Nuclear Regulatory Commission Lowers Indian Point Safety Rating

For Immediate Release
November 9, 2005

Contact:    Mark Jacobs 914-382-1804                    Marilyn Elie 914-739-6164

Radioactive Leaks from Irradiated Fuel Pools Raise New Worries

According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) website, Indian Point 2’s safety rating has been down rated from green to white status for the second quarter. Again, the NRC has been reticent in releasing significant safety information about the plant, although the rating change occurred in August, this information has only been recently released.  The plant lost its green rating because of degradation to the safety injection system over a period of several weeks—this involved the accumulation of nitrogen gas in portions of the safety injection system which caused one pump to become inoperable and would have caused the performance of the two remaining pumps to become degraded.

Mark Jacobs, spokesperson for the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition (IPSEC) stated:  “Indian Point, the first nuclear reactor to be given a red rating by the NRC after the February 2000 steam generator leak, is again moving in the wrong direction.  The current profile of problems including degradation of the safety injection system, faulty sirens, failing water pumps, defective emergency sump pumps, defective fireproofing of electrical cables, two leaking irradiated fuel pools, control rods dropping unexpectedly and a backlog of over a thousands repairs show Indian Point to be too great a risk for the surrounding community.”

The number of problems at the plant has raised the concern of state and local officials.  In response to this pressure the NRC recently issued a “deviation” memo that called for increased scrutiny of the reactors.

Margo Schepart of Westchester Citizens Awareness Network (WestCAN)  said, “They can inspect it until the cows come home.  What good is that going to do?  It did not keep the spent fuel pool from leaking and it has not kept the water pump operating properly. We need to put an end to this nonsense.  Indian Point is an aging plant that will unquestionably be closed.  The only question is when.  And the only rational answer is: as soon as possible.  The minute this decision is made, the marketplace will have the incentive to develop replacement energy sources.”

As has been reported, problems with the spent fuel pool at Indian Point have resulted in the leak of the radioactive isotopes tritium, cesium and cobalt into the soil and groundwater surrounding the pools.  It has just been discovered  that there have been similar leaks at the decommissioned Connecticut Yankee nuclear plant.  Connecticut Yankee reports the east side concrete wall shows some concentrations of cesium, cobalt, strontium and tritium, three of which are the same isotopes found leaking from the Indian Point fuel pool.

In both cases it is not known when the leak started or how much water was lost from the spent fuel pool.  In fact, the Indian Point 2 Spent fuel pool is the only one in the country that was built without ‘leak detection channels’ between the steel liner and the concrete outer wall of the pool.  Had the pool been built consistently with other plants’ designs, the leak would have been detected immediately.  At Connecticut Yankee, monitoring equipment failed to detect a leak.  The leaks were found much later by sampling water in nearby wells.  In both cases radioactive isotopes are migrating away from the pool and possibly into ground water.  In the case of Indian Point, the migration pathway  includes the Hudson River .

Marilyn Elie of WestCAN said, “It is now evident that these pools have reached the end of their useful life.  Reactors are like used cars, you can only keep patching them up for so long and then you just can’t throw enough money at them to keep them operating safely.”

“It is unconscionable that nuclear corporations not only leak toxic materials, but act like its no big deal,” said Deb Katz, executive director of Citizens Awareness Network. “Pool leakage is a systemic problem at aging reactor sites. In western MA, Yankee Rowe’s compromised fuel pool leaked tritium as well as chemicals into the groundwater.  Two of the tritium  plumes are double the EPA drinking water standard. This violation of the community’s trust is a big deal.”

While officials at Entergy continue to maintain that the amounts radioactive isotopes discovered in the water are below current regulatory limits, a recent report by the National Academy of Science determined that there is no such thing as a risk free low level of radiation.  Moreover, long term exposure to low levels of radioactive isotopes is carcinogenic.  Notably, regular and routine radioactive emissions are part of the everyday operation of nuclear reactors.

Indian Point is located on the Wappinger ‘s fault line.  This fault line has caused displacement problems with conduits in the past.

Michel Lee of IPSEC questioned if earth tremors could have caused the cracks in the concrete walls of the pool and noted that cracking, fraying, breaks and corrosion are the realities of any aging system.  “These problems will only get worse, if the plant is re-licensed for an additional 20 years.  Indian Point is a menace to the people who live and work  in the New York metropolitan region; it is a plant that was built in the wrong place, yet the $10 billion Entergy Corporation reaps hundreds of millions of dollars profit annually from Indian Point.” She added, “After Indian Point has closed, we will no longer have to face headlines like “NUKE LEAK TAINTED WELLS.”