused by a natural occurrence, Riverkeeper questions the number of unscheduled shutdowns the facility has had in the past six months.

“We do understand that it (the shutdown) was caused by a lightning storm,” Brancato said. “We are somewhat concerned that there is another unwarranted shutdown in a short period of time.”

Units 2 and 3 have both experienced at total of at least four temporary shutdowns as a result of mechanical malfunctions since March, which were subsequently repaired. None of the shutdowns caused any release of radioactivity, Nappi said.

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