U.S. Undercuts Indian Point Disaster Prophecy

     (CN) — Though activists warned the D.C. Circuit of a “catastrophic nuclear meltdown,” regulators assured the court Tuesday that a few hundred missing bolts near the reactor’s core are not worthy of court intervention.
     Green groups led by the Washington-based Friends of the Earth filed an emergency petition nearly a week ago, complaining about the failure of U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to address problems detected in Indian Point’s Unit 2.
     Entergy, which owns the plant, discovered nearly three months ago that that “over one in four of the stainless steel bolts holding together a crucial structure surrounding the nuclear reactor core in Unit 2 of the plant were degraded or missing entirely,” the 28-page petition states.
     Since then, the tally of bolts needing replacement has since increased to 278, or just more than one in three, according to the petition.
     If the metal plates on the interior of the reactor core separated, the core could be deprived of necessary cooling water, potentially provoking a “catastrophic nuclear meltdown,” the petition states.
     “The regulator’s response so far to this increased risk to public health and safety is to allow Entergy, the licensee and regulated party, free rein to decide whether and to what extent it should analyze the cause of the failure, and to determine when, in Entergy’s opinion, Unit 2 is safe to restart,” it continues.
     In a response brief filed Tuesday with the D.C. Circuit, however, Assistant Attorney General John Cruden called court intervention unnecessary.
     “Ultimately, NRC has permitted Entergy to continue operating Unit 2 because it has a license to do so and because the agency, after looking into the issue as a result of its own oversight activities and considering the request that it take immediate enforcement action, has not identified a reason to suspend the license,” the brief says. “And petitioners’ framing of their petition here as an ’emergency’ simply invites the court, inappropriately, to substitute its judgment about nuclear safety for the NRC’s technical expertise.”
     Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. announced Tuesday that it will not renew the license of the two reactors at Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. The plant is due to close in 2025 after 31 years of operation.
     Indian Point, located a mere 38 miles from New York City, has faced mounting calls to close in the wake of a May 9, 2015, fire at the plant that caused fluid to spill into the Hudson River.
     New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo added his voice to the chorus of those demanding Indian Point’s shutdown, and the incident intensified criticism of the loosened federal regulations for plant owner Entergy.
     The commission is already fending off a lawsuit by environmentalists in New York.
     Nuclear Information and Resource Service helped bring last week’s petition in the D.C. Circuit, as did Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. They say regulators should delay rebooting the plant’s unit pending resolution of the case.
     The groups are represented by Washington-based attorney Richard Ayres.
     Entergy’s spokesman Jerry Nappi said in an email that the challenge by a “longtime anti-nuclear organization is not a surprise.”
     “Rigorous technical analysis conducted by Entergy and outside engineering experts demonstrates Unit 2 and Unit 3 can continue to operate safely,” Nappi wrote. “Highly qualified experts at the NRC are fully aware of this analysis, and Entergy is proceeding according to NRC process and under the watchful eye of this regulator. NRC monitors our performance in this and other areas to ensure the plant is safe now and on an ongoing basis.”
     “The issue of baffle bolts that degrade over time is a known issue in the nuclear power industry, which is why we performed comprehensive inspections while Unit 2 was shut down for a planned refueling outage,” he continued. “Entergy replaced all identified degraded bolts at Unit 2, and moved up the date of the planned inspection of Unit 3’s bolts from 2019 to early next year.”

%d bloggers like this: