“BUCHANAN — A federal team of nuclear industry experts has raised serious concerns about the aging infrastructure and operating plans of the Indian Point nuclear power plant.

Members of the federally-appointed Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards met in Rockville, Md., on Wednesday to discuss the future of the 2,200 megawatt facility. Its 40-year operating licenses will expire by 2015 unless the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission deems it worthy for a 20-year renewal. This week’s meeting was one slice of a long and arduous vetting process.

The get-together forced top brass from Entergy Nuclear Operations, the company that owns and operates Indian Point, and staff from the NRC, the federal body that oversees the site’s operations, to testify before roughly a dozen members of the advisory committee.

The panel voiced concerns about several aging components at Indian Point, particularly ongoing boric acid leaks inside a reactor cavity.

According to NRC and Entergy reports, when the inside of reactor Unit 2 is flooded during refueling outages, a much as 40 gallons per minute of borated water escape through cracks in the cavity liner and trickle down the concrete wall.

“Attempts have been made over the last several outages to mitigate this condition, with limited success,” the NRC report said, citing concern for “degradation of the underlying concrete and reinforcement rebar due to the leakage.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, Entergy staff promised to keep trying to fix the leak, but argued that it would be years before it had another opportunity to shut down the reactor and assess the problem. It’s hoping the NRC will extend its operating license before then.

The advisory committee expressed reservations. The leak might not pose a threat now, but if there’s no future solution, “that’s trouble,” said member John Sieber, who has 45 years of experience in the nuclear industry. The committee asked for additional information from Entergy and the NRC before making a recommendation.

Indian Point’s application currently includes 20 “open items,” or unresolved issues for consideration by the committee. That’s not unusual. License renewals for nuclear reactors typically take about 30 months to complete, but at a plant as controversial as Indian Point, located just 30 miles north of Manhattan, a decision could take far longer.

Entergy submitted its application in April 2007. The State of New York and several environmental groups are waging high-profile cases against it.

Read documents from the meeting at recordonline.com/ip”

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