Here are 2007 Indian Point articles, editorials, op-eds and letters in chronological order with the most recent first. You can also find news from 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002 and 2001. If you find an article that should be included, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pieces specifically about the ongoing leak of tritium and strontium 90 can be found here.
Spring Valley group challenges Indian Point license extension
By GREG CLARY
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original Publication: September 25, 2007)
A Spring Valley-based group opposed to Indian Point is the first to challenge the nuclear plants' license extension, filing papers citing 26 issues it wants federal regulators to examine as they decide the future of the facility.
The group, Friends United for Sustainable Energy, or FUSE, filed papers Friday with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, contending that Entergy Nuclear, the owners of both working reactors at Indian Point, cannot combine the two units into one application.
The group also said Entergy should have to consider environmental and other effects of the site's nonworking reactor, Indian Point 1.
"For 40 years the owners of Indian Point have routinely avoided complying with some of the most important federal regulations designed to protect the health of our children and families from the terrible risks of a nuclear accident or terrorist attack," the group wrote in a press release sent to some media outlets via e-mail early yesterday morning.
"Before a facility can be relicensed for another 20 years of operation, it must have adequate aging-management plans in place, must be capable of preventing offsite radiological incidents that could affect public health and the environment," the group wrote.
FUSE members were able to meet the Oct. 1 deadline for filing the request for a hearing, even after joining a chorus of parties, including the state Department of Environmental Conservation, that successfully lobbied the NRC for a 60-day extension in the 22- to 30-month process.
That was granted late Thursday by the NRC, which now will close the window for such requests on Nov. 30.
Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the NRC, wouldn't address the particulars of FUSE's 173-page "intervenor petition," but said the agency would respond to all requests together, with a decision coming months after the new deadline.
"It won't likely happen until after the first of the year," he said.
Agency officials said that all the contentions presented by those requesting hearings would be considered by a three-member Atomic Safety and Licensing Board.
Each group must establish that it has standing and substantiate its contentions in writing with backup documentation.
Should a contention or group not be accepted, the first route of appeal is to the five-member Nuclear Regulatory Commission itself. After that, the next avenue would be the courts, NRC officials said.
Entergy spokesman Jim Steets said his company's application combining two reactors had plenty of precedent.
"Several plant owners have combined their applications for two sites, so it's not new for Indian Point," Steets said. "What's important is that you address the differences, as we did in our application."
Steets said any issues facing the closed Indian Point 1 reactor were part of NRC oversight and not designed to be evaluated in the license renewal of working reactors.
He asserted that Entergy had invested large sums of money in the site to ensure that it runs safely well into the 21st century.
"Our aging-management plan will address each and every maintenance issue," Steets said. "Entergy has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into both Indian Point 2 and 3 to (ensure) their safe operation."
New York Times, September 24, 2007
Indian Point Faces New Challenge From Opponents
By MATTHEW L. WALD
WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 — An antinuclear group filed legal papers with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Friday evening opposing the relicensing of the Indian Point 2 nuclear reactor in Westchester County.
As a result, a panel of judges must consider the validity of the assertions — setting the stage for a long and contentious new chapter in the dispute over the plant and its companion, Indian Point 3.
There is already strong opposition to the relicensing of other nuclear power plants, including Oyster Creek in southern New Jersey and Vermont Yankee, which is on the Connecticut River just north of the Massachusetts border. Panels of three administrative law judges are studying those applications as well.
A hearing is scheduled to begin Monday in Toms River, N.J., on the request for a 20-year licensing extension of Oyster Creek, the oldest commercial reactor in the country, and a hearing is also likely for Vermont Yankee. Another three-judge panel is considering hearings for the Pilgrim nuclear plant, in Plymouth, Mass.
The antinuclear group, Friends United for Sustainable Energy, or FUSE, of Spring Valley, N.Y., contends that for decades, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its predecessor, the Atomic Energy Commission, improperly held the Indian Point reactors, which are in Buchanan, N.Y., to less stringent design requirements than those the government applied to newer plants.
The requirements, which lay out in broad terms what safety precautions must be built into a plant’s hardware, were often changed in the 1960s and early ’70s, when the Indian Point reactors were built. According to the petition by FUSE, the builders claimed at one point that they met the draft criteria, but actually met only the criteria the nuclear industry was lobbying for.
The commission itself focused on precisely what standards were used, and what should have been used, when it analyzed the plant again in the early 1990s. In 1992, the commission decided not to require Indian Point to meet the criteria for newer plants.
“You don’t start from scratch,” said a spokesman for the commission, Neil Sheehan, on Friday, describing the decision to consider relicensing the plant now without making it comply with rules approved after its completion.
But FUSE argues that the 1992 action was a violation of a federal law designed to ensure fairness in administrative procedures. And the failure of the builders to heed the requirements that applied to newer plants “substantially reduces safety margins,” the group contends.
Entergy, which owns the reactors, insists that the plant was safe as built and still is.
FUSE also charged that Entergy has failed to submit an adequate plan for maintaining safety at the plant as its components age. The operators are promising merely to reach agreement later, thereby limiting public input, the group said.
But James Steets, a spokesman for Entergy, said in a telephone interview that it was in the nature of such maintenance plans that they evolved as the plant aged, and that “you never finish.”
Entergy bought Indian Point 2 from Consolidated Edison and Indian Point 3 from the New York Power Authority. The reactors are now owned by separate subsidiaries of Entergy. Plant opponents have argued that this is a legal strategy to limit the corporation’s liability in the event of an accident.
They now contend that because the reactors are separately held, Entergy cannot submit one application for renewal of both licenses. The opponents also note that while the two plants are of similar design, construction was managed by different engineering companies.
The application, according to FUSE, “creates an avalanche of a mixing of safety, technical and environmental issues caused by comingling.”
But Entergy, the first operator at the site to run both reactors, has been trying to integrate their operations. Mr. Steets said that the differences in the plants were accounted for in the details of the application for the extension, and that Entergy was seeking, for financial reasons, to bring them under the ownership of a single subsidiary.
Rockland joins effort to expand Indian Point licensing review
By LAURA INCALCATERRA
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original Publication: August 25, 2007)
NEW CITY - Rockland County has joined an effort to get the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to change its relicensing criteria regarding Indian Point.
Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano took the case to federal court in February after the NRC denied the county's petition to change the criteria. He said the agency decided without holding hearings or making fact-finding efforts.
The NRC does not consider factors such as population density and the ability to conduct an effective emergency evacuation as part of the relicensing process.
Spano wants the NRC to consider both those issues, along with plant security, including its vulnerability to terrorist attacks.
Rockland County is now seeking the same.
"We want them to look at the plant as if it were a brand-new plant coming in," County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef said. "Would you put it here if you were starting over?"
The case is before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in Manhattan and could be heard in mid-October.
NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan, said yesterday that the agency's primary areas of focus was plant operations, including safety systems, structures and components, and potential environmental impacts that could result from a 20-year license extension.
He said the NRC had received requests over the years to expand its criteria, but it had not done so because the agency routinely reviewed many of the issues raised by Spano.
For example, the NRC does not wait 20 years to review evacuation plans but does so routinely, he said.
"We're not looking at it separately as part of the license renewal," Sheehan said. "We're looking at it on an ongoing basis."
Rockland Legislature Chairwoman Harriet Cornell said she expected that more action would be needed and that it was possible the county would officially intervene in the NRC's review process. Such action would provide the county with certain legal standing as the review proceeded.
Vanderhoef said it might be difficult to intervene if the county cannot determine specific scientific and environmental concerns. The county cannot raise issues such as population density and its compatibility with nuclear power, since the NRC does not consider those criteria in its review.
Entergy Nuclear Northeast, which owns and operates Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3, announced plans the day before Thanksgiving to apply for license extensions for both plants. If granted, the renewals would allow the plants to operate until 2033 and 2035, respectively.
The original 40-year license for Indian Point 2 will expire in 2013. A similar license for Indian Point 3 will expire in 2015.
Entergy says new Indian Point sirens are working, asks for more review time
By MICHAEL RISINIT
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: August 24, 2007)
BUCHANAN - Federal emergency officials are reviewing the Indian Point nuclear power plant's new emergency siren notification system before deciding whether it can go into service.
Entergy Nuclear Northeast, the plant's owner, notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency late Wednesday that its long-awaited, updated siren system was in place and ready to go.
Though the company says it has completed tests proving the sirens are dependable and are sounding loudly enough so residents can hear them, FEMA review and approval of the data are needed before the system can be deemed operational.
FEMA told the company on Monday that review would take 45 days - which pushes Entergy well beyond today's deadline imposed by the NRC. In a letter yesterday to the NRC, Entergy asked the agency for extra time while FEMA conducts its review. The NRC had levied a $130,000 fine against the nuclear power company after it missed a second deadline in the spring to replace the alert system.
"As of this hour, it doesn't appear they (Entergy) will meet the deadline," NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said yesterday afternoon. "We will have to consider Entergy's request."
Rep. Nita Lowey said she is calling on FEMA to review the siren system expeditiously. Also, she said, the NRC should fine the company for not meeting the deadline.
"Entergy must be held responsible for dragging its feet on providing FEMA with the information it needs to assess whether the siren system is finally compliant with the law," said Lowey, D-Harrison.
The updated system is to improve on the decades-old air-raid-type sirens, which will remain in place until the new sirens are fully operational. The sirens in the 10-mile emergency planning zone around the Buchanan plant - about 340 square miles covering parts of Westchester, Putnam, Rockland and Orange counties - are meant to alert residents to turn on radios and televisions for more information in an emergency.
Jim Steets, an Entergy spokesman, declined to speculate on what measures the NRC may take while Entergy waits to see whether it has satisfied FEMA's concerns.
"We understand there is still a review process. But we did all we could," Steets said. "We have an operating siren system now. In fact, we have two."
Entergy agreed in late 2005 to replace its sirens. A series of siren failures that year led to elected officials calling for the NRC to require a better system. The new system was supposed to be in place by the end of January this year. The company received a 75-day extension from the NRC but missed its April 15 deadline, resulting in the fine. Sheehan said further enforcement action, if any, could include another fine or other measures.
FEMA is studying whether the new sirens sound loudly enough individually so residents can hear them over background noise. Such a worry comes from Riverkeeper, an environmental group that is working to close the plant.
"The area that concerns FEMA, and that would concern us as well, is that the sirens aren't loud enough," said Phillip Musegaas, a Riverkeeper staff attorney. "Until FEMA has confidence in the plan, we're not going to have confidence in it."
Steets said the new sirens are loud enough to be heard outdoors.
"If you're inside, you're probably listening to the radio, watching TV or can answer the phone," he said.
The new $15 million system includes battery backups for the 150 sirens, multiple activation methods by which Entergy can sound the sirens and a more reliable reporting system to alert local authorities if they have sounded.
Susan Tolchin, chief adviser to Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano, said the county also awaited FEMA's approval of the new sirens. Residents should be able to hear them inside their homes, she said.
"We're definitely not rushing to praise Entergy," Tolchin said.
At Indian Point, Sirens Aren’t the Issue
New York Times, Westchester Section, August 19, 2007
To the Editor:
Re “Warning System or Cause for Alarm?,” by Kate Stone Lombardi (column, Aug. 12):
Indian Point’s new siren system is not the real issue. Entergy has not been forthcoming about problems at its nuclear plant, including leaks, cracks and workers’ safety concerns, so why would it be about the need for evacuation (or sheltering, because the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people can’t possibly work)?
Entergy initially rebuffed residents and officials calling for a new siren system. Entergy, in partnership with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, has rebuffed almost everything the public has requested to preserve our health and safety.
The bigger question is: do we really want any of our electricity provided by a source that requires 155 sirens to alert us to cancer-causing emissions from the plant? Taxpayers have been subsidizing nuclear energy since its beginning. If our taxes went instead to subsidies of solar, wind and hydropower, we wouldn’t need sirens.
Putnam Valley, N.Y.
New York Times, Westchester Section
August 12, 2007
Warning System or Cause for Alarm?
By KATE STONE LOMBARDI
MAYBE the third time will be a charm. Certainly the folks at Entergy Nuclear Northeast, which owns the Indian Point nuclear power plants, hope so. On Aug. 24, the company faces a third deadline to get its new $15 million emergency siren system up and running. So far, the process has been pretty discouraging.
The system was supposed to be working by the end of January. Entergy received a 75-day extension from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But on April 12, three days before the second target date, 31 sirens failed to sound during a test. After Entergy missed the April deadline, the N.R.C. fined the company $130,000.
With the August deadline less than two weeks away, Entergy officials said they were optimistic.
“We’re confident we’ll make it,” said Jim Steets, a spokesman for Entergy. “Obviously, there’s been pressure. It’s been real hard for the folks putting the siren project into place because these are capable, dedicated people frustrated by working through the complexity of the system and dealing with the criticism of it not being in place.”
It’s not surprising that they’re taking some heat. The public’s confidence has been sorely tested. If Entergy can’t get a siren system to work, it’s understandable that opponents are asking if it might have more serious problems running the nuclear facility itself.
The sirens are meant to alert residents within 10 miles of the plant of an emergency. The company is replacing its existing system, built in the 1970s, with a higher-tech model. The 155 new sirens have four-way speakers and backup batteries and can be activated by cellphone, radio signal or through the Internet.
So far, testing of the new system has exposed one problem after another. Sirens that were supposed to be heard miles away were inaudible in several areas. Alarms that were meant to be tested silently blared unexpectedly, startling residents who had not been warned.
Meanwhile, residents are being protected by the old system, which also has a history of failure, going out of service for hours at a time.
Mr. Steets said that two problems had led to delays in activating the new system. First, because it covers municipalities in four counties (Westchester, Putnam, Orange and Rockland), the process of getting permits for the sirens was cumbersome. Second, there were unanticipated difficulties with activating the sirens by radio signal.
“This is the very latest technology,” Mr. Steets said. “It’s a tough challenge, and the topography here doesn’t lend itself to communicating through the airwaves.”
All of these difficulties come in the midst of Entergy’s application to renew the nuclear power plants’ licenses for another 20 years. Indian Point 2’s license expires in 2013, Indian Point 3’s in 2015. The application process takes nearly three years.
The siren problem has no bearing on the relicensing. Neil Sheehan, an N.R.C. spokesman, said that the application review focused on two areas: programs to manage the effects of aging on the plants, and preparing an environmental impact statement.
The question of emergency preparedness — which of course includes the sirens — is part of N.R.C.’s daily oversight, Mr. Sheehan said. Should Entergy miss the third siren deadline, Mr. Sheehan said the N.R.C. would consider additional fines and other enforcement options.
Even if the emergency siren system isn’t formally part of the relicensing process, the plants’ opponents are making the connection. Lisa Rainwater, policy director for the environmental group Riverkeeper,, said, “For the communities around Indian Point, this siren debacle has become symbolic of Entergy’s inability to run this plant.”
She added that the plants’ problems were hardly limited to the sirens, citing the plants’ high shutdown rate, leaks of strontium 90 and tritium, and what she called a chilling work environment that discourages workers from identifying safety issues.
But no one, even the plant’s fiercest critics, should be rooting for the sirens to fail again this month. If you live within 10 miles of the power plants, as my family does, the stakes are too high for anything less than success.###
Journal News, August 6, 2007
Indian Point review is needed
In response to Jerry Kremer's July 30 letter, "Extra Indian Point review unnecessary," it is worth noting that Indian Point is among the most scrutinized plants in the country because it has had more problems than others, including multiple and continuing unplanned releases of radioactivity, being the only plant in the U.S. that is known to be leaking strontium 90, cesium and other radioactive elements into the environment. The plant has had more unplanned outages than others, which resulted in a lowered safety rating. This plant also has an evacuation plan that was thoroughly studied by a former director of FEMA and declared to be inadequate and largely unfixable. And their efforts to install a workable siren system are like a long running soap opera. Indian Point is also built on top of a seismic fault.
And Mr. Kremer's assessment of the relicensing review is a horrible joke since it includes only non-moving parts of the plant, such as the extensive and leaking pipe system, which is largely inaccessible to inspection because it is buried or imbedded in concrete. The only way the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can check the integrity of the pipes is by digging wells and saying "not leaking yet." It is also worth noting that the existing leaks were found by accident during construction work and not because of the NRC's presence at the plant.
Mr. Kremer should state that his organization has been founded and highly funded by Entergy. Paid spokesmen should be more forthright.
Please note NYAREA is funded by Entergy
Thank you for your continuing coverage of the Indian Point. It is important to present various views. However, it is also important not to allow Entergy to mislead the public into believing that a group established by Entergy to promote Indian Point, the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (NYAREA), is some sort of independent grassroots organization. The July 30 letter by NYAREA chairman Jerry Kremer, "Extra Indian Point review unnecessary," describes NYAREA as "a nonprofit organization advocating for reliable, affordable and clean energy solutions."
I would hope that The Journal News is, by now, aware that NYAREA is a prime example of an industry front group. The Center for Media and Democracy did an expose of nuclear industry front groups which focused specifically on Entergy and NYAREA. Note, in particular, that in Massachusetts there is a pro-nuke group called MassAREA which - by amazing coincidence - also has Entergy as a member and funder!
Given the millions of dollars Entergy has expended in its ongoing PR campaign, I think it is critically important that articles mentioning NYAREA give recognition to - at the very least - the fact that Entergy has been a funding source. Entergy has admitted to having funded NYAREA, but has been very cutesy about the degree of such funding; nevertheless, The Journal News can simply note the financial connection.
The writer is a member of the Steering Committee on Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition and chairman for the Council on Intelligent Energy & Conservation Policy.
August 2, 2007
Minnesota Bridge Collapse Could Have Been Nuclear Reactor
By Royce Penstinger
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Minnesota Bridge Collapse Could Have Been Nuclear Reactor
First, our heartfelt concerns and prayers go out to the people of Minneapolis, Minnesota tonight as they deal with this horrible human tragedy. Watching the staggering devastation as it unfolds on CNN, it is a miracle that the loss of human life has not been far greater. The helpfulness of average citizens has been remarkable, and the response of Minneapolis's emergency crews has been sterling. Sadly, it seems the same cannot be said of DHS (Department of Homeland Security) and FEMA, who hours later apparently do not yet have boots on the ground at this devastating tragedy. How hard would it be for DHS, FEMA, the FBI and other agencies of the Federal Government to have boots on the ground, offering help in Minneapolis's hour of need? It is noted here that the National Guard is on the scene, and they and other local emergency service agencies deserve our debt of gratitude. Pity President Bush has not even bothered to issue a statement at this late hour, but then not surprising.
FOX News did an interview with someone from the MDOT in which he discussed some of the potential causes of this catastrophic collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge near University Avenue. His first assumptions lead one to believe the cause and effect has to do with cracks and fissures, rust and other degradation and aging issues, coupled with poorly executed inspections by government charged with the task of PUBLIC SAFETY. So, a concrete and steel structure is taken down in the blink of an eye due to structural aging issues, steel fatigue, and perhaps embrittlement of the concrete. These significant aging issues, coupled with a deplorable inspection and/or enforcement program have left people dead, maimed and injured. Families have been devastated all because the government failed to do its job properly, failed to carry out and/or implement and adequate inspection program.
This early report on possible causes of the bridge collapse is a frightening eye-opener for those of us living within a scant few miles of America's 104 aging, embrittled and fatigued nuclear reactors. The NRC, in pushing a Nuclear Renaissance agenda, has pushed human health and safety to the sidelines, putting corporate profits ahead of adequate inspections, honest and truthful enforcement. This reality, the NRC's rubber-stamping of license renewal applications of ancient nuclear structures amounts to our Federal Government, DOE, NRC and the NEI (Nuclear Energy Institute) playing Russian Roulette with public health and safety, and as this tragedy shows, government ineptness or corruption eventually sees members of the general public paying the ultimate price of their stupidly and greed.
Minnesota's collapsed bridge is not much older than Entergy's failing Indian Point nuclear reactors that sit beside the Hudson River, just a scant 24 miles up-river from New York City. The comparisons between the Interstate 35W bridge near University Avenue, and America's aging fleet of nuclear reactors is startling, but the repercussions of a reactor failure would be far more catastrophic than a bridge collapse. Entergy's Indian Point is known to have a rusting steel liner and fissure cracks abundant on the twin domes of these ancient nuclear relics. The patchwork quilt of failing weld joints speaks to the fatigue of failing steel in both liner and reactor core.
The DOE and NRC reports admit to a lack of knowledge when it comes to aging effects on both the concrete and steel of these reactors as they are bombarded with radioactive particles day and night for over 30 years. Despite this lack of knowledge, the NRC has no problem pushing safety inspections back for periods of five or more years and has no problem granting license renewals without a Independent Safety Assessment of the entire nuclear reactor facility before even considering the granting of a license renewal application.
Many reactors in America, such as Vermont Yankee and Indian Point owned by Entergy, are known to have serious structural issues. Indian Point has leaking spent fuel pools which are leaking both strontium-90 and tritium into the Hudson River. Stainless steel piping buried underground is known to be leaking radioactive contaminants into our environment. Yet, the NRC is content to turn a blind eye to these very real safety concerns that point to a failing of the structural integrity of these ancient relics.
The month of July should be a wake-up call for the nuclear industry and a wake-up call to the NRC that their sacrifice of public health and safety cannot continue. Just two weeks ago we had an earthquake shut down the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant, which was improperly and illogically built atop a fault line, much like Entergy's Indian Point. Now, we have a bridge in Minnesota that has collapsed, apparently due to either poorly done inspections, or age related degradation issues, or a combination of both. The NRC and NEI's callous disregard of safety issues is begging for a nuclear disaster here in America that will be far worse than tonight's bridge collapse, far worse than even Chernobyl. The time has come for an ISA (Independent Safety Assessment) of every aged, decaying, degraded nuclear reactor in America. There should be a moratorium on all relicensing activities nationwide until these inspections have been completed, and a report has been given to both Congress, and the American people.
Author's Bio: I am an anti-nuclear activist and publisher of two blogs on the subject of nuclear energy. Living less than three miles from Entergy's Indian Point, which is leaking tritium and strontium 90 into the Hudson, I write in the hopes of awakening the public to the horrors that are nuclear energy. NEI's lies about nuclear energy being carbon-free have to be exposed, their incestuous relationship with the NRC and DOE has to be brought into the light of day, and the wrongful rubber-stamping of license renewals ended before an American Chernobyl occurs.
Author's Website: http://greennuclearbutterfly.blogspot.com
Hinchey, Lowey, Engel, Hall Introduce Legislation To Create No-Fly Zone Over Indian Point
August 1, 2007
Bill Would Protect Millions of Local Residents
Washington, DC -- House Members Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Eliot Engel (D-NY) and John Hall (D-NY) today introduced legislation that would allow the Secretary of Homeland Security to issue a no-fly zone over Indian Point Nuclear Facility.
Although the proposed FAA airspace redesign does not include routes over Indian Point, it also does not explicitly prohibit such flights, and fails to adequately recognize the security threat the plant poses in such a highly-populated area. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has failed to address the situation, prompting today’s legislative action.
“There is absolutely no need for the FAA to keep the door open and potentially allow planes to fly directly above Indian Point," Hinchey said. "Even if we just considered the possibility of a plane having an accident it makes no sense to allow flights over a nuclear power plant, but when we factor in the risk of a potential terrorist attack by air against Indian Point it becomes abundantly clear that we need to act now and seal off this area. Allowing the Department of Homeland Security to step in and permanently bar flights from entering the Indian Point area is the right thing to do for the millions of people who live in the area.”
“Millions of Americans live and work in the shadows of Indian Point, and we know terrorists have considered nuclear facilities as targets,” said Lowey, who serves on the House Homeland Security Committee. “It’s unconscionable to allow airplanes anywhere near this facility. The air traffic around Indian Point is absolutely a security risk. Too much is at stake for the Department of Homeland Security to not act immediately.”
Congressman Eliot Engel said, “Indian Point remains the gravest potential threat to the metropolitan area and the 20 million people living there. That is why Rep. Lowey and I asked the FAA to create a no-fly zone around Indian Point last year. One of the terrorist flights that struck us so grievously on 9/11 flew directly over Indian Point on its way to the World Trade Center. Indian Point is too tempting a target for terrorists for us to minimize any potential risk.”
Congressman John Hall, a member of the House Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation, said that efforts to improve safety around Indian Point must include air traffic. “Public safety must be our foremost concern when it comes to Indian Point,” said Hall. “Indian Point operates in the nation’s most densely populated corridor with very heavy air travel. Giving the Department of Homeland Security the authority to issue a no-fly zone is a common sense solution to prevent a potential disaster, especially since no other Federal agency has taken up this responsibility.”
Indian Point gives reason to worry
Since the recent earthquake in Japan, every day brings new reports about the damage to the Kashiwasaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, including spillage and leaks of hundreds of gallons of radioactively contaminated water.
Predictably, the plant's owner says, "Don't worry, the plant is safe."
I can't help but think of Entergy's similarly comforting statements. Entergy says don't worry that the Indian Point plant site is built on a seismic fault line. Don't worry that we have not been able to get the new evacuation sirens to work. Don't worry that Indian Point has been leaking irradiated water for years, and we still are not sure of where it is all coming from and flowing to, or how much water and irradiation is escaping. Don't worry that Indian Point was given consideration as a 9/11 target.
With Indian Point's application to renew its operating license for 20 more years, now is the time for all of us living in the plant's environs to raise our voices and come down on the side of our health and our safety.
NRC accepts Indian Point's application
to operate 20 extra years
By GREG CLARY
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: July 26, 2007)
Federal nuclear regulators yesterday accepted Indian Point's relicensing
application to keep the nuclear plants operating until 2035, kicking off
what will likely be a combative review that could last three years.
The acceptance by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission also starts a 60-day
period for the public to request and participate in formal hearings on
issues they want the federal government to address during the relicensing
"We've just completed our review and we're at the point where we're
comfortable enough to go forward," said Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission. "The window for requesting a hearing is going
to be opened."
The battle will decide whether nuclear reactors will continue to produce
electricity in the Lower Hudson Valley, part of the nation's most densely
The combatants could end up including everyone from Gov. Eliot Spitzer and
the local congressional delegation and elected officials to environmental
groups and nuclear industry activists.
Entergy Nuclear announced its plan to go for 20-year extensions for Indian
Point 2 and Indian Point 3 in November. The company filed the application
documents three months ago.
Indian Point 2's license is set to expire Sept. 28, 2013, and Indian Point
3's on Dec. 12, 2015.
Sheehan acknowledged yesterday that the agency has yet to decline any of the
48 relicensing applications it has accepted as the industry moves well into
middle age, though some were kicked back to the operators for additional
work or knocked out before they were accepted.
"We ask many questions along the way, so that questions do get resolved
during the process," Sheehan said of the 27- to 35-month review.
Indian Point's application ran into a delay last month when the NRC found it
lacking on the issue of what type of fuel would be used for backup
generators at Indian Point 2. The company responded by committing to install
a diesel fuel system to replace a natural gas-powered system within a year.
"Their acceptance of the application officially kicks off the process,"
Entergy spokesman Jim Steets said yesterday after learning of the NRC's
decision. "To that extent, we look forward to making the case for these
plants to continue to operate."
Yesterday, Spitzer said during an interview with The Journal News Editorial
Board that he continues to seek ways to increase alternative and renewable
methods of producing electricity so that Indian Point can be closed without
losing the 2,000 megawatts of electricity that it produces. That amount is
equivalent to the power needed by about 2 million homes.
He said the state was still looking at its options related to the federal
relicensing review, including intervening and requesting a hearing. He said
he had not made a decision on how he will proceed.
"I'll be very clear - I'm not a fan of having a nuclear facility where
(Indian Point) is," Spitzer said. "It just doesn't make sense. I would like
to see us in a position to close it. I also made it very clear that we can't
rationally talk about that until we have (alternatives)."
Officials from Riverkeeper, an environmental group that opposes the plants'
operation, said they expect to fight the plants' renewals as long as
"Although it's nothing new, the NRC acceptance of Entergy's applications
fails to address vital environmental concerns Riverkeeper raised ... in a
17-page letter to the NRC," said Lisa Rainwater.
She said Riverkeeper has already pointed to three key concerns: how the
plants' cooling system affects aquatic life and warms the Hudson River, as
well as continuing leaks of radioactive isotopes tritium and strontium 90.
"We will be intervening in this process," Rainwater said.
Reach Greg Clary at 914-696-8566 or email@example.com.
Nuclear regulators want updated inventory of uranium 235 at Indian Point
By GREG CLARY
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original Publication: July 24, 2007)
BUCHANAN - Federal nuclear regulators are requiring Indian Point officials to open a nearly 20-year-old storage container for radioactive parts to verify that a tiny quantity of uranium 235 is accounted for properly.
The unstable form of uranium can and has been used to make atomic bombs, though Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Indian Point officials said the amounts in question at the nuclear plant are many thousands of times too small to make a bomb.
Still, the NRC wants to make sure it knows the exact locations and quantities of all the radioactive material under its control.
"We're especially concerned about any material that's in a spent fuel pool," NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said. "This material needs to be tightly controlled."
The NRC has not cited Indian Point on this issue and Sheehan said the agency would wait until the container is opened next month before deciding on possible enforcement.
"These containers are supposed to be opened on an annual basis, unless they have a tamper-resistant seal," Sheehan said. "We wouldn't be looking at this if this weren't part of the regulation. They should have done a better job of maintaining records of what they had in the pool."
Jim Steets, a spokesman for Entergy Nuclear Northeast, which owns Indian Point, said there are eight used detectors, in 2- to 3-foot sections, located in a bolted container in the spent fuel pool of Indian Point 3.
The rods are part of old mechanisms used by the previous owners to check the power levels of the nuclear reactor.
Steets said the 32 parts contain 8/10,000s of a gram of uranium 235 each. Combined, they make .025 percent of a gram.
According to the Web site "The Nuclear Weapon Archive," (nuclearweaponarchive.org), the atomic bomb dropped at Hiroshima on Aug. 8, 1945, and known as "Little Boy," used 700 grams of uranium 235 in nuclear fission, to create an explosion equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT dynamite.
Since the storage container predated the company and was bolted shut, company officials believed it didn't need to be opened as part of their annual inspection of the pool, Steets said. NRC records indicate that the container was filled in 1988-89.
Steets said company officials only recently learned that the NRC expected containers such as this one to be inspected because though the container is bolted, it is not completely tamper-resistant.
Because of the small amount of uranium 235 and the complex process of opening the container, the company opted to check the contents during its annual inspection next month.
NRC officials approved that schedule, Sheehan said, because of the danger of working in the spent fuel pool and the need for proper equipment and expertise, which agency officials said sometimes takes time to bring in to the plant.
With the heightened level of public interest in Indian Point since workers there discovered radioactive tritium and strontium 90 leaks, NRC officials have been notifying local and federal elected representatives of all developments at the nuclear plant.
Rep. Nita Lowey, D-Harrison, has been trying to get the plant closed down for years and is fighting its relicensing application. She said the latest development is a result of poor management of the plant.
"At a time when intelligence indicates security risks are at critical high, we can't afford to have loosey-goosey security measures at nuclear power plants located in the most densely populated areas of the country," Lowey said. "The incompetence at Indian Point imperils an entire region and absolutely requires that the plant be shut down."###
Cuomo files brief; power plant's future up in the air
by John O'Brien, Legal News Online
NEW YORK - New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo wants the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to reconsider its procedures for relicensing nuclear power plants and filed a brief Thursday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Specifically, Cuomo wants regulations that may help to deny the relicensing of Indian Point Power Plant because, among other things, it may be a terrorist target.
"This brief raises serious questions about the NRC relicensing process -- a process that ignores important factors about nuclear power plant safety and is stacked in favor of plant operators," Cuomo said.
Cuomo criticizes the NCR for focusing only on the age-related structural degradation of the non-moving components of a plant, like the reactor core, containment system, pipes and electrical cables. He would like to see the NCR review factors like:
-Location of the plant and local population density;
-Security and susceptibility to a terrorist attack;
-Acceptable emergency warning and evacuation plans;
-Geographic and seismic issues; and
-Demonstrated compliance with ongoing regulatory requirements.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal joined in the brief with Cuomo, who says new criteria could have an effect on the future of Indian Point Power Plant. Some want the plant, located on the Hudson River, shut down, while others claim such an act would put a strain on New York City's energy supply.
"Our brief reinforces a position I have long held -- New York needs to work toward an energy future without Indian Point," Cuomo said.
Under the current relicensing regulations, Cuomo says the NRC has granted approximately 48 license renewals without turning any down. The first-term Democrat says now is a good time to start.
"From its proximity to the most densely populated area in the United States, to its vulnerability to terrorist attacks, to the lack of an acceptable evacuation, Indian Point presents a vital threat to the safety of millions of New Yorkers and the residents of neighboring states," Cuomo said.
Cuomo is worried because the 9/11 Commission reported al-Qaeda terrorists contemplated attack nuclear plans with aircraft, and two of the hijacked planes flew over Indian Point.
The case is Andrew Spano, et al. v. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Westchester suit against federal nuclear regulators gains state support
By GREG CLARY
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: July 13, 2007)
WHITE PLAINS -State attorneys general from New York and Connecticut weighed in on Indian Point's relicensing yesterday, supporting a Westchester lawsuit to force federal regulators to evaluate working nuclear plants the same way they do new sites.
"This brief raises serious questions about the (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) relicensing process - a process that ignores important factors about nuclear power plant safety and is stacked in favor of plant operators," Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said in a prepared statement.
"Our brief reinforces a position I have long held," Cuomo said. "New York needs to work toward an energy future without Indian Point."
Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano yesterday followed through on a February promise to take the case to federal court after the NRC denied the county's petition to change relicensing criteria.
Spano sought to have the agency look at population density, the viability of emergency evacuation plans, potential for terrorism and a plant's environmental record.
He said the federal regulations were adopted in 1991 and amended in 1995, too far removed from today's world.
"We live in a different age since 2001," Spano said. "To be responsible, the NRC cannot continue doing things the way they were done previously."
Connecticut State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal also supports the legal action.
NRC spokesman Diane Screnci declined comment on the matter yesterday, saying the agency can't publicly discuss any court case.
Screnci did say that Indian Point's relicensing application, which was filed April 30 and normally takes six to eight weeks to be accepted, had not yet been approved for processing.
NRC officials said in rejecting Spano's original petition that the proposed changes were unwarranted. The agency looks almost exclusively at the operation of whatever plant is seeking a 20-year license renewal.
Factors such as demographics, siting and the ability to conduct an effective emergency evacuation are not part of the relicensing application. The agency says it considers those in ongoing reviews.
Entergy Nuclear Northeast, which owns and operates Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3 in Buchanan, announced plans the day before Thanksgiving to apply for license extensions for both plants. If granted, the renewals would allow the plants to operate until 2033 and 2035, respectively.
The original 40-year licenses for Indian Point 2 will expire in 2013. A similar license for Indian Point 3 will expire in 2015.
"The NRC's refusal to require consideration of emergency planning and security concerns as part of Indian Point's relicensing review is unjustifiable, given the significant changes in population density, increase in traffic congestion and increased concerns over terrorism in the New York metropolitan area," said Alex Matthiessen, president of the environmental group Riverkeeper.
Matthiessen said the attorney general's support was welcome.
Jerry Kremer, chairman of the industry group New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, said the plant was a safe facility that was important to the state's economy and air quality.
"In light of our growing demand for and the rising cost of energy, Mr. Cuomo's announcement is shortsighted and ignores the energy needs of the downstate area," Kremer said. "New York's state officials should be looking for ways to create new electric power and not look for ways to choke off what we have."
The case is expected to be heard in mid-October.
Reach Greg Clary at 914-696-8566 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Westchester appeals NRC’s Indian Point relicensing criteria decision
White Plains – The County of Westchester Thursday filed an appeal with the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit challenging the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s denial of the county’s petition to change its relicensing criteria for the Indian Point nuclear power plants.
County Executive Andrew Spano said the NRC should have granted the county’s petition or told the officials they needed more information. “They should have held a public hearing,” he said. “Operating a nuclear power plant in 2007 is far different than in 1995 when relicensing criteria was last looked at.”
Spano said Entergy and Indian Point should be judged on how they have been operating. “Indian Point has siren problems. Indian Point has environmental problems,” he said. “Just because it is here now, is not a reason for it to be here for the next 20 years. The NRC must put aside any bias toward the nuclear industry and consider all these issues.”
Westchester was joined in its appeal with the New Jersey Environmental Federation and the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club. New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal both filed friend of the court briefs.
Meanwhile, anti-Indian Point environmental groups Clearwater, Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson commended Cuomo for joining in the Indian Point appeal.
But, the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance said Indian Point “is a safe facility whose continued operation is critical to New York’s economy, improving the state’s air quality, and ensuring that New York reduces greenhouse gas emissions significantly in the coming years.
New York Times, July 13, 2007
Albany: Nuclear Standards Challenged
Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo filed legal papers yesterday challenging the standards used by federal authorities to determine whether to extend the license of a nuclear reactor. Mr. Cuomo filed the papers in support of a legal challenge to the relicensing of the Indian Point nuclear plant in Westchester County by Andrew J. Spano, the county executive. The plant’s owner, Entergy Nuclear, wants to extend the licenses of the plant’s two active reactors for 20 years beyond their expiration dates of 2013 and 2015. Mr. Cuomo said federal regulators needed to evaluate more than the condition of the reactors before making a decision, and to consider factors like evacuation plans, the operator’s performance and the risk of terrorism. An Entergy spokesman said those issues were already included in continuing regulatory oversight.
Westchester Citizens Awareness Network
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 12, 2007
Contact: Marilyn Elie: 914-954-6739 Margo Schepart: 914-325-4620
WestCan Supports Attorney General Cuomo and County Executive Spano Expanding the Criteria for Relicensing of Indian Point
The decisions of the NRC as it now functions, do not reflect the reality of life in Westchester when it comes to population, traffic, or radioactive isotopes leaking into the Hudson River. We are extremely grateful that Attorney General Cuomo is taking this assertive initiative to protect the health and safety of the people of New York. There's more to re-licensing a nuclear plant than managing aging equipment and environmental degradation. What about the humans who live here? Indian Point was originally sited in Buchanan because 35 years ago this was a rural area of the country. That's no longer the case and the enormous increase in population cannot be ignored.
Margo Schepart from WestCAN said, "Under existing regulations, a new nuclear plant could never be sited in this region. It defies logic that this reality has no bearing on the re-licensing process for Indian Point. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission can no longer be allowed to pretend that factors like increased population and massive traffic congestion do not matter." She went on to add, "Having public meetings does not guarantee that public input will be taken into account. For years the public has been raising grave concerns about these very issues. They’ve been told repeatedly that current regulations address their concerns and that the status quo is just fine.”
Marilyn Elie of WestCAN said, "The NRC is an agency that writes its own rules. It follows the ones it likes and changes the ones it doesn't. For years they required the county executives to sign off on the evacuation plan. When County Executive Spano refused to do so, they approved the plan anyway. This is not an agency we can trust. For years they did not even know tritium was leaking into the Hudson River and when they found out they said it did not matter."
At a July 9, 2007 NRC meeting in Cortlandt Manor, NY, Tony Sutton, Westchester's top emergency preparedness official, made the point that for years they had complained about the unreliability of the old emergency siren system but had no way to compel changes. He said that the county did not have a "stick" and neither did FEMA. The only entity with power in this regard was the NRC through their permitting process. Sam Collins, Regional Director of the NRC, acknowledged that the old siren system met regulatory requirements even though stakeholders felt it was not adequate or safe. It was only when Congress passed a law requiring a new system that Entergy complied. Lack of adequate regulation of the industry and a lack of transparency for the public is part of an agency wide problem.
On July 11, Knox News reported that federal regulators are reviewing a policy that has kept details on an East Tennessee nuclear facility — including a potentially deadly spill of highly enriched uranium last year –hidden from the public. "NRC inspection reports suggest that it was merely a matter of luck that a criticality accident did not occur," reads a letter, signed by U.S. Reps. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat. The details of this accident are at: http://knoxnews.com/news/2007/jul/11/erwin-uranium-spill-cloaked-in-secrecy/
News from Attorney General Andrew Cuomo
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Albany Press Office / 518-473-5525
New York City Press Office / 212-416-8060
ATTORNEY GENERAL CUOMO CALLS FOR EXPANDED CRITERIA IN THE RELICENSING OF NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS
~ Cuomo Challenges the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Review of
Indian Point ~
NEW YORK, NY (July 12, 2007) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today
announced the filing of a brief calling for the federal Nuclear
Regulatory Commission (NRC) to broaden the criteria considered in the
relicensing of nuclear power plants -- an action that could have
implications for the Indian Point power plant. The brief was filed with
the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
“This brief raises serious questions about the NRC relicensing
process - a process that ignores important factors about nuclear power
plant safety and is stacked in favor of plant operators,” said
Attorney General Cuomo. “Our brief reinforces a position I have long
held - New York needs to work toward an energy future without Indian
Under its current relicensing regulations, the NRC focuses only on the
age-related structural degradation of fixed, non-moving components, like
the reactor core, containment system, pipes, and electrical cables.
NRC relicensing regulations do not call for review of factors such as:
* Location of the plant and local population density
* Security and susceptibility to a terrorist attack
* Acceptable emergency warning and evacuation plans
* Geographic and seismic issues
* Demonstrated compliance with ongoing regulatory requirements
The current relicensing regulations were developed in 1991 and 1995,
when the NRC concluded that limiting the scope of its inquiry would make
the relicensing process “more stable and predictable” for the
licensees. To date, the NRC has granted approximately 48 license
renewals, and it has yet to deny one.
“From its proximity to the most densely populated area in the United
States, to its vulnerability to terrorist attacks, to the lack of an
acceptable evacuation plan, Indian Point presents a vital threat to the
safety of millions of New Yorkers and the residents of neighboring
states,” said Attorney General Cuomo.
Approximately 20 million people - about six percent of the nation’s
population - live within fifty miles of Indian Point. The 9/11
Commission reported that al-Qaeda terrorists had specifically
contemplated attacking nuclear power plants with aircraft, and two of
the planes hijacked on September 11, 2001 flew near or over Indian
Point. 2006 marked the fourth straight year that Westchester, Rockland,
and Orange Counties refused to certify county-based evacuation plans
prepared by Entergy, the plant’s owner.
Indian Point’s original forty-year operating licenses for Reactor
Unit 2 and Reactor Unit 3 end in 2013 and 2015, respectively. In May
2007, Entergy submitted license renewal applications to the NRC for
these reactors. Entergy seeks to extend their operating licenses for
another twenty years, or until 2033 and 2035.
Attorney General Cuomo was joined by Connecticut Attorney General
Richard Blumenthal in filing the amicus brief. The case in which
Attorneys General Cuomo and Blumenthal filed the brief is Andrew Spano
et al. v. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (2d Cir. 07-0324-ag). It
is currently pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the
The brief was filed by the Attorney General as amicus curiae, or
“friend of the court,” in support of a challenge to the NRC
originally brought by Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano and two
New Jersey environmental groups. The Westchester and New Jersey
petitioners seek to compel the NRC to evaluate all aspects that affect a
nuclear power plant’s safety before renewing a license. In December
2006, the NRC refused the petitioners’ earlier request that the NRC
consider additional criteria in the relicensing procedure.
Westchester Country Executive Andrew Spano said, “I am very grateful
to Attorney General Cuomo who has put the tremendous efforts of his
office to help us to protect the public. Both of us feel that the
process must be changed so that there is a level playing field between
the public and the nuclear industry. So far, the NRC has never denied a
renewal. They must reset their priorities when public safety is at
The brief was prepared by Solicitor General Barbara Underwood, Special
Deputy Attorney General Katherine Kennedy, Deputy Solicitor General
Benjamin Gutman, and Assistant Attorneys General Morgan Costello and
John Sipos, all of the New York State Attorney General’s Office.
Power play: Cuomo will back bid to shut Indian Point plant
By ABBY LUBY
SPECIAL TO THE NEWS
Thursday, July 12th 2007, 4:00 AM
State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo will join the fight to shut the
Indian Point nuclear power plant, just 25 miles north of New York City
Cuomo will announce today his support of Westchester County Executive
Andrew Spano in his legal battle with the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission, the federal agency that oversees Indian Point, the Daily
News has learned.
Cuomo's office will provide the support through research, advice and
lawyers for court appearances.
Spano was criticized recently for spending nearly $100,000 of
taxpayers' money for legal services in his NRC fight.
The commission is considering extending the operating license of
Indian Point, the oldest nuclear power plant in the country, to 2035.
But Spano says the NRC is ignoring the plant's vulnerability to
terrorist attacks and the impact of a possible plant accident on the
21 million people who live in the metropolitan area.
Indian Point was in the flight path of the jets that crashed into the
World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
The plant was built on the banks of the Hudson River 35 years ago in a
then-rural area of Westchester. Today, more than 300,000 people live
within 10 miles of the plant. New nuclear plants are no longer allowed
to be built in such densely populated areas.
The NRC turned down Spano's petition in February to change the
relicensing process to include population density and evacuation
If the plant is unable to meet the NRC's criteria, it would have to
Indian Point officials renew vow to have sirens working by Aug. 24
By GREG CLARY
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original Publication: July 10, 2007)
CORTLANDT - Indian Point officials renewed their vow last night to deliver a new emergency siren system by Aug. 24, but federal and local officials said there is still much to be done to accomplish that goal.
"Aug. 24th sounds pretty soon to me," said Rebecca Thomson, a top official with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which must sign off on the new system.
FEMA's in-depth review of the new 150-siren notification system and operational training for emergency staff from Westchester, Orange, Rockland and Putnam counties are two critical elements of the project that Indian Point officials don't control.
Michael Slobedien, Indian Point's top emergency preparedness official, said he thought the system would be ready enough to train county workers by the end of this month, though Anthony Sutton, Westchester County's top emergency preparedness official, noted that schedules this time of the year can be difficult to coordinate with people taking summer vacations.
Sutton said the counties would do everything possible to provide Indian Point with what it needed.
"We want to get this system up and running," Sutton said. "It's been a long time coming."
Slobedien said the company would have to work as closely as possible to make sure FEMA had all the information it needed to complete its work.
"I think we have more discussions we need to have with FEMA," he said. "But it's our intent to have the system operational by Aug. 24th."
The company acknowledged to FEMA and officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at a sparsely attended public meeting last night that there is no single source of some of the problems technicians have found as they race to meet their third deadline after missing one in January and a second in April.
If Indian Point is successful, the new $15 million alert system would finally take over as the primary way to notify residents in an emergency at the nuclear plant.
It would replace a decades-old system that until the past six months had produced headaches with each successive failure, including once when all the sirens failed to sound.
Luckily for residents, as the new system has been under construction, periodic tests of the old system show it to be performing reliably.
Residents and public officials who stayed through the two-hour meeting raised concerns about everything from reliability and whether sirens were loud enough to be heard to whether continual testing was leading residents to too easily ignore warning sirens.
Slobedien said the company would continue to conduct a public outreach campaign to keep residents informed of testing, so they can differentiate between a test and an actual emergency.
NRC officials have said they will review the situation if another deadline is missed, but have not ruled out further financial and other sanctions.
The agency's top regional official said the NRC would continue to commit resources necessary to ensure that Indian Point's road to a completed installation wasn't impeded by the federal government, a sentiment echoed by FEMA representatives.
"We're looking forward to this coming to a successful end Aug. 24th," said Samuel Collins, the NRC's regional administrator.
North County News, July 5, 2007
Emotions stirred as relicensing hearings begin
By Abby Luby
Union members and Entergy employees showed up in force last week to support the relicensing application of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, responding with boos and jeers to those opposing the plant’s continued operation.
The divisive crowd of over 400 people came to the first public meeting held by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) last week in what promises to be a contentious battle to extend the plant’s operating license.
Crowded into the banquet hall at Colonial Terrace in Cortlandt Manor, both sides aired their views for more than two hours on the pros and cons of allowing the plant to operate 20 more years.
The meeting kicked off the lengthy process overseen by the NRC, the federal oversight agency who is reviewing the renewal application submitted by Entergy Nuclear Northeast, the plant owner. The application to extend the operating license is for reactor units 1 and 2, for which the current license expires in 2013 and 2015, respectively. Entergy submitted the application in April.
Jobs at Indian Point
The Coalition of Labor for Energy and Jobs held a press conference in an adjacent hall just before the meeting. Spokespersons urged some 200 union members to speak out in support of Indian Point.
Jerry Connolly, Business Manager of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, said he had worked at the plant in 1964.
“This plant supplies reliable energy to the city and our members depend on Indian Point for jobs,” Connolly said.
The coalition is made up by the Boilermakers Local 5, Millwrights and Machine Erectors Local 740 and Utility Workers 1-2. They were joined by the carpenters union and Teamsters International. Many were wearing T-shirts and caps and carrying signs reading “Right4NY.”
Bob Seeger, business agent for Millwrights & Machinery ,told the men, “We’re not sending members into a place that’s not safe. We can’t afford to lose 2,000 megawatts of electricity (a day). If we did, on a day like today, our beer would get warm, our ice cream would melt and the air conditioners wouldn’t run.”
The forum was slated as an information meeting to familiarize the public with the re-licensing process. The NRC project manager for Indian Point's relicensing application, Bo Pham, opened the public meeting saying the process could take up to two years.
“We do not duplicate the regulatory process in the renewal process,” explained Pham, making clear that re-licensing only looks at how Entergy has managed the aging plant’s safety systems and the design and operation of structural components. Pham also stressed that the application was in its preliminary review and has not been formally accepted by the NRC.
Buchanan Mayor Daniel O’Neill lauded the plant’s safety and advantages over a fossil fuel plant.
“I can see the plant from my backyard and the people of Buchanan are the ones who live with the plant every day,” he said. “If this was a fossil fuel plant it would add to health problems. Nuclear power is so much better in terms of safety and environment.”
To counter, Congressmen Eliot Engel and John Hall sent representatives who expressed concern about the ongoing radioactive leaks of Tritium and Strontium-90. Hall’s spokesperson, Susan Spear, cited plant safety as the critical issue.
“The plant is located near eight percent of the population of the United States and each week brings another mishap,” Spear said on behalf of Hall.
Hall has introduced “The Nuclear Power Licensing Reform Act” to oversee the relicensing process by Congress. Hall’s prepared statement said “Indian Point should not operate in a vacuum and neither should the relicensing process.” Engel spokesperson Joe O’Brien added that “Indian Point is a disaster waiting to happen.”
Former Assemblyman Jerry Kremer, who writes opinion pieces for Newsday supporting nuclear power, said “Indian Point is more important than ever because we need the power and we can’t build a new plant until 2012.”
The former assemblyman from Long Beach and member of the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance said nuclear power plants don’t release any greenhouse gases. He added that Indian Point provides over 1,000 jobs, eliciting thunderous applause from union members.
But others at the meeting from grassroots coalitions contended that nuclear power causes greenhouse gases and carbon emissions.
“I’ve met union people who are looking at alternative energy because they know the jobs it produces,” said Marilyn Elie, member of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition. “That’s the future.”
Elie asked Rani Franovich, Branch Chief in the NRC’s Division of License Renewal, if the NRC has acknowledged that green house gases produced by the nuclear fuel cycle. Franovich said that it is mentioned in the NRC’s generic environmental study.
“But I don’t have it in front of me so we will actually have to
come back to that question.”
Elie persisted by responding, “Does the NRC’s generic environmental study validate that the nuclear fuel cycle releases green house gases?”
“Yes, it does,” answered Franovich.
Later on, Elie said that greenhouse gases are released in both the production of fuel rods and the refining of uranium in coal fired plants.
Concerned Indian Point opponents asked why the emergency evacuation plan, considered unworkable because of the plant’s proximity to dense population areas, was not part of the relicensing application.
Katonah resident Peter Harckham, who lives just outside the evacuation emergency planning zone, said he was one of the 40,000 people that had to evacuate the Harrisburg area during the meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979.
“We’ve had evacuation experiences since then with 9/11 and Katrina,” said Harckham. “This is serious stuff. You should be putting everything on the table, not looking at only a few major components [of the plant’s operation] as business as usual.”
Union members were joined by Entergy workers wearing red T-shirts and caps emblazoned with “Entergy.” Although both Entergy employees and union members responded to statements with boos and cheers, few got up to speak. One that did was James Slevin of the Business Agent Utility Workers Union of America.
“You can’t cut off this power because it can’t be replaced,” said Slevin. “Nuclear power is here and it is environmentally clean and inexpensive.”
Phil Musegaas, of the environmental group Riverkeeper, referred to a letter to the NRC several weeks ago requesting the agency reject Entergy’s application because it was incomplete.
“We have yet to hear back from the NRC, so we are repeating our request here in public,” he said.
Musegaas asked the NRC about the consideration of spent fuel storage on site at the Buchanan plant as part of the renewal process. “Is there enough space on site to accommodate all the spent fuel as well as 1,000 tons of spent fuel being produced during the relicensing period?”
NRC’s Pham said he didn’t have the answer. “I don’t know if anyone has looked if space is available for spent fuel storage. I do know that Entergy’s position is that spent fuel can be safely stored on site. I’ll have to get back to you on that.”
There is currently over 1,500 tons of irradiated fuel stored in high-density pools at the Indian Point plants. The concern has been since 9/11 that the buildings housing the spent fuel are not designed to repel a terrorist attack. Entergy said in 2003 that its intention was to build on-site storage facilities by late 2007, but to date, is behind schedule.
Musegaas slammed Entergy for polluting the Hudson River with super heated water
from a discharge canal which, he said, was decimating the river’s fish
“The Hudson River is the main recipient of Indian Point’s pollution,” said Musegaas. “This river does not belong to Entergy as their private dumping ground for radioactive and super heated water that will contaminate our environment for generations. The Hudson River belongs to all of us, it’s part of the public trust and it belongs to all Americans, including the union members that are here.”
New meeting updating siren system
Entergy pledged last year to rebuild an emergency siren system by January 2007. The company was unable to get some system components to work and failed to meet a second deadline extension to complete the four county siren system.
The NRC imposed a one-time fine of $30,000, a sum plants are fined on a daily basis. The NRC has requested a meeting with Entergy to discuss technical issues of the siren system, such as dates for testing and completion for the new Emergency Notification System (ENS) with backup power.
Entergy omits info on re-license application
Missing the ‘Point’
By Abby Luby - North County News June 21, 2007
Information was omitted by Entergy in their application to re-license the Indian Point Nuclear Power plants.
The application to extend their operation for an additional 20 years is for reactor units 1 and 2 whose current licenses expires in 2013 and 2015, respectively. Entergy, the owner of the Buchanan based plant, submitted the application in April to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the federal oversight agency.
According to the environmental report section of the 2,500-page application submitted by Entergy on April 30, the company claims that the spent fuel pool in Unit 2 has not leaked since the 1990s and that recent findings of groundwater contaminated with tritium is from the older leaks.
Omitted was the fact that wells near Unit 2 were tested in 2000 when Entergy purchased the plant from Con Edison and at that time no leaks or groundwater contamination was detected. The wells were tested again in October of 2005 after cracks were found in the spent fuel pool, which resulted in a high concentration of tritium in the ground water, indicating that a new leak occurred sometime during 2000 and 2005.
This evidence was never mentioned in Entergy’s re-licensing application in keeping with their claim that there were no new leaks, a conflicting assertion to the NRC who in their March 16, 2006 Special Inspection Report on groundwater contamination at Indian Point, said the leak was new.
Entergy’s application is posted in its entirety on the NRC’s website at http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/operating/licensing/renewal/applications.htm.l
“It’s a question for Entergy—why they included some things and not others,” said NRC spokesperson Diane Screnci. “We’ve received it [the application] and we are looking at it initially. If there is more information we need to conduct the technical review then we will ask for more information.”
Studying the report is policy analyst and attorney Phillip Musegaas of the environmental group Riverkeeper. Musegaas said that Entergy intentionally picked specific information to go into the environmental report of the re-licensing application. “What they’re doing throughout this report is choosing data to support their position and ignoring the current data,” he said. “Ignoring pieces of information goes against the NRC regulations that requires applications to be compete and accurate.”
A June 4 letter to the NRC from Musegaas and Riverkeeper co-counsel Victor Tafur counters Entergy’s assertion that the leak is old because groundwater monitoring clearly indicated a tritium leak occurred at Unit 2 between 2000 and 2005. That would render the leak new. “The facts simply do not support Entergy’s assertion that the IP2 pool is no longer leaking or has not leaked since the 1990s,” they stated in the letter.
No mention of spent fuel pool search
Entergy’s claim that the leaks are old is based on their inability to find the source of the leaks in the liner of the Unit 2 spent fuel pool, the 40-foot-deep pool that stores used radioactive fuel assemblies.
Also omitted from the re-licensing application was the fact that Entergy could only check 60 percent of the Unit 2 spent fuel pool liner. Last year Entergy hired divers to search the liner but could not reach the smaller spaces between the numerous storage racks near the bottom of the pool resulting in an incomplete search.
In their re-licensing application Entergy didn’t include any plans to
complete their search for leaks in the pool liner but Entergy spokesman Jim
Steets said they are still pursuing ways to find the source of the leak.
“There are some areas of the spent fuel pool we have not visually inspected but we now have a vender who is designing a camera that can do inspections in those very small areas that we haven’t yet seen.”
Steets said data indicates the leaks are old.
“We’re increasingly of the belief and growing in confidence that there is not an active leak in the pool,” he said. “We have a lot of data based on sampling from the many wells we’ve installed around the pools that tell us this leakage near IP2 was a one-time event.”
Structural status of aging plant
Neil Sheehan, an NRC spokesman, said the re-licensing process only looks at structural problems of aging nuclear power plants and unless the irradiated water leaks are caused by actual cracks in the spent fuel pool, the NRC won’t consider the leaks relevant.
“We haven’t made a determination if we will look at that [sent fuel pool cracks],” said Sheehan. “If it’s an aging management issue and if there is cracking on the exterior wall of the spent fuel pool, that could be raised as a contention.” Sheehan said the re-licensing process, which can continue as long as two years, looks only at how Entergy has managed an aging plant. “We look at the way Entergy will handle key safety systems and structural components,” he said.
Aquatic information also omitted
Entergy also choose to ignore data from a 2003 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on aquatic ecology in the Hudson River.
The 2003 study said that the plant’s use of Hudson River water to cool their generators was having a negative impact on the river’s ecosystem by killing billions of fish and plants each year. Also harming aquatic life is the tremendous amount of hot water poured into the tidal estuary, said the report. In the re-licensing application, Entergy does reference the EIS about the decline in bay anchovy but omits the DEC’s findings on declining fish populations of American shad, white perch, Atlantic tomcod and rainbow smelt.
“Entergy ignores the 2003 DEC conclusions and they relied on a 1999 draft
EIS report done by Con Edison which was inconclusive about the impact on fish,”
said Musegaas. “Those older conclusions drawn by the industry say that
they are not having an impact on the fish.”
Entergy references the 1999 study at least 11 times in their re-licensing application, Musegaas said.
Sheehan said that the upcoming scoping meeting on the environmental section of the re-licensing application will examine those issues. “We will look at what the impact will be on aquatic life and plant life in the area,” he said. “A large part of the information in the environmental review will include the decision-making process.”
The NRC can also impose conditions such as requiring a program that takes fish samples every month to determine whether there is an impact on aquatic species.
Current problems not considered part of re-licensing
The public has scrutinized the NRC for not considering safety issues, especially since the plant is in a densely populated area and the 30-year-old evacuation plan is seen as unworkable. Also of concern is the failure of Entergy to locate the source of leaking irradiated water with isotopes Tritium and Strontium-90, a missed deadline for getting a new siren system up and running and more recently a malfunctioning water valve in one of the steam generators.
Sheehan said those issues will not be examined as part of the re-licensing process because Entergy and the NRC deals with those issues on a day-to-day basis. “It’s understandable why people would want to raise those issues,” he said. “But these issues already have gotten a significant amount of attention and will continue to get attention.”
In a statement emailed to the North County News Congressman John Hall (D/Dover Plains) said new legislation has been introduced that would require older power plants applying for license renewal to meet the same safety standards as new plants. Hall cosponsored the legislation, known as The Nuclear Power Licensing Reform Act of 2007 with Congressman Maurice Hinchey and Congresswoman Nita Lowey.
“The Nuclear Power Licensing Reform Act will help to make sure that no corners are cut in the re-licensing process,” said Hall in his email. “This legislation has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee where it is awaiting action.”
The NRC has never turned down a nuclear plant’s relicensing application, Hall said.
Indian Point's bid for license renewal generates much heat in court of public opinion
By Greg Bruno
June 06, 2007 - Times Herald-Record
Buchanan — As emergency officials were tracking the source of radioactive water found in sewage here last month, Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore was in Manhattan, ticking off reasons why Indian Point should operate for another 20 years.
Not the best timing, perhaps.
But Moore's controversial message was not completely clouded by the ill-fated coincidence. He did manage to get a few glowing editorials, and was proclaimed "one of the sanest people on the issue of climate change" by The New York Sun.
Such is the battle for public opinion at Indian Point.
In the five weeks since Entergy Nuclear Northeast submitted an application for the 20-year renewal of its licenses, which expire in 2013 and 2015, press releases and pronouncements have flown from plant supporters and critics alike.
Paul Newman, of Hollywood and salad dressing fame, became the latest celebrity to throw his name behind the plant. Some scoffed at Newman's credentials, and The Record's own editorial board labeled the Hollywood icon a propagandist.
But Jim Steets, a spokesman for plant owner Entergy, defended Newman's observations. "Paul Newman is much more engaged in environmental and specifically nuclear issues than The Record gives him credit for," Streets wrote in an e-mail.
On the other side of the aisle, most Hudson Valley lawmakers have sought to legislate their way to a closed power station. Rep. John Hall, D-Dover Plains, has said Entergy's decision to seek relicensing "defies reason" because of a rash of recent problems at the plant.
And independent advocacy groups have stepped up their campaign to close the twin reactors, which sit on the Hudson River 35 miles north of Midtown Manhattan. On Monday, Riverkeeper, a Tarrytown-based environmental group, called on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to reject Entergy's renewal application outright.
Public opinion has always been a player in the Indian Point debate. Fancy Web sites and corporate sponsorship — Entergy's support of Yankees baseball, for example — have saturated the regional media market before. But since Sept. 11, 2001, the PR battles have become more heated, and more costly, observers say.
According to The Center for Public Integrity, Entergy spent over $13.5 million on lobbying between 1998 and 2004. It is unclear how much money the multibillion dollar corporation has thrown at Indian Point advertising, but it's clear the company is not shy about spending to promote. In 2003, an Entergy-funded coalition of pro-Vermont Yankee supporters spent about $200,000 in advertisements, according to newspaper reports. Closer to home, Entergy spent an undisclosed amount the same year to help form the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance. That coalition of business and labor interests was founded to counter Indian Point critics.
David Lochbaum, a nuclear safety engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the current PR war is aimed squarely at the NRC license renewal process. "What's going on at Indian Point is likely to determine how many questions the NRC asks, how many additional things the company has to do or promise," he said.
Lochbaum isn't confident the anti-plant public relations blitz will be effective. The NRC has never rejected a plant renewal application. But NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said the high-profile of Indian Point is raising public awareness. And it's the public, ultimately, that could hold the key to Indian Point's future.
Indian Point 2 shut down because of problems with steam generator
By GREG CLARY
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: May 29, 2007)
BUCHANAN - Indian Point officials hope to have Indian Point 2 back on line by this weekend after the 1,000-megawatt nuclear plant had to be shut down on Memorial Day due to problems with a regulating valve.
The valve is on the system that feeds water to one of the four generators that produce steam. The steam turns a turbine, which creates electricity.
The problem, which happened on the non-nuclear side of the Indian Point 2 plant, showed up about 5:30 a.m. yesterday and workers started reducing the plant's production of electricity to 20 percent. At that level, the valve could be removed without shutting down the plant because of backup valves that operate only at the lower levels.
Workers determined that the valve couldn't be fixed while Indian Point 2 was operating, so they safely shut it down at 3:45 p.m., according to officials from Entergy Nuclear Northeast, which owns and operates Indian Point. The second working reactor at the Buchanan site, Indian Point 3, was unaffected and continues to run at 100 percent.
There was no release of radioactivity to the environment, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and local public officials were notified of the shut-down, Entergy officials said.
Indian Point report: Radioactive leaks too small for harm
By BRUCE GOLDING
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original Publication: May 19, 2007)
BUCHANAN - Radioactive contamination leaking from the Indian Point nuclear power plants into the Hudson River has not significantly increased radiation exposure to the public, according to a new report from the plants' owner.
The federally mandated annual report found small amounts of dangerous radioactive materials in the groundwater path leading to the river.
Radioactive contamination was discovered leaking underground from Indian Point in 2005 and last month was found in the plants' sewage. Federal officials have said the leaks were being addressed and posed no threat to the public.
The April 25 report from Entergy Nuclear Northeast, the company that owns and operates the plants, estimates that the maximum potential radiation dose from the leaks is a tiny fraction of the federal 3-millirem limit for annual total-body exposure to an adult through liquids.
Federal authorities estimate that a typical American is exposed to 360 millirem of radiation yearly.
The report estimates the leaks of radioactive strontium-90, nickel-63 and cesium-137 could result in an annual maximum dose of about 0.00178 millirem of total-body radiation exposure. The estimated amount of leaked tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, could produce a maximum 0.0000021 millirem of total-body radiation exposure, according to the report.
Donald Mayer, director of special projects at Indian Point, said the estimated radiation exposures were "very conservative" and assumed the theoretical maximum a person outside the plants could face.
"There is no measurable impact from direct radiation around the plant," said Mayer, who is in charge of fixing the underground leaks. "It's a tiny, tiny fraction of the limit."
Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said the radioactive leaks at Indian Point - along with Entergy's recent failure to install a new emergency siren system on time - meant that upcoming inspections to verify the report's findings would be more extensive than usual.
Dave Lochbaum, a nuclear safety engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C., said data in the report showed potential radiation exposure from the plant's spent-fuel storage pool far exceeded that from the groundwater contamination.
"Even if the groundwater was 100 times more than it is presently thought to be, it would still be about 40 times lower than the radwaste storage dose," he wrote in an e-mail. "Or, there would be more to gain by putting up a wall to reduce the radwaste storage dose than to completely eliminate the groundwater leakage dose."
The report said the estimated radiation from the spent-fuel pool - less than 7 millirem - was indistinguishable from naturally occurring background radiation at the site.
Indian Point finds tritium in its sewers
By GREG CLARY
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: May 10, 2007)
BUCHANAN - Indian Point officials have found traces of tritium in the nuclear plants' sewer pipes that connect to the Buchanan sewage system, the first indication that the radioactive isotope may be reaching the village.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials confirmed the report yesterday, saying they would be independently verifying the test results sent in a company e-mail to Buchanan and other elected officials and the agency.
The memo, obtained by The Journal News, stated that during an April 30 test of sewage at the plant, tritium was found at a radiation concentration of 8,000 pico curies per liter - a fraction of the 10 million pico curies per liter allowed in sewage.
Company and regulatory officials stressed that there was no threat to public or worker safety.
Westchester County officials said the amount of radiation wasn't as much of a concern as how the radiation ended up in sewer pipes.
"We were notified immediately, and from what we understand, there's no threat because it's a very, very low level," said Susan Tolchin, chief adviser to Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano. "The issue is how it got there ... and we need a full investigation to determine that."
Indian Point officials have already begun their probe, they say, though the answers may take awhile.
"At this point, it's too soon to even have a hypothesis," said Donald Mayer, the Entergy official in charge of investigating groundwater contamination at Indian Point. "We obtained some additional samples (Tuesday), and those will tell us where we have to go next."
Mayer said the company would be testing for strontium 90 in the sewage system as well as tritium, though the strontium tests would not have results as fast because the laboratory work takes longer. Strontium 90 is a more dangerous radioactive isotope produced during a nuclear reaction.
Mayer said because the tritium was found in a sewage line, the company is focusing on sewage sump pumps and the rest of the system.
"There's something that's getting into one of these lines," Mayer said. "It could be a crack in a pipe."
He said the company has been monitoring the sewer lines since the fall and got a couple of readings early this year showing barely detectible levels of tritium. The most recent reading was the largest by a factor of two, Mayer said.
NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said the agency wanted more information about how tritium could have "gotten into the presumably closed sewage disposal system."
"We have an inspector up there this week who specializes in the whole groundwater contamination issue, so we'll be following up on that," he said.
The plants have been leaking tritium since at least August 2005, when workers discovered a crack at the base of a building that houses a 400,000-gallon spent-fuel storage tank at Indian Point 2.
As nuclear plant officials dug wells to determine the extent of the tritium leak, they found the radioactive isotope strontium 90 leaking from Indian Point 1 - which was shut down in 1974. The two leaks do not appear to be connected, company officials have said.
Hydrologists and other experts had said that whatever leaking radiation was leaving the site was likely going into the Hudson River, where it would be diluted many times over by the large volume of water.
Buchanan Mayor Daniel O'Neill said he was not concerned about the findings because the levels found are so low, but was interested in seeing the results of more testing.
"The sewage system is a closed one. The drainage lines go directly to the treatment plant," O'Neill said. "The fact that there have been some leaks, of course, is not good, but you have to put it into context that this is an electric power plant and there are always going to be problems when it comes to making electricity."
O'Neill said he would rather live next to a nuclear plant than coal-burning plant, given the amount of pollution around other power plants in the country.
He said the village drinking water would not be compromised by radioactive isotopes leaking at the plant because the water is piped in from reservoirs farther north.
George Smith, a foreman at the Buchanan sewage treatment plant, said the operation handles about 350,000 gallons of sewage daily. The 23-year veteran said Indian Point's portion of that is "very little," though he didn't know an exact percentage.
The sewage treatment plant is about a mile from the nuclear plant, Smith said, and the effluent from the plant takes a few days to make it from Indian Point through the treatment plant before it is released into the Hudson River at permitted levels.
State Department of Environmental Conservation officials said they were aware of the tritium in the sewer lines and will track this latest development as they have the earlier sampling.
"DEC is still evaluating the most recent data," agency spokeswoman Kimberly Chupa wrote in an e-mail to The Journal News. "To date, the data shows that the concentrations of strontium and tritium are below regulatory limits. The Department will conduct additional testing if it is determined to be necessary."
Reach Greg Clary at email@example.com or 914-696-8566.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 4, 2007
Lowey, Hall, Hinchey Introduce Legislation to Raise Standards for Indian Point
Bill Would Require Old Power Plants to Meet Same Standards as New Plants
Washington, DC - U.S. Representatives Nita Lowey (D-NY18), John Hall (D-NY19) and Maurice Hinchey (D-NY22) yesterday introduced legislation that would require the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to make sure nuclear power plant re-licensing takes into account the current environment in which the plant operates. The Nuclear Power Licensing Reform Act of 2007 would ensure that older power plants applying for license renewals, such as Indian Point, must meet the same stringent standards as new plants applying for the first time.
"If Indian Point were proposed today, the community would be up in arms that a nuclear plant would be built in such a heavily populated area," said Lowey. "Yet these plants are allowed to continue to operate without any consideration of how an area has changed over the past several decades. We need to reform the re-licensing process to take these changes into account."
"Indian Point's location in one of the nation's most densely populated areas creates a significant threat to public safety, and it's impossible to believe that a nuclear plant could be built in its location today," said Congressman Hall. "If Indian Point hopes to be allowed to operate for another 20 years, it is absolutely necessary that it can meet and exceed the same stringent safety standards required of new plants. For a plant with an operational record as poor as Indian Point's, it would be unacceptable for the NRC to hold it to any less rigorous standard. This legislation will help to make sure that no corners are cut in the re-licensing process, and I am proud to be a cosponsor."
"A lot of things have changed at Indian Point since the last time a license was issued for the plant and all of that must came into play as part of the license renewal process," Hinchey said. "Given that Indian Point is plagued with unplanned shutdowns, has experienced a recent fire, does not have properly installed emergency sirens, and is leaking radioactive material into the Hudson River, there is clearly a lot that needs to be addressed. It is 2007, not 1987 and Entergy must be held to much more rigorous standards in the re-licensing process. If FERC were to grant a license renewal now, Entergy would have little or no incentive to take the very important steps needed to improve safety at Indian Point."
The Nuclear Power Licensing Reform Act would:
· Make clear that any licensing, including initial licensing, must include a determination that the facility does not pose an unreasonable threat to persons or the environment because of safety or security vulnerabilities, including vulnerability to terrorist attacks;
· Require that there exist adequate evacuation plans for emergency events and that those plans have been approved by the relevant Federal agencies and States within 50 miles of the facility;
· Require that any renewed license must meet the same criteria and requirements that would be applicable for an original application for initial construction; and
· Require the NRC to determine that any changes in the size or distribution of the surrounding population have not resulted in the facility being located at a site at which a new facility would not be allowed to be built.
May 4, 2007
NRC to Indian Point: “You’re safe”
but doesn’t support ISA
New leak, siren failure a concern
By Abby Luby
Entergy’s application to renew their operating licensing for the two Indian Point nuclear reactors was filed on the heels of a lukewarm performance assessment by the Nuclear Regulaory Commission at its annual assessment meeting April 26 in Cortlandt.
As the federal oversight agency, the NRC assessed the plant’s current operation as being safe, giving Entergy a green rating. NRC assessments only rate operating components and personnel within the plants.
However the NRC especially noted, and said it will continue to monitor, Entergy’s frequent unplanned shutdowns at the plant and the company’s policy dealing with plant workers who want to address safety issues without fear of reprimand.
NRC: ISA unnecessary
During last week’s public comment period, Lori Hall Armstrong, a representative of Governor Eliot Spitzer, read a letter written earlier that day from the chief executive to NRC chairman Dale Klein urging the agency to support an independent safety assessment (ISA) before it considers extending Entergy’s operating license for another 20 years.
NRC Regional Director Sam Collins, who was leading the assessment meeting for
the NRC, disagreed that an independent study would add any new information about
“We’ve already put in 13,000 hours of inspections in 2006 and will be doing the same next year,” he said. “A (independent assessment) review like this is too resource intensive to be productive and our assessments are more responsive.”
Spitzer said in his letter that he applauded the efforts of Senators Clinton
and Schumer for co-sponsoring a house bill calling for the ISA.
Mark Jacobs, of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, blamed the NRC for not fining Entergy enough for failing to have a new siren system fully operative by the NRC deadline. Congress passed a law in 2005 requiring the NRC to force Entergy to install a backup system to the already troubled emergency siren system. Instead Entergy spent about $50 million on an entire new system to be in place by January 30, 2007.
Entergy not only missed the January deadline, but they missed the extended
deadline of April 15, 2007 as well. At the assessment meeting Michael Slobodien,
Entergy’s director of emergency planning, said the problem was in one
tower in Westchester where the radio transmitter was malfunctioning. The federal
regulation requires a fine of $130,000 per violation per day. The NRC proposed
only a one-time fine of $130,000.
“You need to fine Entergy $130,000 a day until the sirens work,” said Jacobs. “When you do that, they’ll find the problem.”
Jacobs faulted the NRC by saying “the public feels the NRC is not really
doing your job. I think NRC really means not requiring corrections.”
“We align ourselves to what’s happening at the plant,” Collins responded to Jacobs. “We want to be responsive but we have limits.”
A new Tritium leak
Days before the NRC assessment meeting, steam containing tritium was found escaping from the ground near Indian Point unit 3. Tritium is a radioactive isotope that becomes part of water and has a half-life of 12.3 years. Although it increases the risk of developing cancer, it is considered one of the least dangerous radionuclides.
According to Don Mayer, director of special projects at Entergy, the steam was coming from an eight-inch pipe some five feet below the ground.
“We have fully contained the wisps of steam that have surfaced on the
asphalt,” said Mayer, indicating that the pipe, part of a closed heating
system, is under about 50 pounds of pressure. The pipe is believed to be used
to transfer steam from one unit to the next. Mayer didn’t know if the
pipe had been underutilized before the leak.
“We will be excavating the pipe soon and see how big the leak actually is, but we’re speculating that it can’t be more than a pin-size hole,” Mayer added.
NRC inspector Mark Cox, who works on site at the plants, said there was no
indication that the leak was the result of seismic activity since there had
been no recent seismic reports. Cox also said there were no devices at Indian
Point to monitor seismic activity.
Just how long the steam has been leaking is unknown.
Collins said the leak was so minimal that it was beyond the purview of the NRC.
“This type of event is not usually reported to the NRC,” said Collins. “But I understand that as the steam goes into the air, it is not a health threat.”
an Hirsch, president of the nuclear watchdog group, Committee to Bridge the
Gap, said tritium doesn’t dissipate or disappear. Hirsch oversees health
studies regarding the effects of radiation that come from nuclear power plants.
“Tritium, when released into the environment, will remain there for about 250 years before one can say it has decayed away,” explained Hirsch. “Releasing tritiated water into the environment ends up as tritiated liquid water in streams, rivers, and groundwater.”
Just how much tritium has been released is also unknown. Hirsch said the basic rule is to avoid uncontrolled releases of radioactivity into the environment. “A second rule is you don't want surprises. Previously undiscovered and unpermitted leaks of radioactivity are a no-no in radiation protection.”
Federal regulators say they will monitor Indian Point
By GREG CLARY
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: April 27, 2007)
CORTLANDT - If Indian Point were a student, the nuclear plants would still be getting a passing grade, but the teacher would be a little concerned about recent trends and study habits.
Federal regulators noted last night that last year's report card for Indian Point was green for both nuclear reactors - Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3 - but said they would be keeping closer-than-normal tabs on operations at the site this year.
Citing the unplanned shutdowns that have lowered Indian Point's rating from green to white earlier this month and necessitated more on-site inspection by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as well as other concerns, regulators said the plants must address the adequacy of safety procedures and workers' fears about retribution for pointing out safety issues.
"There's a lot going on (at) this site," Samuel Collins, the top regional regulator for the NRC, said at the annual public assessment meeting in Cortlandt between Indian Point and the federal agency. "I would just be mindful of the trend. It will be an active year."
Collins' counterpart, Fred Dacimo, site vice president for Indian Point owner Entergy Nuclear Northeast, responded quickly.
"We haven't had an inactive year," he said, drawing laughs from the audience of about 200 people. "We're up to the challenge."
There was plenty for observers to take in last night, not the least of which was a letter read by a representative of Gov. Eliot Spitzer calling for an independent safety assessment of the plant before any possible relicensing of the plants could go forward.
Spitzer joins Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer, who are pushing legislation to mandate that review.
Collins explained why the NRC disagrees with such a study, saying it would not yield more information than the agency is getting. The NRC conducted 13,000 hours of inspections in 2006 and expects a similar amount this year.
Opponents had earlier said during a news conference that 2006 and the first four months of this year have raised residents' concerns about the plants' safety - including four unplanned shutdowns at Indian Point 3, continuing leaks of radioactive isotopes strontium 90 and tritium, and the failure of Entergy to deliver a new emergency siren system by the April 15 deadline.
"2006 was not a good year for Indian Point," said Manna Jo Greene of the environmental group Clearwater. "2007 has so far been even worse."
Two matters loom on Indian Point's horizon. Indian Point 3 has been shut down for much of April, after operational difficulties stemming from a refueling outage caused workers to pull the plug unexpectedly.
Dacimo said he expected Indian Point 3 to restart over the weekend, likely Sunday.
Reach Greg Clary at 914-696-8566 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spitzer Demands Indian Point Inspection
April 26, 2007
Associated PressAll Associated Press News
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Gov. Eliot Spitzer said Thursday that the Indian Point power plants should undergo a rarely imposed outside safety review before being licensed for 20 more years of operation.
Citing a leak of radioactive elements into the groundwater beneath Indian Point and the owners' failure to install a new emergency siren system, Spitzer said, "Never has the need for this type of evaluation been greater."
In a letter to the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the governor said the commission should order an Independent Safety Assessment for Indian Point, which comprises two reactors in Buchanan, on the Hudson River 35 miles north of New York City.
He noted that Indian Point's proximity to the metropolis means "a serious accident could threaten millions of people."
The governor's letter came as the NRC met with Indian Point's owner, Entergy Nuclear Northeast, to review in public the plants' performance in 2006. The commission issued its assessment months ago and found no problems of major safety significance.
The NRC has resisted an Independent Safety Assessment, saying Indian Point is already receiving enough scrutiny. Spokesman Neil Sheehan said Thursday that the current oversight process incorporates many elements of the Independent Safety Assessment and negates the need for one.
But those demanding the special safety check now include the governor, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chuck Schumer and several members of Congress from the area, all Democrats.
Rep. John Hall, whose district includes Indian Point, has introduced a bill requiring an Independent Safety Assessment within six months and making it a condition of relicensing. Clinton and Schumer co-sponsored a matching bill in the Senate, and Spitzer said Thursday he was backing those bills.
Licenses for the two reactors expire in 2013 and 2015. Entergy has applied for relicensing, which would add 20 years to each.
When he campaigned for governor last year, Spitzer said Indian Point should be closed "as soon as replacement power is available because it is vulnerable to terrorist attacks and environmental disasters."
© 2007 The Associated Press.
Against Indian Point
Published: April 23, 2007
This article was published in the April 23, 2007, edition of The New York Observer.
To the Editor:
“Indian Point: Hazard on the Hudson” [Editorial, April 16] nailed it. Whatever one thinks of nuclear-power generation, there is no informed risk analysis that can justify keeping Indian Point on the respirator.
Continuing the operation of an aging, degrading, corroding and radiation-leaking nuclear plant that is sited a mere 24 miles from New York City for another decade is bad enough. Allowing its relicensing for an additional two decades is sheer insanity.
The Indian Point reactors were intended to last 40 years. They are now about 30 years old. Just this past month, the plant has had an explosion and fire, steam-generator problems, siren failures and leaks of radiation into the Hudson River. In February, Indian Point declared an emergency when the intake structure for the critical cooling system became clogged.
This is an old machine that has given us many warnings that it is breaking down. And for those who need to be reminded, on 9/11, American Airlines Flight 11, piloted by Mohammed Atta, soared by Indian Point approximately six minutes before it smashed into the north tower. The 9/11 Commission’s investigation later determined that Mohammed Atta had given consideration to changing his target to Indian Point, when he was conducting his surveillance flights over the Hudson.
Indian Point: Hazard on the Hudson
New York Observer,
April 16, 2007
On April 6 at 11:43 a.m., the company that owns the Indian Point nuclear plant reported an “unusual event” at the No. 3 reactor. These are, needless to say, not comforting words to hear when they refer to a nuclear reactor—particularly one located 35 miles from midtown Manhattan, and one with an abysmal history of safety problems. Twenty million Americans live within a 50-mile radius of Indian Point; a 2004 study concluded that a terrorist attack on the plant could kill 44,000 people right away, cost the U.S. economy $2.1 trillion, and cause the long-term cancer deaths of 500,000 people.
The “unusual event” last Friday wasn’t a terrorist attack, thankfully, but rather a fire. While no injuries were reported, the fire forced the plant’s fourth unplanned shutdown in 12 months. If that sounds troubling, it is: The national average is fewer than one shutdown per year. Meanwhile, the plant has been found to be leaking radioactive fuel into the surrounding soil and, most likely, the Hudson River. And if that doesn’t keep you up nights, consider that, in a recent test, the plant’s alarm sirens failed to work. This week, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission downgraded its safety assessment of Indian Point’s No. 3 reactor and will be sending inspectors to the site.
Transformer fire calls safety of plant
More woes at Indian Point
By Abby Luby
The latest incident last Friday at the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plants put the exclamation point on successive system failures at the Buchanan based reactors.
The loud blast was followed by a fire on one of two transformers dedicated to Unit 3, causing an automatic shut down of that unit. The previous week low water levels in the plant’s steam generators also forced a shutdown at Unit 3.
These unexpected mishaps preceded numerous failures when testing the new siren system, a source of frustration not only for plant owner Entergy Nuclear Northeast but for county and state officials.
“My son was playing baseball about a mile away and saw the plume of smoke go up,” said John Ritornato, owner of Johnny Rits – a bar just outside the power plant gates at Broadway and Bleakley Avenue. “Although I’m right outside the plant, I didn’t hear a thing.”
As one transformer went up in flames last Friday, the adjacent transformer
was also being damaged, said Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory
Sheehan said the fire was apparently caused by the bushings, ceramic insulators on top of transformers that look like disks piled on top of each other. As of Monday, the NRC still had no official confirmation from Entergy about the cause of the fire.
“The fire was handled by our own fire brigade,” said Entergy spokesman
Jim Steets. “It was extinguished and Unit 3 shut down automatically.”
NRC senior inspector Don Jackson, who was on site at the plant, said a spare transformer was being checked for safety.
“There has been no degradation to the interior power and we have three backup diesels available to start up Indian Point 3,” he said.
New York State’s Joint Information Center, an arm of the State Emergency Management Office (SEMO), issued a statement claiming that there was no release of radiation into the environment from the transformer fire. A “Level 4” emergency, the least serious situation, was declared by Entergy, requiring them to immediately notify government officials and emergency responders.
The last known accident in the transformer yard at the plant was in July, 2002 when a Brooklyn contractor was landscaping and accidentally electrocuted himself.
Side Bar on Usage
Transformers generate power from the plant to the power grid. According to Jackson, before the explosion and the transformer fire, Unit 3 had been shut down for 24 days for routine refueling. During and after the fire, Unit 2 remained online, running to its full capacity providing about 1000 mega watts. When both units are running, the plant produces 2000 mega watts of electricity.
According to records from Con Edison, the utility company providing electricity to residents in New York City and Westchester County, the region uses 9000 to 13,000 megawatts of electricity daily, depending on the weather. The 2000 megawatts produced by Indian Point is about 15% to 22% of the daily region demands. Entergy has claimed that Indian Point provides up to 40% of the region’s electricity needs, which it does when the demand falls to 5000 megawatts. Usage usually drops on Sunday mornings in the spring and fall between 3a.m. and 5 a.m. when the city is asleep, offices are shut down, air conditioners are off. Those off-peak times of less usage happens about 12 times a year.
Unexpected transformer failure
Despite the incident, Steets said the failed transformer was recently inspected during a very rigorous monthly diagnostic program. The inspection didn’t reveal anything wrong.
“There was no reason from the program that the transformer would fail,” said Steets. “But they will fail from time to time. We were prepared for this otherwise, it would take several months to return to service.”
Entergy will replace the transformer, a process that will take about two or three weeks to complete, he said. During that time it’s possible that Unit 3 could return to about half of capacity.
Lower Safety Rating
Sheehan explained that the NRC lowers the safety rating of a plant if there are more than three unplanned shutdowns within a year. The shutdown of Unit 3 last week lowered Indian Point’s rating from green—the highest rating—to white, the next to highest rating.
“We will be sending a supplemental inspection team to inspect Entergy’s repairs when they are done,” he said. “If they’ve repaired it to our satisfaction, they will get a higher safety rating level.”
The incidents come on the heels of problems with Entergy’s new siren system. Out of 150 new emergency electronic sirens, 123 failed during testing. In the fall, Entergy announced that it’s goal to complete the new alert system was January, 2007. Now they are hoping for sometime this month.
Repeated testing was heard in communities surrounding the plants for the last few weeks. The system was updated with electronic sirens bearing eight independent horns at each location, having greater amplification to reach areas that have not previously had siren coverage. Those areas are primarily the Palisades Parkway, some area parks and Bear Mountain State Park. Entergy said the louder sirens would be backed up by high speed telephone notification, radio and internet.
ISA, license renewal
With the spate of problems, Congressman John Hall (D/Dover Plains) issued a statement shortly after the explosion, calling on his Congressional colleagues to pass his proposed legislation requiring an Independent Safety Assessment of the Indian Point plants.
“This explosion and fire at Indian Point, triggering a shutdown of Unit 3, is only the latest in a string of accidents and unplanned shutdowns at the plant,” Hall said in the statement. “It only reinforces the necessity of an objective, truly independent safety study before re-licensing for another 20 years is considered.”
In February, Hall introduced a bill that called for an independent panel of nuclear industry experts and NRC officials to conduct the ISA. Hall said this week the bill is currently before the Energy and Commerce Committee and he hopes it moves out of committee within the next two months.
Hall has received co-sponsorship from House members Nita Lowey, Maurice Hinchey,
Eliot Engel and Christopher Shays, plus Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles
“The level of support, I think, has been very good,” Hall told North County News of the ISA legislation. “Everyone who I’ve talked to says it sounds like it makes good common sense.”
The House of Representatives’ busy agenda, which has included the budget, appropriations regarding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, minimum wage legislation and other measures has delayed the bill to the full legislative body, he said.
Entergy plans to officially apply for a 20-year extension for its operating license for both Units 2 and 3 sometime this month. Sheehan said the lower safety rating will be looked at during the license renewal process, but the NRC will mainly focus on how Entergy managed the aging plant.
“We will look at the key systems, structures and components and any environmental impacts during an additional 20 years of operation,” he explained. “If we find there is a nexus between aging management and unplanned shutdowns, it’s certainly something we want to take a look at, but in general we consider this to be more of a day-to-day operational issue.”
Adding his voice of support for the ISA was County Legislator Michael Kaplowitz (D-Somers).
In a press release issued last Friday Kaplowitz said, “I am calling
on Entergy to voluntarily join those of us who are asking for an Independent
Safety Assessment, and make a formal request to the NRC urging them to agree
to the ISA.”
Indian Point fire stirs deep-seated fears
Noreen O'Donnell: Journal News
(Original publication: April 7, 2007)
For about 10 minutes yesterday morning, I wondered how much I still wanted to be a journalist.
We had just received a report in the newsroom about an explosion at the Indian Point nuclear power complex, and all I could think of doing was driving south away from the story.
Here is part of a frightening text message that came across one beeper: "Buchanan explosion. Indian Point nuclear power plant."
Was this a nuclear accident, the one you fear with a power plant only 25 miles away? Had it finally come?
This wasn't how I felt on Sept. 11, 2001. That morning I left my apartment in New York City and got onto the Major Deegan Expressway before I realized the World Trade Center had been hit. Without any hesitation, I turned back and headed for Lower Manhattan along with the firetrucks. I knew the country could be under attack, but I wasn't afraid. If I thought about it at all, I was sure I would be able to flee whatever came at me.
Not yesterday. Had radiation already been released? Which way was the wind blowing? Would it be better to stay in the building or run now?
Near me, some of my colleagues were rummaging for potassium iodide pills, the so-called KI pills that would protect their thyroids from radioactive iodine. My drawer was empty of pills. I had brought mine home and so they were in my bathroom cabinet and of no use to me.
Others with more forethought had theirs at hand. One woman wasn't giving any up, not even to a reporter going to the scene. She wasn't sure how many pills she would need, plus she momentarily thought of volunteering to cover for the story herself. She was braver than I.
Over the years, The Journal News has written extensively about evacuation routes should there be a serious accident at the plants. In that moment, I realized I had read none of them. I had no idea which way I was supposed to go. Almost six years after the hijacked planes brought down the World Trade Center I still had not made plans for an emergency despite all the exhortations to be prepared. Then again, if you listen to the evacuation critics, it probably didn't matter. They predict traffic jams on Route 9 as thousands try to leave. They doubt an orderly evacuation is possible.
In the end, of course, the explosion was a fire in a transformer yard outside the nuclear area of Indian Point 3. The fire forced the plant to shut down automatically but no radiation was released, officials said. The transformer yard is across a street from the plant.
The Indian Point plants, which are owned by Entergy Nuclear Northeast, had already had a bad week. On Monday, 123 of 150 new emergency sirens failed to operate; on Tuesday, a water pump malfunction closed Indian Point 3 for nearly a day. It had already been closed for 24 days for scheduled refueling and maintenance.
Yesterday's shutdown will degrade the plants' safety rating to white from green, the safest of four operational categories, said Diane Screnci, a spokeswoman for the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
By the afternoon, legislators across the Lower Hudson Valley were calling for an independent study of the plants' safety before they are relicensed for another 20 years.
"As always, we are told by Entergy and the (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) that there is no danger to the public health," U.S. Rep. John Hall, the Democrat who represents northern Westchester, Putnam and parts of Rockland counties, said in a statement. "Their credibility is, to put it kindly, insufficient to reassure us when 8 percent of the population of the entire United States lives with the 50-mile radius of this plant."
He was joined by others from Congress, and yesterday, I couldn't help but agree.
Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano also is urging an independent study - and, as he has said before, he wants the plant shut down.
"This is just one more reason why," said his spokeswoman, Susan Tolchin.
"We're happy that there was no threat and we're happy that there was nobody hurt, but why did it happen? They need to find out the cause of that. But the fact remains that it's an aging plant and it shouldn't be here."
Within minutes of learning it had been a fire at Indian Point, the newsroom returned to normal. Reporters turned back to their computers. On to other disasters. A group of tourists from Dobbs Ferry had been on the cruise ship that sank in the Aegean Sea. They really had been in danger. But still ... maybe I should pay more attention to those nuclear power plants on the Hudson River.
Reach Noreen O'Donnell at email@example.com or 914-694-5017.
Indian Point 3's safety rating lowered after transformer explosion, fire
By LIZ ANDERSON, GREG CLARY AND NICOLE NEROULIAS
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: April 6, 2007)
BUCHANAN - An explosion and fire in a transformer yard at the Indian Point nuclear power complex today led to the shutdown of the Indian Point 3 reactor, but officials said the fire was quickly extinguished with no impact on public health and safety.
The unplanned shutdown, the second this week, will degrade the plant's safety rating to white from green, the safest of four operational categories, said Diane Screnci, a spokeswoman for the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The lower rating means the controversial atomic energy generator will face increased inspections by governent regulators, Screnci said.
Today's incident was reported at around 11:15 a.m. Shortly after noon, Michael Slobodien, a director of emergency planning for Entergy Nuclear Northeast, which owns and operates the plant, said the facility was stable and under control.
"Between the transformer and the reactor, there's a huge concrete structure," he said.
Entergy has declared a "notice of unusual events," the lowest of four emergency classifications in the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with the state and regional counties. An investigation has been launched to determine what caused the fire and what kind of damage.
"It's too early at this point," Slobodien said.
The unusual event was delcared at 11:43 a.m. and ended at 12:47 p.m., said Screnci of the NRC.
The Entergy declaration prompted Westchester County to open its emergency operation center at the Transportation Management Center in Hawthorne. Officials planned a press briefing there at 1:45 p.m.
The Verplanck Fire Department responded to the scene this morning, but they were told they were not needed because the facility's internal brigade handled the situation.
Buchanan Mayor Dan O'Neill said he was not concerned about the fact that the fire had taken place at the nuclear facility.
"Unfortunately, these things happen when you're making electricity," he said. "It could happen at any type of power plant. ... This had nothing to do with nuclear power, it had to do with making electricity."
Indian Point 3 had returned to service Saturday, following a scheduled 24-day refueling outage when workers replaced 96 of the 193 fuel assemblies used during operation.
Then, a steam generator problem prompted workers to manually shut down the plant early Tuesday morning, but no release of radiation was reported and the plant was restarted less than 24 hours later.
Coming up from a re-start after that unplanned shutdown, Indian Point 3 was at about 90 percent capacity when today's fire broke out, officials said.
The plant, which went online 31 years ago this week, had two unplanned shutdowns in 2006, according to Nuclear Regulatory Commission records.
NRC spokeswoman Screnci said Entergy was not required to sound its emergency siren system because the plant's neighbors did not need to do anything in response to the incident. The sirens are intended to notify residents to turn to an Emergency Alert System broadcast for information.
On Monday, 123 of the 150 new emergency-warning sirens failed to successfully complete an operational test. The sirens are required to be ready to go by a week from Sunday. The existing system remains in use until then.
Staff writers Bruce Golding and Len Maniace contributed to this report.
Check back for updates at LoHud.com and read more about this story tomorrow in The Journal News.
Reactor shutdown follows siren trouble in testy week for Indian Point
By GREG CLARY
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original Publication: April 4, 2007)
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
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
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.
If plants are safe, Entergy shouldn't fear an independent
By GARY SHAW
(Original publication: April 2, 2007, Journal News)
Jim Knubel, the former chief nuclear officer at Indian Point 3, who is currently on the advisory board of the Entergy-financed New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, has charged that the ever growing call for an independent safety assessment at Indian Point is inappropriate or "bogus" (March 20 Community View) because many people would like Indian Point closed regardless of the outcome of the ISA. His labeling of the supporters seems a little desperate considering that they already include both of the senators from New York, neither of whom has ever called for closure, a bipartisan group of U.S. Congress members, the attorneys general of New York and Connecticut, the county boards of Westchester, Putnam, Rockland and Orange, the town of Cortlandt and a substantial number of villages within the surrounding counties. In other words, there is broad support for the ISA initiative. The ISA is especially appropriate because Entergy is applying to keep the highly profitable plant operating for 20 years past its originally intended lifespan.
Let's provide a historical context for the independent safety assessment. There has only been one ISA ever conducted. In 1996, over the objections of both the plant operators and the NRC, the governor of Maine demanded an ISA at the Maine Yankee Nuclear Plant. The inspection team included 25 members, 16 of whom were actually NRC employees, but none had a relationship with the plant in question. The findings of the ISA were that the plant could continue to operate, but that the deficiencies discovered compromised safety and had to be corrected. The plant owners evaluated the capital expenditures needed to bring the plant up to design basis specifications, and decided that the cost would be too high, so they closed the plant in 1997. The decommissioning of that plant was completed a few years ago. In other words, the owners decided that it was just too expensive to keep the plant up to spec. Is that why Entergy opposes the ISA?
Indian Point is an aging nuclear plant with a long history of problems. Let's remember that Indian Point is the only nuclear plant in the country known to have ongoing leaks of strontium 90 and cesium 137 in addition to tritium, which is leaking from a number of aging plants around the country, and that the leaks have been going on for an undetermined amount of time. The best guesses are that the leaks started before Entergy purchased the plants in 2001. That means the leaks went on for years before they were ever discovered. And let's also remember that the only reason the leaks were found was because Indian Point has so much more radioactive wastes in storage than was ever planned for, that the operators have to move the older waste to open, exposed, above-ground casks. It was only excavation for the necessary radioactive waste movement that led the company to find wet dirt around the spent fuel pools. The on-site inspectors from the NRC never knew the leaks were happening.
Mr. Knubel's claim that safety is paramount at the plant is belied by the NRC's finding this past December that workers were scared to bring up safety issues because they feared reprisals from company management.
Mr. Knubel is correct that many people feel similar to the way I do and would like to see the plant closed. One reason I want it closed is that I have been told by the former regional director of the NRC, in a public meeting, that no one can guarantee that there will not be a radiation release incident at any commercial nuclear plant. The reality that this threat is real is demonstrated by the federal government's cap on the nuclear industry's liability for an accident and the extension of the Price-Anderson Act, which places the risk burden on the American taxpayer instead of the industry. In fact, the insurance industry will not insure anyone's property against radioactive contamination loss. If they think the risk is too high, why wouldn't we?
But my desire to see the plant closed does not change the need for an ISA if the owners want to continue operating until the plant is 60 years old. Since they have been telling the public for years that there is nothing to fear, why do they fear an ISA?
The writer is a member of the steering committees of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition and Croton CIP (Close Indian Point), a local organization.
Two years of ups and downs at Indian Point
By GREG CLARY
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original Publication: March 25, 2007)
The past two years at the Indian Point nuclear plant have been a study in contrasts.
The plant has been beset with what company officials call "challenges" - everything from radiation leaks to workers worried that they might be punished for pointing out safety concerns.
Yet the plant's production of electricity - the juice that runs our everyday lives - has hit all-time highs for the site, and the company announced plans in November to seek license extensions that would allow Indian Point to produce energy through 2035.
"The numbers are no accident," said Fred Dacimo, who runs Indian Point for the plant's owner, Entergy Nuclear Northeast. "As the team, we have consistently put forth a tremendous effort to achieve the kind of accomplishments that we have."
The company has continued to produce 10 percent of the state's electricity, despite what has seemed like an unending series of plant malfunctions, disruptions and intense public scrutiny.
The latest series of troubles started as far back as the summer of 2005 with wide-scale emergency siren failures and the discovery of a radioactive tritium leak and have continued with an unplanned reactor shutdown as recently as last month
A boiled-down list of the events since 2005 is enough to keep a team of federal regulators busy:
- Emergency sirens that didn't work for a six-hour period, one of a half-dozen or so malfunctions of a decades-old system that is about to be replaced.
- Two radioactive isotopes - tritium and strontium 90 - leaking from different locations and ending up in tiny concentrations in the Hudson River.
- Seven unplanned shutdowns of the two working nuclear reactors in Buchanan, split about evenly between Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3.
- A cracked fuel rod in the spent-fuel pool of Indian Point 2, which stopped a routine inspection until the uranium could be secured in an unused area of the pool.
- Workers voiced concerns to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about potential retaliation for pointing out safety concerns.
- A worker was exposed to radiation during a repair of the nuclear reactor.
- Debris and ice clogged an intake for cooling Hudson River water, creating a "heightened alert" until adequate flow was restored.
Those were merely the operational issues.
Elected officials' have continually called for more oversight, as well as the closure of the plants.
One of the laboratories testing radiation levels turned up inaccurate results, and strontium 90 found in Hudson River fish samples - though not definitively from the nuclear plant - has precipitated additional testing.
And a nuclear engineer at Indian Point was placed on leave days before killing his daughter, his wife and himself, raising concerns that he could have taken his rage out at work instead of at home.
Still, the energy provider has remained what state electricity officials say is a stabilizing force for supplying reliable electricity to the densely populated southeastern portion of New York.
"They've always been an important part, those two units," said Ken Klapp, a spokesman for New York Independent System Operator, which controls and operates the state's grid. "They're pretty much operating all year long, around the clock, except for a refueling outage. In that area, outside of the city, there's no large generation north of the city."
Neither of the two 1,000-megawatt plants in Buchanan is big enough to rank at the top of the state's list, but together they produce more electricity than any other site in New York.
Klapp says one of the key things in power generation is reliability, and sources such as wind power and other more variable sources are still intermittent in their ability to provide electricity.
"You can't store electricity," Klapp said. "You use up what you generate."
Indian Point officials had hoped to apply to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission this month for renewals to continue producing electricity after the current licenses for Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3 expire in 2013 and 2015, respectively.
Dacimo said late last month the application would likely be filed in April.
A cadre of local congressional representatives want to tie that renewal to an in-depth examination of the plant by the NRC and outside evaluators, an independent assessment opponents believe will make the case that the decades-old site has too many operational problems to be extended another 20 years.
Dacimo said the company has spent "hundreds of millions" of dollars since buying the plants in 2001 to make sure that they operate efficiently now and into the future. He said the company was not "deficit-spending" to make those investments.
"There is a marked change now from where these units were eight years ago," Dacimo said of the site's two working nuclear reactors. "Unit 3 was a plant that used 65 percent of its capacity eight or nine years ago. Now it's 97 or 98 percent. We're running the plants the way the plants are supposed to be run."
Dacimo acknowledged that the spate of high-profile problems in the past two years have been "challenging."
"It goes without saying there are a number of areas where we need to continue to concentrate our efforts," Dacimo said.
'A streak of bad luck'
David Lochbaum, a nuclear safety engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, monitors Indian Point and other plants for the national watchdog group, and knows the Buchanan site well.
"They have had a series of events," Lochbaum said. "If you look through what caused those events, there's no, at least none I've detected, situation where there are indications that the company has known about these problems and tolerated them or just put on a Band-Aid fix."
He said there's no suggestion that there was some kind of link between all those events, that the plant either wasn't able to meet the challenges or wouldn't spend the money to do so.
"It would be troubling if that were the case," he said. "Absent that, it's just a streak of bad luck."
Lochbaum said Entergy's record for getting the facility to run more efficiently since buying it in 2001 was promising.
"The company did spend a lot more money than they anticipated once they opened up the closet door and found all the problems," he said.
Lochbaum, a former industry whistle-blower, said the one area that he was especially concerned about was the safety culture at the plants.
"Management has to practically go door-to-door," Lochbaum said. "You cannot turn that around by proclamation."
He said executives at Indian Point will need to show workers repeatedly that even the slightest safety issue needs to be cited, so all employees know that the threshold for pointing something out was low.
Lochbaum said the coming relicensing application and public debate will put the plants in a position where the executives will have to explain the recent problems. The intense scrutiny of the public and the media during the problems may end up making the plants safer.
"Because of it being in the fishbowl or being where it is, in some respects, that helps good management," Lochbaum said.
Keeping close watch
One of the people keeping the plant in the public's view is Lisa Rainwater of the environmental group Riverkeeper, who heads the campaign to close the nuclear plant.
She wonders why the company won't just open its doors to an independent assessment. Company officials have said they will comply with whatever federal regulators require.
"It's a cumulative effect that you continue to have small problems popping up and you have … unplanned shut-downs … that show that the plant continues to age, yet we also have management that has created a work environment in which folks are at least concerned about raising issues of safety," Rainwater said.
The presence of nuclear waste near the region's biggest waterway also is a concern.
"We know the pools are leaking and the National Academy of Sciences has said very clearly and strongly, spent-fuel pools are a great risk to the public in the event of a fire or a terrorist attacks," she said.
One reason company employees have been able to produce under difficult circumstances, Dacimo said, is a collective belief that nuclear energy is part of the overall solution to the country's energy and environmental needs.
Dacimo said the plants' production of electricity meets needs that would have to be met by other methods if the nuclear plant didn't exist, leading to a greater use of oil and coal and more air pollution from those plants.
"Because (our) people fundamentally believe that what we are doing is the right thing, it makes it easier to deal with adversity, whether that's adversity from the plant or adversity from the external environment," Dacimo said.
Indian Point says leave radioactive waste alone
A draft copy of Indian Point’s investigation into tritium leaking beneath the Unit 2 reactor says it’s best not to pump radioactive water.
By Greg Bruno
March 09, 2007
Buchanan — When is doing nothing better than decisive action? When "nothing" might slow the movement of radioactive waste.
Owners of the Indian Point nuclear power station say the best way to deal with radioactive water leaking beneath the Westchester County plant is to leave the isotopes alone, and let nature take its course.
During a four-hour update yesterday on efforts to find and patch sources of tritium and strontium-90 in ground water, plant engineers outlined plans they said will focus on monitoring, and make cleanup unnecessary.
"Pumping is definitely not recommended and will not be pursued," said Don Mayer, special projects manager for plant owner Entergy Nuclear Northeast. "It would make a nonproblem a potential problem," he said.
Since August 2005, plant engineers have worked to characterize the source and extent of two radioactive leaks beneath the riverside reactors.
The first leak was found in connection with a cracked spent-fuel pool at Indian Point 2. That discovery led engineers to find low-levels of tritium-laced ground water beneath the pool.
Results from test wells, underwater cameras and pool divers prompted Entergy to conclude the likely source is an old leak since patched, officials said yesterday.
But that conclusion doesn't wrap a bow on the company's leak problems.
Next door to the Indian Point 2 pool is another reactor, the now-defunct Indian Point 1. And beneath it, another leaking spent-fuel pool, this one spewing strontium-90.
By themselves the radioactive leaks might not pose much of a cleanup problem. But together, Entergy says, they create a unique challenge: There's no way to pull one out of the ground without spreading the other.
Not everyone agrees, of course. Phillip Musegaas, a staff attorney for Riverkeeper, who was not at the semiannual update, called the decision "absurd" when briefed by a reporter.
"Leaving the contamination in the ground is unacceptable, because they basically mean you're going to leave it in the ground to leach into the Hudson River," Musegaas said. "They are making a big mistake as far as public perception is concerned. I don't think the public will accept that, and we certainly will not."
While regulators have concluded contamination is reaching the Hudson, and state scientists plan to expand fish sampling this summer, they say the levels of radiation are miniscule and pose no threat to public health.
Compared to the plant's legal discharge limit — about 1,800 curies of tritium annually, for example — the leaks are barely a measurable drop in the bucket.
Still, state and federal regulators aren't ready to put their stamp of approval on Entergy's no-pump plan, which has not been submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
But even as tests continue, John White, an NRC branch chief for radiation inspection, hinted leaving the material in the ground might be the best option. "It you start pumping on Unit 2, there's a distinct possibility you could (cross) contaminate," he said. "It's not prudent to do that."
Panel discusses Indian Point testing
About Those Leaks...
By Abby Lubby
For over a decade radioactive water has been leaking from spent fuel pools at the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant in Buchanan.
Newer leaks reported 18 months ago indicated that irradiated water from the pools had found its way into the ground water and the Hudson River. It’s been difficult for Entergy, the plant owner, to pin down where the leaks are coming from. Tritium laced water is suspected of leaking from Unit 2; tritium is another dangerous radioactive isotope.
More recently, fish in the Hudson River were found to have traces of strontium-90, one of the radioactive isotopes leaking from the plant.
Uncertainty about the leaks motivated the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, the Pace Academy for the Environment and the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition to present a roster of politicians, scientists, health and environmental officials to shed some light on the situation.
Last Friday afternoon and evening, some 200 people came to Willcox Gymnasium at Pace University in Pleasantville to hear the panel address concerns and answer questions about the leaks. Speakers included Representatives Nita Lowey and John Hall, state Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and Westchester County Legislator Michael Kaplowitz. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal oversight agency for nuclear power plants, and Entergy was not represented.
Expanded testing announced
Dr. Ward Stone, a state wildlife pathologist, announced plans to test more aquatic life in the Hudson River next to the plant. Stone will cage fish and track the movement of radionuclides into the river.
“I will be taking care of the fish over a period of time and seeing what they pick up,” said Stone. “I will also be testing turtles because they stay in the same place year after year and hold radionuclides very well.”
Stone will also test frogs, mollusks, clams, oysters, aquatic insects, nesting birds and various wildlife near the plant. Testing will start this spring, he said.
Barbara Youngberg, the director of the Environmental Radiation Bureau at the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), said the agency will also expand their testing program in the Hudson River.
“Our testing program will be in addition to what they [Entergy] usually do. We will start this spring.”
Officials will also be working with fish biologists.
“We will look further upstream and expand the types of fish we test,”
he said. “We will split samples of fish bones we take with the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission (NRC), said the DEC’s Jim Rice.
Rice added that they were looking for additional data from fish that don’t have a large migration pattern in the river. Experts will be looking at commercial and recreational fish.
More testing needed
Entergy is currently required by the NRC to sample fish only twice a year. When asked if she thought this amount of testing was adequate, Youngberg said “no.”
Dr. Adela Salame-Alfie, the director of the Bureau of Environmental Radiation Protection with the New York State Department of Health (DOH), said water samples around the plant didn’t show anything significant.
“Samples we have collected around Indian Point is by no means an extensive program because the utility runs their own surveillance,” said Salame-Alfie. “We just check for discrepancies.”
The Department of Health takes air samples once a week and collects water samples near Verplanck and from the plant’s discharge canal into the Hudson. Fish samples are collected once a year and there are four locations where external radiation is measured, Salme-Alfie said.
Mark Jacobs, of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, asked whether the Department of Health is analyzing the low-level radiation released from Indian Point on a weekly basis to see if they are causing any health impact.
“I’m not in the cancer program and don’t know if there is a plan to study that,” said Salame-Alfie. “Communities interested in cancer study can request the (department) look at all the cancers that were reported in a specific area and create a pathology report. But an in-depth study takes years.”
Last fall ground water sampled within 150 feet of the Hudson River measured strontium-90 at three times the amount allowed in drinking water. The dangerous radioactive isotope is linked to bone cancer and leukemia.
Youngberg said that the DEC sampled the surface and sediment of the river and nearby streams for strontium-90.
“Strontium-90 is ubiquitous in the environment,” said Youngberg. “It’s from the atmospheric weapons tests in the 1950’s. “The strontium-90 numbers from Indian Point are not markedly different from the ones we see from elsewhere.”
Currently, concentrations of strontium-90 going into the Hudson River are not extremely high, according to Youngberg. “The fish results did not show a connection between Indian Point,” she explained. There is no sign of any impacts offsite but we will stay involved.”
Congressman Hall (D-Dover Plains) said he was concerned about communities north of Indian Point that got their drinking water from the Hudson River.
“In drought years the salt wedge (where the saline percentage starts to drop and the water becomes fresh water) is drawn from the lower levels in the Hudson River as far down as the Chelsea Station in New York City. Since Indian Point is 35 miles from New York City, one might presume that strontium-90 and tritium is reaching as far as Kingston. This deserves a look.”
“I’m pleased that the DEC is going to do further studies,” said Nita Lowey (D-White Plains). “In Rockland we are concerned about the proposed desalinization plant by United Water and for those who fish in the Hudson River.”
Lashing out at the improbability of the evacuation plan was Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester). The current plan, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says will work, is based on a time estimate study from 1994 and a traffic study that used demographic information from 1990. FEMA claims that the plan would successfully evacuate 300,000 residents in two hours, but a 2001 NRC study claims that a meltdown could release large amounts of radiation from a site in as little as an hour.
Stating his respect for the work of the DEC and the Health Department, Brodsky blamed FEMA for certifying the evacuation plan.
“Certifying the evacuation plan was an embarrassment,” he said.
“There’s no shortage of regulations, there is a shortage of resources
and a shortage of political will. If anyone really wants to shut the plant,
it won’t be because of the leaks. Shutting down this plant will be because
of the absurdity of the evacuation plan.”
Cracked fuel rod found at Indian Point 2
By Greg Clary
The Journal News
(Original Publication: February 24, 2007)
BUCHANAN - Workers at Indian Point 2 discovered a cracked nuclear fuel rod in the reactor's spent-fuel pool yesterday morning, causing them to halt a routine inspection until they could determine the extent of the damage and devise a plan to safely move and store the broken pieces.
The action did not require the shutdown of the nuclear reactor, and plant officials and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said there was no danger to the public.
The broken 12-foot-long rod remained underwater in the 400,000-gallon storage tank, which is used to shield workers from exposure to radiation.
"It's something that happens infrequently, but it's not rare for the industry," said Larry Gottlieb, the director of communications for Entergy Nuclear Northeast, which owns and operates Indian Point. "The vendor said it happens about 10 percent of the time."
Workers had identified the rod as "imperfect" and had placed it in a special device designed to hold the rod in place while a high-resolution camera scanned it for flaws.
Gottlieb said the half-inch pellets of enhanced uranium didn't fall out of the broken pieces onto the floor of the 40-foot-deep tank, because they expand slightly when they're exposed to water.
"They didn't remove the rod from the pool," Gottlieb said. "And we tested the air and found there were no radiological impacts. The (radiation) dose rates were all normal."
NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan confirmed that there was no release of radiation and said resident inspectors from the agency were monitoring the work.
About 200 rods are housed in a 15-foot assembly that is used in the nuclear reactor until all of its 240 pellets are spent.
Each pellet, about the thickness of a fingertip, produces as much energy as 120 gallons of oil. Normally the assembly is stored standing up in racks on the floor of the spent-fuel pool.
Gottlieb said the rod that broke was placed in the sleeve of a camera device and would remain there.
The sleeve will be moved to a separate part of the pool and inserted in the racks that normally hold the assemblies, so there would be no need to take it out again and possibly sustain more breakage.
The pellets themselves are made of special ceramic material that can withstand very high temperatures; NRC and company officials said there was no leakage of uranium into the pool itself.
Ulster County lawmakers want closer scrutiny of nuke
By Katie Young , Freeman staff
ULSTER County lawmakers have added their voices to those concerned about the Indian Point nuclear power plant.
Legislators voted 20-3 on Thursday to ask the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to conduct an independent safety assessment of the Westchester County plant, which plans to apply for a 20-year renewal of its licenses at the end of March.
The power plant and NRC have said such an assessment is unnecessary because of current routine checks and the two-year intensive assessment required for relicensing.
U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, is among those supporting bills that would require the independent assessment.
Also Thursday, county lawmakers voted 17-6 in favor of broadening the relicensing criteria to include factors outside of the plant, like location, the size of the surrounding population and terror threats.
Legislator Michael Berardi, D-Ulster, questioned whether the move was a veiled attempt to close the plant down. But Legislator Susan Zimet, D-New Paltz, the original sponsor of the resolution, said Westchester County's changing demographics must be considered before the plant is relicensed.
"Maybe Indian Point doesn't belong there anymore, but this isn't trying to shut down nuclear power plants all over the country," Zimet said.
Legislators Glenn Noonan, R-Gardiner, Richard Gerentine, R-Marlboro, and Peter Liepmann, D-New Paltz, voted against requiring an independent assessment. Those three also voted against changing the criteria for relicensing, along with Berardi, Susan Cummings, R-Ellenville, and Legislature Chairman David Donaldson, D-Kingston.
Clinton bill would force NRC to conduct an independent
review of the Indian Point nuclear power plant
By Michael Randall
February 20, 2007
Buchanan — U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has joined the chorus of voices urging an independent safety assessment of Indian Point.
Meanwhile, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is digging in its heels, telling members of Congress such an assessment would be an unnecessary duplication of the commission's own safety reviews.
Clinton, one of the more high-profile Democratic faces in the race for president, introduced a Senate bill that would force the NRC to conduct an independent review of the plant. Clinton's action came several days after Rep. John Hall, D-Dover Plains, introduced a similar bill in the House.
One notable difference between the Clinton and Hall bills is that Clinton's would not tie the safety assessment to the plants' license renewal; Hall's would require any repairs or changes recommended by the assessment to be made before the plants can be relicensed.
Clinton spokeswoman Nina Blackwell said the senator thinks any licensing inadequacies can be better addressed through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. But she also said Clinton supports Hall's goal of getting the safety assessment done before either plant is relicensed.
A House-Senate conference committee would have to work out that difference, should both bills pass, before a final version could be sent to the president for his signature.
Indian Point 2 is due for relicensing in 2013, and Indian Point 3's license expires in 2015.
Late last week, NRC Chairman Dale E. Klein wrote to three Democratic members of Congress — Maurice Hinchey of Hurley, Eliot Engel of the Bronx and Nita Lowey of Westchester County — explaining that the NRC's own reactor oversight process covers everything an independent assessment does.
The three, who are co-sponsors of Hall's bill, wrote a joint letter to the NRC last October urging that an independent assessment be done at Indian Point. NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said the timing of the response was coincidental. The response included a 17-page comparison of the reactor oversight process with an independent assessment done in 1996 at the Maine Yankee nuclear power plant, which was subsequently decommissioned.
And, Klein wrote, the oversight process is better because it's continuous, not a "one-time 'snapshot' inspection."
Hinchey couldn't "help but laugh at" that logic and said the NRC is trying to cover up the inadequacy of its own review processes.
"Their continuous evaluation is entirely superficial," he said. "An ISA is not superficial, but a complex, detailed analysis "¦ Their refusal (to support an ISA) shows extraordinary irresponsibility."
Hold Indian Point to exacting test
Poughkeepsie Journal Editorial, February 18, 2007
Let's start with a single premise: Considering its close proximity to major population areas - including the mid-Hudson Valley and New York City - the Indian Point nuclear power plant should be held to the highest standards imaginable if it is going to continue to operate.
The facility has been plagued by assorted problems over the years, ranging from failures of its warning notification system, to inadequate evacuation plans, to leaks of radioactive water found in the soil adjacent to a pool that holds spent fuel rods.
Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano has repeatedly called for the plant to be shut down. Several municipalities have passed resolutions demanding this action as well. Safety concerns have been greatly compounded since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Nevertheless, Entergy Nuclear Northeast, the company that owns the power plant, recently announced it would seek federal approval to operate the facility for 20 more years. The plant has two active reactors - Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3. Those permits are set to expire in 2013 and 2015, respectively. Entergy wants them extended through 2035.
But a group of New York's congressional delegation is saying "not so fast.'' They want a rigorous independent safety assessment of the plant before the licenses are removed, and that makes abundant sense.
U.S. Rep. John Hall, D-Dover, put the matter bluntly: "Indian Point is the nation's most problematic power plant in the nation's most densely populated corridor.'' He noted that 8 percent of the U. S. population resides within a 50-mile radius of the plant. Hall and others want an independent safety assessment within six months. They say a 25-member team should be appointed, along with a five-member citizens review team to ensure public accountability. They insist any recommended repairs or actions must be taken care of before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reviews the licenses.
That commission oversees the 103 working nuclear plants in the U.S. and has resisted attempts to individualize re-licensing criteria. But Congress has the ability to alter Indian Point's re-licensing requirements, and it should do so. U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, and others have taken up this fight before. Now, more political voices are joining the call. They should keep up the pressure for the most stringent of reviews.
Saddled with ill-conceived siting
Indian Point 2 was considered the most unsafe and worst run of the nation's 103 nuclear power plants when Entergy bought the Buchanan-based complex in 2001. To its credit, Entergy has worked to remove that dubious distinction, though there is no ignoring the problems that have persisted, nor is there any getting around Indian Point's dangerous location. Nationwide, most nuclear facilities are in rural areas, away from major cities.
In hindsight, Indian Point never should have been located where it is. But shutting it down now is far more complicated than opponents are apt to believe, or at least state publicly. For one, the plants produce enough electricity to meet more than 20 percent of the daily consumption in the Hudson Valley and New York City areas; that energy isn't easily replaced. While federal and state governments need to work with innovative businesses to bring more alternative fuels to the market, that won't happen overnight. Moreover, nuclear power is actually less harmful to certain aspects of the environment than coal-burning plants. There also is the long-term question of what to do with the spent fuel rods, something the federal government has failed to address on a nationwide basis.
While progress must be made on these issues, the plant's safety features must be exacting in the meantime. The public must have confidence in how the facility is being operated - and regulated by the government. Representatives in Washington are right to insist on a far-reaching independent review.
NRC won’t conduct ISA of Indian Point; Hinchey, Hall critical
MIDHUDSON NEWS, February 18, 2007
Washington – The Nuclear Regulatory Commission Friday informed House Members Maurice Hinchey and John Hall that it will not conduct an independent safety review of the Indian Point nuclear power plants in Buchanan.
Both lawmakers are incensed by the decision.
Hinchey said the NRC is “essentially covering up the inadequacy of the safety and security” at Indian Point.
“It’s close to a geological fault and it’s in the most densely part of the country, and it’s now leaking radioactive material out into the river,” he said. “There is definite need for a very, very comprehensive analysis here. If they are not capable of doing it themselves, it has to be done by someone from the outside to handle this and we are going to continue to press that until we achieve the objective.”
Hall is not surprised by the NRC decision. “That’s why we have to mandate an ISA in legislation,” he said. “The bottom line is that an ISA is a more stringent safety standard than an in-house safety review and the people in the Hudson Valley deserve the safest possible facility at Indian Point.”
Shoreham’s Lessons for Indian Point
To the Editor:
Matthew C. Cordaro’s idealized vision of the Shoreham nuclear plant (“Powerful Regrets,” Op-Ed, Feb. 11) paints a picture of a panacea that never existed in reality. The original cost estimates for Shoreham construction were $65 million to $75 million and by the late 1970s, 10 years before the plant could go online, the construction costs had already reached $2 billion. Blaming the decommissioning for high electric rates seems narrowly focused.
Further, the portrait of the nuclear industry as having “stellar safety records” has been contradicted numerous times. Since all of Long Island’s water supply comes from a series of four interconnected aquifers, one can only wonder what the public reaction would be if Shoreham had an unknown number of ongoing radioactive water leaks, that have been occurring for an unknown amount of time, with an unknown amount of irradiated water having leaked into the groundwater as is still occurring at Indian Point.
The operating licenses at the Indian Point nuclear plant expire in 2013 and 2015. This should be ample time to devise alternatives to a problem-plagued nuclear plant, such as upgrading a degraded transmission system to better share the electrical output from around the region and development of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency policies. And if Indian Pont is so safe, why are the plant’s owner, Entergy Nuclear Northeast, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission opposing the independent safety assessment that has been proposed in Congress?
To the Editor:
Matthew C. Cordaro dismisses the safety concerns of millions of rational New Yorkers, calling the threat of a serious accident or attack at the Indian Point nuclear plant an “extremely unlikely piece of Hollywood fiction.”
If this threat is so unlikely, why do both the nuclear power industry and our federal government acknowledge that there is no insurance company capable of insuring Indian Point? If nuclear plants are so safe, why must the industry be indemnified against accidents by the Price-Anderson Act, forcing the American taxpayer to cover most of the risk?
I’ll reassess the risk of Indian Point when Entergy is able to purchase an insurance policy that covers the hundreds of billions of dollars of damages that would result from a major release of radiation. That policy would soothe my fears much more than these cost-free assurances of safety that one incident would so quickly invalidate.
NRC chairman says Indian Point safety review not needed
By Greg Clary
The Journal News
(Original Publication: February 17, 2007)
The chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has defended his agency's decision not to conduct a special inspection of Indian Point, saying there is already enough oversight of the nuclear power plants.
In a letter to Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, Chairman Dale E. Klein said a revamped reactor inspection program is more effective than an "Independent Safety Assessment" because it is continuous, while the special review would be a "snapshot" of conditions at the plants.
"(The) NRC staff is essentially performing the inspection elements of an ISA at each operating nuclear power plant in the country on a routine basis," Klein wrote Thursday.
Klein sent the letter to Hinchey, the Ulster County congressman who originated a bill last year requiring the NRC to conduct an ISA of Indian Point. Klein also sent copies to Reps. Eliot Engel, D-Bronx, and Nita Lowey, D-Harrison, who co-sponsored the legislation.
Hinchey's bill and a similar one introduced by U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., failed last year. Updated versions of both bills were reintroduced this week in the new, Democratic-controlled Congress and have received the ceremonial support of the county legislatures of Rockland, Putnam and Westchester.
The ISA is crucial for the public to be comfortable that the Indian Point nuclear power plants operate safely, Hinchey said.
"They are completely fallacious in what they're presenting as their rationale for not allowing this independent safety analysis," he said of NRC officials. "They have not engaged in the proper oversight of this facility, and they are apparently incapable of doing so."
The agency's oversight is too superficial to provide the in-depth inspection needed, Hinchey said, especially considering there are strontium 90 and tritium leaks at the plants, unplanned shutdowns of the reactor and other operational concerns.
Indian Point officials maintain that an ISA is unwarranted and that the plants are safe. They also think that should such an inspection be required, the plants would perform well, though they are skeptical even an exemplary rating would satisfy opponents.
"We're saying let's take a look at this place in a serious way," Hinchey said. "It needs that kind of examination so that we can have enough information on which to base a kind of decision like that."
Riverkeeper's Indian Point campaign director, Lisa Rainwater, said that even if the ISA showed the plants were operating safely, her organization could not support its continued presence in such a densely populated area.
"It's still the wrong plant in the wrong place at the wrong time," Rainwater said yesterday.
Entergy Nuclear Northeast, the owner and operator of Indian Point, plans to seek 20-year license renewals for the two working reactors at the site. If the NRC approves those applications, the company could generate electricity there through 2035.
Company officials have said the relicensing process would require more inspection, adding to what is already being done on the radiological leaks.
Hinchey said new leadership in Congress increases the chance that the special review will be required.
Engel said anything short of an ISA is inadequate.
"Now the NRC wants us to trust their judgment in assessing Indian Point," Engel said. "They claim it is safe while practically every week we hear of another shutdown or another leak."
Hil 'nukes' Rudy client Indian Point
BY DAVID SALTONSTALL
DAILY NEWS SENIOR CORRESPONDENT
Friday, February 16th, 2007
New York Daily News - http://www.nydailynews.com
Sen. Hillary Clinton went "nuclear" on potential presidential rival Rudy Giuliani yesterday - charging that a nuclear client of the former mayor's needs a major safety review.
Following some recent scares at Entergy's Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County, Clinton has reintroduced a bill that would force a stepped-up review of the plant by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
"Restoring public trust in the facility will depend on a more thorough examination of the plant than the NRC is currently conducting," Clinton said in a statement.
Left unsaid was that Entergy is a major client of Giuliani Partners, which for years has worked as a consultant to develop Indian Point's evacuation and safety plans.
Aides to the senator denied that there was any political fallout intended for the Republican Giuliani, who is riding high in polls of 2008 presidential contenders.
"Sen. Clinton has a long history of expressing concern over this issue," Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said. "And she is solely motivated by ensuring the safety of her constituents."
But the release immediately put Team Giuliani on the defensive and underscored how the former mayor's private-sector client list could cause him a series of small headaches as he runs for the White House.
"Indian Point has repeatedly demonstrated that it is among the best-run plants in the country," Giuliani Partners Vice President Thomas Fitzpatrick said.
Added a Giuliani campaign aide, "This is heavy on rhetoric and short on substance."
Giuliani and Entergy officials noted that the NRC is already conducting a thorough review of Indian Point's safety systems as part of its proposed relicensing, and they argued that Clinton's bill would unfairly single out the plant for additional scrutiny.
Clinton's call comes 10 days after Indian Point experienced an unexpected drop in cooling water, a problem later blamed on a clogged filter. Critics have also pointed to continuing leaks of strontium 90 at the plant and workers saying they can't speak up without fear of retribution.
Indian Point Nuclear Plant Faces Scrutiny
By Don Casciato
Article Launched: 02/16/2007 09:21:42 AM EST
Legislation was introduced this week by U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays (R-4) and four Democratic Party U.S. representatives from New York that would require an Independent Safety Assessment (ISA) of the Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC) in Buchanan, N.Y., within six months.
The bill goes beyond previous legislation to require the plant to comply with the ISA recommendations or be denied a license extension in 2013, according to a statement released by Shays. The standard for compliance will go beyond standard Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) review for re-licensing to create a more in-depth assessment of potential problems with the Indian Point Energy Center, he said.
"Indian Point's location near highly populated areas means we have to go the extra mile to ensure it is safe," said Shays. "This legislation will ensure that if Indian Point continues to run, it meets strict safety standards and is continually monitored."
The nuclear site is within about 50 miles of Westport.
The bill also will establish the composition of a 25-member ISA team and a five member Citizens Review Team to ensure public accountability. It also is specifically targeted at Indian Point and does not apply to other facilities.
Eliot Engel, one of the Democrats, warned radioactive waste is leaking from Indian Point and Entergy cannot find the source of that leak. "Now radioactive waste is being found in fish in the Hudson River," said Engel. "This is unacceptable."
"Indian Point is the nation's most problematic power plant in the nation's most densely populated corridor," said U.S. Rep John Hall, a New York Democrat. "With 8 percent of the population of the United States within a 50-mile radius of the plant, our bill forces the NRC to give this plant the special attention it requires. This bill will force Entergy to do what it takes to run Indian Point safely or they won't be able to run it at all."
U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, another Democrat from New York state added: "No matter how many safety and operational malfunctions occur at Indian Point, the NRC refuses to execute a comprehensive analysis of safety and security measures at the plants.
"Local residents deserve assurance that everything possible is being done to secure this facility. Until NRC takes action to ensure the safety of our communities, my colleagues and I will fight to force NRC to perform an ISA at Indian Point."
The vast majority of New York residents are worried about the safety of Indian Point and unfortunately those concerns are not unwarranted, according to Maurice Hinchey, another member of the Democrat foursome.
"From trouble with alarms at the plant to known leaks of radioactive material, Indian Point is not functioning properly, which is why we need a comprehensive Independent Safety Assessment," said Hinchey. "The measure is improved from the one we introduced last year and will help identify the steps we need to take to help safeguard New Yorkers from the nuclear power plant that is their neighbor."
Basics of Bill
According to Shays and the four Democrats, the bill:
-- Requires the completion of an Independent Safety Assessment at IPEC within six months of passage.
-- Requires the ISA to be completed and any recommended repairs or actions to be fully implemented prior to NRC renewal of IPEC'S license.
-- Requires the NRC and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to complete a detailed evaluation of the radiological emergency plan for Indian Point.
-- Specifies that the ISA will be conducted by a 25-member team composed of 16 NRC officials not from NRC Region 1, six independent contractors and three NYS appointees.
-- Specifies that the ISA will be monitored by a four-member ISA Observation Group appointed by New York State, as well as a Citizens' Review Team composed of five individuals appointed by New York, with one resident from each Emergency Planning Zone county.
-- Authorizes $10 million to carry out the ISA.
In the News
On the average month, there is at least one article in area newspapers about a problem at Indian Point.
For example, the New York Daily News reported last year that radioactive water was leaking under the Indian Point Nuclear Power plant site and into the ground and has grown to roughly the size of the Central Park Reservoir.
Cleanup of the leaks at the aging Westchester County plant, 24 miles upstream from New York City on the Hudson River, was planned, said Don Mayer, director of special projects for Entergy, which runs the plant.
But even as the long-planned repair begins, the size of the problem continues to grow, according to the New York-based newspaper.
"The underground area has contaminated water that is 50 to 60 feet deep," said Mayer. "There is also another area, or underground plume, that is about 30 feet wide by 350 feet long."
Environmental advocacy groups, including Robert F. Kennedy's Riverkeeper, as well as nearby residents, fear the radiation will seep into underground aquifers and reach public drinking supplies.
"It's a serious problem," said Phillip Musegaas, a policy analyst with the Riverkeeper. "Tens of thousands of gallons of water are leaching out into the ground, but most of it is going into the river."
Entergy, which has dug 54 wells to monitor and detect contamination in the ground water, maintains the drinking water is safe. Drinking supplies tested two miles from the plant last spring were found free of radioactive contaminants, according to Entergy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
In the battle between incumbent Christopher Shays and Democratic Party challenger Diane Farrell in the 4th Congressional District election in 2006, a couple of dozen issues surfaced. Some of them dropped by the wayside during the campaign, but others have life after the election.
Both candidates had discussed the topic before their campaign started, but neither of them talked about the nuclear plants very much. During an election campaign, usually candidates argue about their political philosophy or the need of action on major issues of the day or the mistakes that the opposition party has supposedly made.
Although the rhetoric can get annoying, there can be a plus side to campaigns.
U.S. Representative John Hall
N E W Y O R K'S 19th C O N G R E S S I O N A L D I S T R I C T
For Immediate Release, February 12, 2007
Hall Announces Bill to Require Indian Point ISA or Face Shut Down in 2013
New Bill Requires That Indian Point Comply With ISA Recommendations or Be Denied License Extension in 2013
Strict Standards for IP Re-Licensing in Bill Co-Sponsored by Lowey, Engel, Hinchey and Shays
Today Congressman John Hall will introduce legislation that will require an Independent Safety Assessment (ISA) of the Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC) within six months. The bill will go beyond previous legislation to require the plant to comply with the ISA recommendations or be denied a license extension in 2013. The standard for compliance will go beyond standard Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) review for re-licensing to create a more in depth assessment of potential problems with the Indian Point Energy Center.
The bill will also establish the composition of a 25 member ISA team and a five member Citizens Review Team to ensure public accountability. The bill is also specifically targeted at Indian Point and does not apply to other facilities.
"Indian Point is the nation's most problematic power plant in the nation's most densely populated corridor, Hall said, "With 8% of the population of the United States within a 50 mile radius of the plant, our bill forces the NRC to give this plant the special attention it requires. This bill will force Entergy to do what it takes to run Indian Point safely or they won't be able to run it at all."
Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) said, "No matter how many safety and operational malfunctions occur at Indian Point, the NRC refuses to execute a comprehensive analysis of safety and security measures at the plants. Local residents deserve assurance that everything possible is being done to secure this facility. Until NRC takes action to ensure the safety of our communities, my colleagues and I will fight to force NRC to perform an ISA at Indian Point."
Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) said, "In the absence of any real enforcement by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission regarding Indian Point's offenses, an Independent Safety Assessment is a vital step in assuring that the employees, the residents of the immediate area, and indeed the whole metropolitan area are kept safe. Radioactive waste is leaking from Indian Point and Entergy cannot find the source of that leak. Now radioactive waste is being found in fish in the Hudson River. This is unacceptable."
Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) sad, "It's pretty clear that the vast majority of New York residents are troubled about the safety of Indian Point and unfortunately those concerns are not unwarranted. From trouble with alarms at the plant to known leaks of radioactive material, Indian Point is not functioning properly, which is why we need a comprehensive Independent Safety Assessment. This measure is improved from the one we introduced last year and will help identify the steps we need to take to help safeguard New Yorkers from the nuclear power plant that is their neighbor."
Congressman Christopher Shays (R-CT) said, "Indian Point's location near highly populated areas means we have to go the extra mile to ensure it is safe. This legislation will ensure that if Indian Point continues to run, it meets strict safety standards and is continually monitored."
§ Requires the completion of an Independent Safety Assessment at IPEC within 6 months of passage
§ Requires the ISA to be completed and any recommended repairs or actions to be fully implemented prior to NRC renewal of IPEC's license
§ Requires the NRC and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to complete a detailed evaluation of the radiological emergency plan for Indian Point.
§ Specifies that the ISA will be conducted by a 25 member team composed of 16 NRC officials not from NRC Region 1, 6 independent contractors, and three NYS appointees.
§ Specifies that the ISA will be monitored by a 4 member ISA Observation Group appointed by NY State, as well as a Citizens' Review Team composed of five individuals appointed by NY, with one resident from each Emergency Planning Zone county.
§ Authorizes $10 million to carry out the ISA.
Counties want Indian Point's Hudson River
filters cleaned more often.
By GREG CLARY
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: February 8, 2007)
BUCHANAN - County officials on both sides of the Hudson want Indian Point to clean its river water filters more often than the nation elects a president.
The nuclear plants had to declare a low-level emergency Monday when leaves and branches clogged up an intake structure that channels water from the Hudson through the plant to cool nonradioactive machinery. The company has a state permit to use the water.
Divers sent into the icy waters Tuesday cleaned the debris off the lower sections of a large trash screen, which had become plugged enough that water wasn't getting in during low tide early Monday.
Though the problem affected the nonradioactive portion of the plants, if it had continued, it could have forced the shutdown of Indian Point 3.
Currently the plants clean the screen once every four years, a schedule that didn't sit well with Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano or Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef.
"The emergency could have been much worse," Spano said. "Entergy needs to make sure that these screens are always clean of debris so the plant can operate safely."
Vanderhoef spokeswoman C.J. Miller said the company labeled the amount of debris "significant" in its communication to the counties.
"We're dealing with very basic maintenance issues," Miller said. "And this is Indian Point 3, the newest reactor. It brings into question what the schedule is for IP 2 as well. If they're getting blockages like this, stepping up the maintenance is a no-brainer."
Entergy Nuclear Northeast, which owns and operates both power plants at the site, will review its maintenance schedule to see if the frequency needs to be increased, company spokesman Jim Steets said.
The last time the screen was cleaned was in November of 2005, Steets said. It was earlier reported that the screen had been cleaned last November, which he said yesterday was incorrect.
Steets said there are plenty of early warning signs that are part of the plant's operation which let workers know if there's a problem getting enough river water through the 27-foot-high submerged structure.
He reiterated that the "unusual incident," as it is known in the industry, was a nonradiological event that didn't affect plant operations or safety.
Regulators mobilized their incident command center in Pennsylvania on Monday to ensure they were on top of the situation.
The emergency didn't reach the level that required similar action from the four counties within the 10-mile evacuation radius of the plant - Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Orange.
Debris, ice and low tide cause water problems for Indian Point
By Greg Clary
The Journal News
(Original Publication: February 6, 2007)
BUCHANAN - Debris, ice and low tides were apparently to blame yesterday
morning for clogging up the Hudson River intake system of Indian Point 3,
leaving the plant with lower-than-normal levels of water to cool pumps and
The incident was serious enough for Entergy Nuclear Northeast, the plant's
owner and operator, to declare it an "unusual event," the lowest of four
"There was never any threat to the public," said Susan Tolchin, Westchester
County Executive Andrew Spano's chief adviser. "Entergy handled it in an
appropriate manner. However, this brings up the issue once again that this
nuclear power plant should not be located in Westchester County, in a
highly populated area."
Across the river, Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef called for
more frequent maintenance of the intake system, which Rockland officials
said they were told was tuned up twice a year.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Entergy officials gave this account
of yesterday's incident:
At 5:53 a.m., control room operators at Indian Point 3 received an alarm
indicating a problem with rotating screens that strain debris from the
billions of gallons of Hudson River water cycled through the plants daily
to cool its nonradioactive parts.
Four minutes later, the pumps that are used to wash debris off the screens
stopped working because of low-water levels. The river was at low tide and
the near-freezing temperature of the river itself led to speculation that
ice was blocking the intake.
By 7:07 a.m., water reservoir levels subsided to 4 1/2 feet below mean sea
level, triggering the requirement to notify the NRC and emergency officials
from Westchester and the surrounding counties.
A rising tide restored the water levels for the pumps, and the emergency
designation was removed at 10:14 a.m.
Entergy planned yesterday to send divers into the water to clean the lower
parts of the screens so that low tides wouldn't create similar problems.
Entergy officials said that the incident did not affect the operation of
Indian Point 3.
Vanderhoef's spokeswoman, C.J. Miller, said the plant needs to figure out a
more effective way to keep the screens clear of debris.
"If this was weather-related, that's one thing," Miller said. "But
an ongoing maintenance issue, it needs to be addressed."
Entergy spokesman Jim Steets said the screen were cleaned in November and
the plant backwashes its system monthly to clear debris as well.
"This wasn't debris by itself, so I don't think maintenance is an issue
all," Steets said. "I think it's a matter of two extremes - low tide and
low temperature - combining with normal amounts of debris."
Steets said he wasn't sure of the frequency of the screen-cleaning program
other than the monthly backwashes.
Rep. John Hall, D-Dover Plains, said the event made him question the
overall safety of the nuclear plant.
"If a bunch of debris from the river is all it takes to cause an emergency
at Indian Point, imagine what could happen during equipment malfunctions
or, God forbid, a terrorist attack," Hall said. "This only underscores the
importance of carefully scrutinizing the plant's proposed relicensing and
moving full-speed ahead on the development of alternative forms of energy
that are safe and renewable."
Nuclear plant Indian Point's power level stable, spokesman says
February 6, 2007
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Indian Point nuclear power station in Westchester
County was operating normally Tuesday morning, a day after low cooling water
levels led to a declaration of an "unusual event" _ the lowest category of
Officials at the Buchanan, N.Y. facility blamed the low water level on a
combination of cold weather, low tides on the Hudson River and debris
clogging screens used to filter the water the plant draws in from the river.
Entergy Nuclear Northeast spokesman Jim Steets said Tuesday morning that the
screens had been "backwashed" and water levels were no longer at a worrisome
level, though he said he did not know precisely what the water level was.
"The situation is normal as can be. Water levels are being maintained,"
Steets, adding that the plant has seen two more low tides, once Monday
evening and another early Tuesday morning, without repeating the
four-and-a-half foot water drop experienced early Monday morning.
"We never really got even close to those lower levels," said Steets.
were expected to inspect the screens later in the day, he said.
Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.
A stub public official rejects a government brush off over nukes
(Journal News editorial, original publication: February 5, 2007)
Have to hand it to Andrew Spano, the Westchester County executive. A lot of
public officials talk tough about the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the
Indian Point nuclear plants and make noise about mothballing the edifices
along the Hudson; Spano actually sends his whipping-boy lawyers to the
Spanos' lawyers last week filed a petition with the 2nd Circuit Court of
Appeals asking the panel to consider whether the always cozy NRC, in effect,
has been drinking the coolant at the plants in Buchanan. Spano complains
that the federal regulators have violated the Atomic Energy Act, the
National Environmental Policy Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and
abused their discretion in turning down to the county's request that the
government make it harder for Indian Point to extend its operating permits
for an additional 20 years. His contention: If starting from scratch, no
government in its right mind would site a nuclear power plant in such an
ultra-congested, terrorist-favored region.
In December, the NRC determined that the extra scrutiny sought by the county
- pleas to factor in the area's population density, the potential risk of
terrorism and the certain failure of evacuation plans - was unwarranted. "It
was summarily rejected, basically because they said they changed the
criteria in 2000, and nothing has happened since that would cause them to
revisit the issue," said Spano. "Did they forget Sept. 11th ever happened?"
Not at all, NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan told staff writer Greg Clary: "We
consider emergency planning and security to be issues of paramount
importance, and that's why we think it makes more sense to address them on a
continuous basis rather than during the snapshot period of time when a
company is seeking a license extension. The NRC has aggressively sought
improvements in those areas, especially since 9/11, and will continue to do
We don't know enough about the federal statutes referenced by Spano to
conclude whether he is on to something; however, it should be plain to
anyone who has been stuck in the traffic jam of the hour in this hopelessly
congested region - or lived through 9/11 - that it makes sense to put all
issues on the table when considering the future of Indian Point. A
comprehensive review - something more than a paper-shuffling, summary denial
- would go a long way toward airing Spano's and the public's honestly held
concerns about the plants and our future in the Lower Hudson Valley. We
hope, with or without the court's help, that such public discussion ensues.
NRC looks into "unusual event" at Indian Point 3 nuclear power plant
Mid-Hudson News, Feb. 5, 2007
Buchanan -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was closely monitoring an
"unusual event" at the Indian Point 3 nuclear power plant Monday morning. An
"unusual event," the lowest of four levels of emergency classification, was
declared at the Buchanan facility at 7:07 a.m. in response to reduced water
levels at the plant's water intake structure. The "unusual event" was exited
at 10:14 a.m.
Indian Point operator Entergy said the "unusual event" was declared
water level in the plant's service water bay area dropped more than 4 ½ feet
below sea level. The plant was unaffected and continues to operate at full
power. Indian Point 2 is also operating at full power.
Workers removed debris from screens that appear to be the cause of the
lowered water level. Service water cools certain plant equipment such as
pumps and motors.
The NRC's Resident Inspectors at the plant were following the event and the
Incident Response Center in the agency's Region I Office in King of Prussia,
Pa., was activated to track developments and determine if plant operators
were responding appropriately.
"If a bunch of debris from the river is all it takes to cause an emergency
at Indian Point, imagine what could happen during equipment malfunctions or,
God forbid, a terrorist attack," said Congressman John Hall. "This only
underscores the importance of carefully scrutinizing the plant's proposed
re-licensing and moving full-speed ahead on the development of alternative
forms of energy that are safe and renewable."
Indian Point 3 is a 1,100-megawatt pressurized water reactor. It is owned
and operated by Entergy.
Indian Point nuke plants tackle water-intake
By Greg Clary
The Journal News
(Original Publication: February 5, 2007)
BUCHANAN - Indian Point 3 experienced some difficulties with its Hudson River water-intake system this morning that forced plant operators to declare "an unusual event" and send divers into the icy waters to clear screens that keep debris from being drawn in with water used to cool pumps and other machinery.
The plant was not shut down, according to Indian Point spokesman Jim Steets.
Just before 6 a.m., the water in Indian Point 3's service bay area reached levels low enough - nearly five feet below sea level - to set off a warning.
Millions of gallons of water from the Hudson River are sucked into the nuclear plants' cooling system under a permit with New York state and screens are used to keep the inflows clear of debris.
Steets said it appeared that icy conditions had blocked screens that the water comes in through, in effect shutting off the spigot of cooling water coming into the service bay. The low river tide also likely contributed to the problem, he said.
"The water levels are already rising back," Steets said about 9 a.m.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ANDREW CUOMO SLAMS NUCLEAR
REGULATORY COMMISSION’S RULING ON ATOMIC PLANT SECURITY
Highlights potential threat to millions of New Yorkers by a terrorist attack on Indian Point and condemns Indian Point’s flawed evacuation plan
BUFFALO, New York (January 30, 2007) — Yesterday the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) refused to endorse a petition to require U.S. nuclear plants to erect a barrier to protect against a direct attack from an aircraft, and refused to publicly order other security measures as well. The New York Attorney General’s Office had backed the petition and submitted formal comments, along with 7 other state attorneys general.
In 2004 the Committee to Bridge the Gap, a Los Angeles nonprofit group, petitioned the NRC to significantly upgrade security at U.S. nuclear power plants. They urged that the NRC require nuclear plant owners to prepare to repel threats by air, water, or land by a group comparable in size to the 19 al Qaeda operatives who carried out the 9/11 attacks, employing more than one unit and using any suitable weapon, vehicle, and means of sabotage. In particular, the petition urged the NRC to require a defense against an attack with a fully-loaded jumbo jet.
Attorney General Cuomo said, “Yesterday the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ignored the lessons of September 11 and abandoned its responsibility to protect millions of New Yorkers. They failed to heed the warnings of the 9/11 commission, which reported that al-Qaeda terrorists had specifically contemplated attacking nuclear power plants with aircraft. There are simple affordable measures nuclear plant operators can undertake to enhance security. It is outrageous that the Bush Administration caved in to the nuclear power interests over the security of Americans living near these plants.”
Cuomo continued, “This also highlights my ongoing concerns about security and safety at Indian Point. Indian Point is located in a region of 21 million people. No nuclear plant in the nation is located in as dense an area. Yet, even after 9/11 and Katrina, Indian Point’s operator, Entergy, still hasn’t submitted an adequate evacuation plan for New Yorkers who could be harmed by a radiation leak.”
2006 marked the fourth straight year that Westchester, Rockland, and Orange Counties refused to certify Entergy’s county-based evacuation plans as acceptable. In 2003 James Lee Whitt, FEMA director under President Clinton, concluded that Entergy’s plan was “inadequate to protect the people from an unacceptable dose of radiation.”
Indian Point’s original 40 year licenses will expire in 2013 and 2015, respectively. Entergy has announced that it will apply to the NRC to renew these licenses in March 2007.
Cuomo said, “All of these safety measures must be addressed by Entergy. In June 2006, the National Academy of Sciences issued a roadmap to our future without Indian Point. It confirmed that the obstacles to replacing the power generated by Indian point are merely political and not technological. We need to implement demand-reduction strategies, develop alternative energy, and build new power plants that are as safe and clean as possible to move toward a future without Indian Point.
NRC says nuke plants not responsible to
defend air attacks
By Greg Clary
The Journal News
(Original Publication: January 30, 2007)
Indian Point and the rest of the nation's nuclear power plants should not be expected to stop terrorists from flying airplanes into a reactor, federal regulators said yesterday, adding that such a security effort is best handled by others, such as the U.S. military.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said plant operators should focus on limiting radioactive releases and public exposure from any such airborne attack, the agency said in a revised defense plan for America's nuclear plants.
"The active protection against airborne threats is addressed by other federal organizations, including the military," the NRC said in a statement.
The agency rejected a proposal by a nuclear watchdog group that power plants be required to erect a "lattice-like" device or other barrier that would prevent an aircraft from reaching a reactor containment dome.
Jim Steets, a spokesman for Indian Point, said the NRC's latest action merely codifies security improvements that have been in place locally since a year or so after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"There's nothing in what was announced that we haven't already done," Steets said, listing security improvements at the Buchanan site that include moving perimeter barriers farther from the reactors and adding more security staff, new weapons and more cameras. "This just clarifies what companies are responsible for."
Steets said the plant has the ability to protect itself from an attack that starts in the Hudson River or by land, but it wouldn't make sense for Entergy Nuclear Northeast or any other business to start a fleet of F-15 fighter planes.
"It's not good public policy and it's impractical," he said.
Rep. Nita Lowey, D-Harrison, said in an e-mailed statement that she would like to see more from the NRC, specifically what plants can do to prevent an attack.
"An attack from commercial aircraft was never considered when our nation's nuclear plants were designed decades ago, but we know since a plane flew directly over the Indian Point nuclear plants on Sept. 11th that our nuclear facilities need the highest possible level of protection," Lowey said.
Currently, a plane is allowed to travel over the plant no lower than 3,000 feet and can't linger, according to Federal Aviation Administration regulations.
Riverkeeper officials, long concerned about security at that plant, said the NRC should have done more as well.
"By approving these weak changes to the security regulations, the NRC is once again putting the cost concerns of the nuclear industry ahead of public health and safety, said Phillip Musegaas, a policy analyst for the environmental organization. "Rather than requiring Indian Point to install floating security barriers on the Hudson river and hardening the spent fuel pool buildings against air attack, this new rule allows Entergy to continue with the status quo - preparing only for an attack by a small group of lightly armed terrorists."
Details of the new defense plan are secret.
The NRC approved it by a 5-0 vote at a brief meeting at which the plan was not discussed publicly in any detail.
The revised plan has been the subject of intense internal discussions for 15 months.
The NRC, in a summary of the security plan, said that "active protection" against an airborne threat rests with organizations such as the FAA and the military.
It said that various mitigation strategies required of plant operators, such as radiation protection measures and evacuation plans, "are sufficient to ensure adequate protection of the public health and safety" in case of an airborne attack.
"This rule is an important piece, but only one piece of a broader effort to enhance nuclear power plant security," NRC Chairman Dale Klein said in a statement.
The new plan spells out what the operators of the nation's commercial nuclear power plants must be capable of defending against. It assumes that a terrorist attack force would be relatively small - and that its weapons would be limited.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., in a letter to the NRC on Friday, said the agency's defense requirements should "ensure that ... the plants are prepared to defend against large attacking forces and commercial aircraft."
Boxer is chair of the Senate committee, which has jurisdiction over the NRC.
Attend Legislature Meeting Re Independent Safety Assessment of Indian Point
To the Editor:
I appreciate Margaret Sternberg's excellent front page coverage of the Putnam County Legislature's Health, Social, Educational and Environmental Committee's forwarding to the Legislature a resolution to require Entergy to perform an Independent Safety Assessment (ISA) of Indian Point. The resolution will go before the full Legislature at its next regular meeting on Tuesday, February 6th at 7pm in the County Courthouse on Gleneida Avenue in Carmel.
Entergy has announced it will apply this spring for 20-year extensions of their operating licenses until 2033 (IP2) and 2035 (IP3).
Irradiated water has been leaking from an unknown number of sources, for an unknown amount of time, with an unknown amount having pooled under the plant and migrated into the Hudson River. The leakage includes a variety of known carcinogenic radioactive elements. A recent test of fish from the Hudson found readable levels of Strontium 90.
Despite the James Lee Witt report that the IP Evacuation Plan is inadequate and the withholding of State certification, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission signed off on the viability of the plan in July 2003 on the very day that a one-car fatal accident on the Tappan Zee Bridge resulted in a day-long traffic jam on every major roadway in Westchester.
Most recently we have learned that workers at Indian Point are afraid to report safety issues because they fear company retaliation.
I would encourage all residents who have any concern about the on-going operation of Indian Point to attend the Legislature meeting, especially those who live along the evacuation routes of Rt. 9, Rt. 9D and Sprout Brook Road in Philipstown; Oscawana Lake Road, Oscawana Heights Road and Peekskill Hollow Road in Putnam Valley; and Wood Street and Rt. 6N in the Town of Carmel. All these roads, with the exception of a few places on Rt. 9, are 2-lane roads that would need to accommodate up to 20,000 individuals in the event of an evacuation.
Putnam County gets not a single watt of electricity from Indian Point, but we all bear the risk. We deserve to know that critical systems are operating safely, which is why we need the Independent Safety Assessment as proposed by a bipartisan group of Federal elected officials. It would be unconscionable to permit a twenty-year license extension without having the knowledge that all systems are operating safely. The ISA is a non-partisan issue about the health and safety of 20 million people within a 50-mile radius of the plant. We need to let our new Governor and our federal representatives in the House and the Senate know that we expect all governmental offices to fulfill their obligations to protect the public welfare.
INDIAN POINT: How safe?
Westchester board to vote on independent review
By Abby Luby
North County News, January 25, 2007
A small but vocal contingent at Westchester County’s Environment and Energy Committee meeting this week urged support for an independent safety assessment of the Indian Point Nuclear Power plants.
If county legislators adopt the resolution next month, Westchester will join Rockland County and municipalities such as Croton, Ossining, Beacon, Putnam Valley, Ramapo and Cortlandt, who have all passed an ISA resolution supporting a pending congressional bill. If enacted into law, Entergy, owner of the nuclear power plants, would be legally required to conduct an independent safety assessment.
“I live six miles from the plant and I made a presentation supporting the ISA,” said Croton-on-Hudson’s Glenn Rickles, a member of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, a grass roots organization pushing for the plant’s closure. To date, IPSEC has amassed over 5,000 signatures supporting the ISA.
But the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the plant’s federal oversight
agency, said that the plant already undergoes independent assessments.
“Right now at Indian Point there are two inspections underway for looking at component design bases, “said NRC spokesperson Neil Sheehan. “Seven team members are on site for four weeks. Three of those seven members are independent contractors--not NRC employees.”
The ISA stipulates that an assessment for Indian Point be similar to the ISA
at the Maine Yankee Nuclear Power Plant in Wiscasset, Maine in 1996. Sheehan
said Maine Yankee’s assessment is what Indian Point is getting now.
“Maine Yankee had 25 team members on site for two weeks in July and again in August. They covered what we do now with our reactor oversight process at Indian Point.”
The Maine Yankee plant closed after the safety assessment revealed that running the plant safely was cost prohibitive.
Driving the push for the ISA is the upcoming re-licensing application in March for continued plant operation by Entergy. Operating licenses will expire in 2013 and 2015 unless extensions are granted by the NRC.
Newly elected Congressman John Hall (D-Dover Plains) said the ISA is integral to the re-licensing process since the NRC is so connected to the industry. “I think the NRC has been long on their promotion [of the industry] and short on their regulatory activities. It would be helpful if a truly objective, independent panel looked at this plant.”
Entergy spokesman Jim Steets said since September 11, the plant has undergone more safety assessments than any other plant in the country. “If we have yet another assessment, it will be one we have to endure and one that will distract our workers from their everyday duties just so we can satisfy some unfounded whim,” he said.
Many assessments are prompted by concerned officials, Steets added. “Is this about safety or about satisfying a constituency? The motivation behind these efforts is not to ensure safety, but is a push by people to close the plant.”
Speaking briefly at the meeting was Marilyn Elie of the Westchester Citizens Awareness Network, a group that wants the plants closed.
“This county is determined to keep people in Westchester safe from any possible harm from Indian Point,” said Elie. “We need independent people to look at the plant and tell us what the real story is. If something is wrong we will know about it. If nothing is wrong we can all feel relieved.”
Chairing the meeting was Thomas Abinanti (D-Irvington). After voting unanimously with three other committee members, Abinanti said “the ISA provides transparency. If we can’t close the plant, let’s make it safe. If it comes out okay, then we can all breath easier.”
Voting for the ISA was committee member Michael Kaplowitz (D-Somers) who said
safety issues included leaks, non-working sirens and basic design flaws.
“It has been a yo-yo operation with ups and downs. We have little or no confidence in Entergy or the NRC.”
Present at the meeting was Elizabeth Segal of Tarrytown who said she was concerned about the plant’s safety. “It makes me feel good that we have our county behind us.”
ISA bill in limbo
A Congressional and Senate bill for an ISA was introduced last March by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-Middletown) and was co-sponsored by Reps Eliot Engel (D-Bronx), Nita Lowey (D-Harrison), Sue Kelly (R-Katonah), and Christopher Shays (R-Conn). The Senate has a similar bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.). According to the congressional website, the last action on the House bill was a referral to the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality on March 17 and the Senate bill is lingering in the Committee on Environment and Public Works.
County Legislature Health Committee Supports Congressional
Resolution for Independent Safety Assessment of Indian Point
Legislators upset with County Executive over slow responses to document requests
by Margaret Sternberg
At its January 9, 2007 meeting, the Putnam County Legislature's Health, Social Educational & Environmental Committee focused on concerns over Indian Point and the support of a resolution supporting legislation arising from those concerns.
Environmental activist Judy Allen discussed legislation introduced in both Houses of the U.S. Congress that mandates that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission conduct an Independent Safety Assessment on the "vital systems of Indian Point" and "require FEMA to justify, with specificity, its approval of the Indian Point evacuation plan" despite findings by a report issued by James Lee Witt Associates that the plan was inadequate. The report had been commissioned by NY State to evaluate the ability of Indian Point's off-site emergency plan to protect the public from a release of radiation from the plant.
The resolution that was passed by the members of the Health Committee will now move to a vote before the full county Legislature in February and supports the federal legislation that mandates for Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3 a "vertical slice" of all operating systems; a "horizontal" review of all plant maintenance; that the review be conducted by independent experts and monitored by local officials, and that there be a "rigorous" reevaluation of the of the feasibility of the Indian Point evacuation plan. The "vertical slice" and "horizontal" review, Chairman Sam Oliverio explained, refer to exceptionally thorough and all-encompassing assessments and evaluations of all aspects of the plant.
Legislator Regina Morini asked about the state of the roads in Putnam Valley, citing the number of two-lane roads, adding that in 25 years roads have not been repaired and, currently, Putnam Valley is preventing the County from repairing Peekskill Hollow Road. Morini asked whether the Town "is willing to take action on this so that people can escape properly?" Legislator Oliverio said that it is not only the condition of that particular road, but the width, expanding the comment to include the width of roads in Philipstown. Legislator Vinny Tamagna added that the "infrastructure is not made to handle the evacuation of 20 million people. It's impossible."
Allen returned the conversation to Indian Point itself and incidents such as leaking that could contaminate groundwater, saying they were not talking about terrorists but about day-to-day maintenance and issues that should be rectified before Entergy receives another 20-year license.
In other business, the Committee had planned on receiving an update on the Recycling Center but was unable to do so because documents expected from the County Executive's office had not been received. Discussion quickly turned toward resolution of delays in receiving relevant documents from the Executive branch of the county government.
Chairman Oliverio expressed his exasperation, noting that this was not the first time they did not have the documents they needed in order to proceed with a discussion. He then requested Legislature Chairman Dan Birmingham "force the issue" of non-compliance with document requests. Oliverio explained that this instance represented one of several recent and different document requests to the Executive branch, which seemed to have been agreed to but were not subsequently provided.
Oliverio received permission from the Committee to send a letter to County Executive Bondi requesting, for the third time, updates on the Recycling Center.
The Committee also noted two "FYI" items, with no fiscal impact, in which two transfers were made: one to reflect an expense over and above routine maintenance, specific to a septic system repair completed during the summer of 2006, the second a reflection of a grant award from the State in connection with a AAA Transportation Program that was appropriated for a gasoline chargeback.
The February meeting of the Health, Social, Educational & Environmental Committee will be posted on the PCN&R's website as soon as it becomes available.
Westchester lawmakers to take up Indian
Point safety debate
By GREG CLARY
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: January 23, 2007)
WHITE PLAINS - As the debate over safety at Indian Point escalates, a Westchester County committee yesterday approved a resolution asking Congress to require an in-depth review of the nuclear plants.
Members of the Board of Legislators' Environment and Energy Committee voted 5-0 to send the legislation to the floor for the Feb. 12 meeting of the 17-member county lawmaking body.
"We want some independent analysis done," said Legislator Thomas Abinanti, D-Greenburgh, the environmental committee chairman. "As the home county, we want to add our name to the list."
Westchester joins Rockland County, which approved a similar measure less than a month ago, and other area counties supporting the area's congressional representatives as they ask their federal colleagues to vote to require an "Independent Safety Assessment" at Indian Point.
The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is currently conducting a less-detailed inspection at the Buchanan site as part of its regular oversight process, has said an ISA is not needed.
Opponents of the plant have pointed to continuing leaks of tritium and strontium 90 at Indian Point, unplanned reactor shutdowns and some workers' saying they can't speak up without fear of retribution as some of the reasons a deeper look is needed.
NRC officials have said the radiation leaks are being investigated on their own and because of that, the plant is already getting a higher-than-normal level of oversight.
A bipartisan resolution introduced last year to require the NRC to conduct
the safety review never made it out of committee in either the House of Representatives
or the Senate. The federal lawmakers behind that effort - including Sen. Hillary
Clinton - have vowed to push the legislation in the new, Democrat-controlled
Local resolutions like the one that the Westchester Board of Legislators will consider are not binding and are often undertaken to officially support a federal action.
Indian Point officials say the plant is safe and opponents' efforts to force the assessment are thinly veiled attempts to close a plant that generates enough electricity to power 2 million homes.
"We don't believe an ISA is warranted, but we'll abide by whatever decision is made by the NRC or Congress," Indian Point spokesman Jim Steets said in a telephone interview after yesterday's vote.
"I would hope that if such an inspection proves the plant is operating safely, as the NRC has long said, that those calling for the inspection would then support the energy plant, but I doubt it."
Legislator Michael Kaplowitz, D-Somers, a member of the environment committee, said the entire federal legislation under which the NRC regulates the nuclear industry is out-of-date. He said that one of the next big battles in that arena is to get Congress to revamp the legislation, called the Atomic Energy Act. The act took effect in 1954.
Reach Greg Clary at
gclary@ lohud.com or
Initial findings cause for concern
Letter to the Journal News, pulished January 20, 2007
Your Jan. 17 article, "State regulators: Radiation found in Hudson River fish for decades," reported that strontium-90 was found in fish taken near Indian Point and 15 miles upriver near Newburgh. Entergy's attempt to blame strontium levels entirely on global fallout from Cold War weapons testing is premature and misleading, since there is no scientific consensus on what "normal background levels" of strontium-90 in Hudson River fish are. If reported levels are only from weapons testing, why don't all the fish sampled show detectable levels of strontium exposure? It stands to reason there are likely several contributors to strontium-90 in the Hudson, and Indian Point is the only facility currently leaking this toxic pollutant into the river.
Because Entergy's sampling of 12 fish from two locations is too small to generate any meaningful data, we don't yet know the extent to which the Hudson's many fish species are contaminated with radiation or whether this can be traced to Indian Point. And we won't know until Entergy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and New York's Department of Environmental Conservation significantly increase both the size and composition of their sampling. A rigorous analysis to trace the source of the radiation requires sampling the food chain down to its primary aquatic plant base and even the sediment that nourishes those plants.
While it is too soon to draw clear conclusions, the potential implications of Entergy's initial findings are worrisome. We will only know whether or not there is true cause for alarm with more extensive testing.
The writer is staff attorney at Riverkeeper Inc.
Indian Point assessment may not be that
Greg Clary, The Journal News
(Original publication: January 19, 2007)
Westchester County lawmakers on Monday will begin debating whether they want to join others calling for a special safety inspection at Indian Point. The nuclear plant has had its share of difficulties in recent times and there's a growing chorus asking for an independent look at its operation.
There have been unexpected shutdowns at the plant, as well as a decades-old emergency siren system that seems to have a mind of its own.
Not to mention radioactive water leaks that are puzzling company engineers and leading some to wonder why strontium 90 turned up recently in a small sample of Hudson River fish.
Westchester's the third county within the 10-mile evacuation radius of the nuclear plant waiting to chime in on the need for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to conduct an "Independent Safety Assessment."
Rockland already adopted a resolution requesting that federal representatives continue to push for an ISA, and Putnam leaders are discussing something similar. So far, Orange County hasn't taken up the issue.
But more importantly, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and much of the Hudson Valley congressional delegation have been pushing federal legislation that would require the NRC to do the inspection, despite the agency's contention that an in-depth review isn't necessary.
Saugerties Democrat Maurice Hinchey is the lead dog on the federal legislation, which has the support of fellow Democrats Nita Lowey and Eliot Engel.
Hinchey's spokesman said yesterday that the bill would be reintroduced in the House of Representatives after talking over its substance with newly elected Democratic Congressman John Hall.
The new version could include funds to pay for the inspection, according to Hinchey's office.
A spokeswoman for Clinton said the bill would be reintroduced in the Senate as well, though it was unclear yesterday if funding would be included in her version.
Money's an issue because a full-blown ISA would involve thousands of hours, dozens of people and a detailed analysis of the plant's ability to operate safely in the midst of the most densely populated area in the nation.
The word "independent," however, is a misnomer, as I see it.
Who doesn't support the idea of an independent assessment of anything?
The sense among those calling for it envision a team of specialists looking at everything in and around the plant without connection to the plant's owners or the NRC.
"It should not be the agency itself, it should be an arms-length entity," said Westchester County lawmaker Michael Kaplowitz, who sits on the Board of Legislators' environmental committee that will take up the matter first.
Maybe so, but that's not what an ISA is.
First and foremost, it's conducted by the NRC. Even Hinchey's bill calls for the agency to conduct the inspection.
It would, NRC officials say, be done by agency staff that aren't assigned to Indian Point, combined with nuclear industry contractors who may have connections to Indian Point's owners, Entergy Nuclear Northeast, but aren't familiar with the Buchanan site.
"It would be a fresh set of eyes," said NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan. "But you want to have somebody who's worked on the type of plant you're looking at and there's a fixed pool of contractors."
So, as the heat gets turned up on this in the coming months, with Indian Point looking to extend its license to generate power through 2033, remember that an Independent Safety Assessment may be about safety, but it's not about independence.
Earth Watch runs every Friday. Send your ideas or comments to Greg Clary at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-696-8566.
Hudson River fish found to contain radioactive
By Greg Clary
The Journal News
(Original Publication: January 16, 2007)
BUCHANAN - In what could be the region's next environmental controversy or simply just a laboratory mistake, fish in the Hudson River have been found to contain traces of strontium 90.
The radioactive isotope was discovered leaking almost a year ago at the Indian Point nuclear plants, and tests on 12 fish show four with detectible amounts, according to a memo obtained by The Journal News.
The tests were conducted for Entergy Nuclear Northeast, which owns the plants, after researchers pulled the fish from the river during the summer - six from the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge area, and the rest from around Indian Point.
"Certainly it's of concern that the strontium was found in 25 percent of the sampling," said C.J. Miller, spokeswoman for Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef. "The origin of that is something that we need to determine. If indeed it is coming from the plant itself, then that needs to be remedied immediately."
The company has spent millions to find and stop the leaks, but so far have only been able to capture much of the radiated water without successfully plugging the sources.
No other radioactive isotopes were found in the fish, federal regulators said.
Three of the upriver fish had strontium levels ranging as high as 24.5 picocuries per kilogram, while one taken from near the plant showed 18.8 picocuries per kilogram, according to results first released late last week.
Picocuries measure radioactivity level in the tiniest amounts, and though the Nuclear Regulatory Commission doesn't set safe minimums for fish, Westchester County officials said the mean detectible level is 10 picocuries per kilogram.
Strontium has a half-life of nearly 29 years and was banned in the United States after weapons testing in the 1950s and 1960s left large amounts in the atmosphere.
Health officials warned at the time that it competed with calcium in human bodies, especially in growing children, and could affect bone development.
Public officials, regulators and plant owners are eager to see more sampling results to determine if the results were merely inaccurate, as false positives are more likely at low levels, or is something more significant.
"We have samples that quite honestly seem to be a little questionable," said Anthony Sutton, Westchester County's top emergency management official. "A follow-up test is called for and that's what we've advocated."
Sutton said the fact the majority of fish testing positive for strontium 90 had been found 30 miles away in the control group only muddies the results more.
As part of its investigation into groundwater contamination at Indian Point, Entergy has increased its monitoring of aquatic life in the Hudson River, including bass, perch, sunfish and eel. The strontium 90 has shown up in the fleshy parts of the fish, not the bones, which surprised regulators.
Plant officials have acknowledged that a tritium leak discovered in August 2005 and strontium leaks discovered in February have likely reached the river, though they and NRC regulators have maintained there is no threat to worker safety or public health.
Jim Steets, Indian Point's spokesman, said state Department of Environmental Conservation officials have been tracking strontium levels in fish around the nuclear plant, and strontium has shown up in fish at these levels before, levels he said were more background readings than a real cause for concern.
Attempts to reach the state DEC yesterday were unsuccessful because the offices were closed for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said his agency was interested in reviewing state data for the area for comparisons while awaiting more sampling data.
"We don't consider this a serious situation," Sheehan said. "We would very much like to gather some more information before we make any judgments on this. There are several issues that may call these results into question."
Opponents of the nuclear plant said yesterday that they want to see more research done as well, to determine how significant the impact on the river is from the leaks.
"If the levels of strontium 90 in Hudson River fish are indeed above background levels, this confirms Riverkeeper's worst fears," said Lisa Rainwater, the Indian Point campaign coordinator for Riverkeeper. "Based on the preliminary data, the leak is likely affecting the entire Hudson River ecosystem. This is a black eye for Entergy and their management of high-level radioactive waste."
Strontium 90's effect on health
Strontium 90 is chemically similar to calcium, and tends to deposit in bone and blood-forming tissue (bone marrow). Thus, strontium 90 is referred to as a "bone seeker." Internal exposure to strontium 90 is linked to bone cancer, cancer of the soft tissue near the bone, and leukemia.
Risk of cancer increases with increased exposure to strontium 90. The risk depends on the concentrations in the environment and on the exposure conditions.
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Nuke plant delays new sirens
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(Original publication: January 11, 2007)
BUCHANAN - The owners of Indian Point applied this afternoon for an extra
75 days to install emergency sirens across the four counties surrounding
the nuclear plant, citing engineering and permit delays that will prevent
them from meeting their Jan. 30 deadline.
Officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's said it's too soon to
say whether the deadline would be extended.
"We're evaluating the extension request to determine if there's valid
justification for it," said NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan. "The Energy Policy
Act of 2005 requires that backup power for the system be in place (by Feb.
Rather than putting in a new backup power system to comply with the Aug.
18, 2005 federal legislation, Entergy Nuclear Northeast agreed 15 months
ago to install a completely new siren system - at a cost of about $10
million - to solve repeated power and other electronic failures that
plagued the company for nearly two years.