“BUCHANAN — Entergy engineers told a group of elected and public officials yesterday that they have isolated three locations inside Indian Point 2’s spent-fuel pool that may be the source of leaking radioactive water at the site and will start to work on those areas next week.
They also said they will start drilling at least five new wells at the same time to make sure the leak has been contained properly.
Though the tests are not yet conclusive, engineers said the flaws in the tank — which range in size from 1 to 6 inches — were discovered this week at joints along a quarter-inch stainless steel pool liner during an underwater-camera inspection of the 400,000-gallon tank.
By next week, a diver will go into the pool and place a box over two of the locations — between 16 and 22 feet from the top of the 40-foot-deep pool — to create a vacuum and verify if the flaws are actual openings. If the leaks are coming from those locations, officials said, divers will seal the spots with new welds or an industrial coating.
The third location, according to company officials, is too far down to allow a diver and would have to be sealed by another means, which engineers still are considering.
The five new wells, as deep as 90 feet into the ground, will be dug to test how the underground water around the fuel pool is moving. State health officials yesterday asked for samples of the earth and water collected during those borings and were promised they could independently analyze whatever is found.
Officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation yesterday corroborated the leak findings, which were announced during a presentation and tour of the plant for about four dozen elected officials, their representatives and members of government agencies.
Entergy Nuclear Northeast, the owner of Indian Point, invited the group to answer officials’ growing concerns and questions about the leak, which was discovered in late August and continues to produce between 1 and 2 liters of radioactive water per day.
“We don’t have all the answers,” said Fred Dacimo, an Entergy vice president in charge of Indian Point. “We’re working to get all the answers.”
Two hairline cracks at the base of the spent-fuel tank were found Aug. 22 during an excavation to put in a new crane to handle spent-fuel assemblies as they’re being moved in and out of water for storage.
Since then, samples near the leaks have turned up cesium, cobalt and tritium, all radioactive elements. Tritium, the weakest of those, was the only material found far from the leak site, officials said, probably because it can be carried in water through the ground, while the other two materials were likely stopped by dirt.
Yesterday’s visitors watched as workers continued to excavate 30 feet below ground level, at the base of the spent fuel pool, while a plastic sheet connected to a hose collected whatever water came through the wall. Initially, engineers said it took days just to collect 2 teaspoons of water to be analyzed.
The water is being collected and disposed of properly, Entergy officials reiterated yesterday. Both plant officials and those from the NRC said there was no threat to public health or workers at the plant.
After touring the site of the leak, near excavation work at the southwest corner of the spent-fuel storage pool at Indian Point 2, and the locations of wells used to check for further leaking, officials from Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties said they had a better idea of what the problem was and what Entergy was doing to fix it.
“I think it puts things in perspective,” said Susan Tolchin, Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano’s chief adviser. “I thought it was a really good presentation. It could have been worse.”
Tolchin, who said Entergy’s effort to educate leaders about the leak didn’t change Spano’s call for the plant’s closing, called on the NRC to expand its monitoring of older spent-fuel pools nationwide, a suggestion NRC officials at the meeting said was under consideration.
Assemblywoman Sandra Galef, D-Ossining, who attended the tour, asked Indian Point officials for more frequent and comprehensive updates. U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-Harrison, who sent a representative, in a later statement said the NRC must provide “independent oversight of Indian Point to ensure that local officials and the public have accurate and up-to-date information on any potential health and safety risks.”
Dacimo said he would ensure that stakeholders were updated via conference calls every few weeks. NRC officials said they also would increase their efforts to inform the public.”
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