“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.”

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