Safety at the soon-to-be shuttered Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County was the subject of a public conference call Thursday with officials from New York state and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. At issue was a repair at one of the reactors. The NRC had approved the method of repair and says there is no safety significance. But the state wants a written safety evaluation after raising questions about the method and longevity of the repair.
During a maintenance and refueling outage at Indian Point 2, inspections found an indication of a potential leak. Jerry Nappi is spokesman for Indian Point parent company Entergy.
“Of 97 locations, they found evidence of a very small leak,” Nappi says. “It actually, it resulted in actually less than a quarter teaspoon of what’s known as boron, crystalizing, which really had no effect on operations or on safety, in any way.”
The 97 locations are reactor vessel head penetrations that are inspected every refueling outage. To repair this weld flaw, Entergy requested an alternative remedial approach — instead of removing the weld flaw, the company proposed a weld overlay. The NRC verbally approved the non-code request. New York state officials from NYSERDA and the Department of Public Service raised concerns over this method of repair in a letter to the Commission April 6. The public conference call April 12 was in response to the letter. David Alley is chief of the Piping and Head Penetration Branch of the NRC.
“Indian Point has completed a repair that provides reasonable assurance of the adequate protection of public health and safety,” Alley said.
John Sipos is DPS deputy general counsel.
“The Department would respectfully request that any safety analysis or report or other document that is prepared regarding this situation provide, include a statement that there was, if I understand you correctly, that there was a through weld crack or leak and that it impacted or crossed the reactor pressure vessel boundary,” Sipos said. “We think that’s important just for clarity, for transparency, and for the public to understand that.”
He also requested that the degradation mechanism be described, as the NRC says the cause likely was primary water stress corrosion cracking. The report is expected within 150 days. The NRC’s Alley says NRC approval of the repair is for one operating cycle only.
“We note, however, that Indian Point, has requested the alternative for a single operating cycle. It is their option to do so,” Alley said. “The NRC has evaluated this request with respect to a single operating cycle and has found that it provides an acceptable level of quality and safety for the period of the proposal.”
“We also note that if there was a desire on the part of the licensee to utilize this repair for any longer than one cycle that the licensee would need to submit an additional request to us for our consideration with respect to continued operation,” said Alley.
He says the repair was completed around April 9. Nappi says one operating cycle for Indian Point equals two years and, in the case of Indian Point 2, the end of the next operating cycle is the end of Indian Point 2.
“When we put the unit back in service this spring, it’ll run for two years before it’s permanently retired by April 2020. So it could run continuously for two years. These plants are designed to do that,” says Nappi. “So there’s no expectation that it would be shut down before April 2020.”
Nappi says the refueling outage at Indian Point 2 began March 19. He says refueling outages last about a month.
Riverkeeper Legal Program Director Richard Webster wanted to know whether Entergy would face consequences, given the NRC confirmed there was leakage across the pressure vessel boundary.
“My understanding is the NRC acknowledges there was some leakage, so my questions is, are there any regulatory consequences for that?” asked Webster.
Here’s Alley’s response.
“As far as regulatory consequences, we have folks from the region on the phone, and I don’t know whether they would be prepared to address that, but I certainly am not, at this point, as it is not part of the process that we at headquarters do.”
Indian Point 3 is slated to shut down permanently in 2021. It is scheduled to undergo its final planned refueling and maintenance outage in 2019.
By Allison Dunne