“BUCHANAN – Federal regulators were still sorting out yesterday whether the latest emergency shutdown of Indian Point 3 would trigger tighter oversight of the nuclear reactor’s operations.
The nuclear reactor went into automatic shutdown at 8:32 p.m. Monday, after a lightning strike at a Consolidated Edison switch yard across from the plant apparently caused a power surge, officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Indian Point said.
“The plant acted like a giant circuit breaker and tripped automatically,” said Jerry Nappi, a spokesman for Entergy Nuclear, which owns and operates Indian Point.
“The NRC will have to look into it and make a determination about what transpired,” Nappi said.
NRC resident inspectors were going through shutdown procedures and worker actions yesterday, but the preliminary indication was that tighter oversight would not be required, despite this being the fourth unplanned shutdown this year.
“It’s a rolling average,” NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said of the system, which tracks unplanned shutdowns per 7,000 hours of operation. “This was induced by nature; it wasn’t their fault. But it counts as an unplanned shutdown nonetheless.”
Indian Point 3 had been working for nearly two years without an interruption until it shut down in March for a planned refueling.
Those months of continuous operation may serve the plant well because the shutdowns look to be spread over enough time not to trigger extra regulatory supervision.
“We’re stilling crunching the numbers, but preliminarily it looks like they won’t be over the limit,” Sheehan said. “One more in the immediate future certainly would.”
Plant engineers have found no equipment damage as a result of the surge, Nappi said. He estimated that the plant, which is basically idling without completely shutting down, would be back online in a matter of days.
“Plants only go to cold shutdown if they have a more serious issue involved equipment,” Sheehan said.
The shutdown itself went by the book, NRC officials said, except that one of the transformers on site didn’t “fast transfer” to an off-site location as it was supposed to because a breaker failed to close.
A diesel generator kicked in automatically, Sheehan said, and supplied necessary power.
Workers followed procedures properly in handling that incident, he said.”
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