“BUCHANAN – The Indian Point 3 nuclear reactor has been shut down for the third time in three weeks, putting into question its record of reliability, officials said.
This latest shutdown on Sunday comes after a string of glitches at the plant. Indian Point 2, the plant’s other reactor, was shut down April 3 due to a malfunction in a cooling system pipe for steam generators.
Indian Point 3 has been continuously in operation for nearly two years without an unplanned shutdown, but on May 15, the reactor was shut down when a missing lock washer allowed a feedwater valve to loosen and leak. Then, early Thursday morning, plant operators noticed a vibration in a main feedwater pump and powered the reactor down to 60 percent. But then water levels began rising in the steam generator, tripping a safety shutdown in the reactor.
On Saturday, as they began to bring the plant back online, they also decided to do further troubleshooting, which is when they realized there was something wrong with a control oil system that sits between two main boiler feed pumps, officials said. That is when they decided to bring the plant offline once again to make further repairs, rather than risk another automatic shutdown, officials said.
“The shutdown on Sunday, it was a controlled shutdown,” said Jerry Nappi, a spokesman for plant operator Entergy Nuclear. “Shutting it down over the course of few hours is more preferable to an automatic shutdown.”
Resident inspectors from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission were on site to monitor operations, agency spokeswoman Diane Screnci said yesterday.
“The plant was shut down safely and the plant is stable,” she said. “There was not an impact on public safety.”
The reactor’s performance in terms of the number of continuous days in operation is currently rated at “green,” the highest issued by the NRC. However, if the reactor has more than three unplanned shutdowns within about one year, then that rating can be downgraded, triggering additional inspections of the plant’s operation in the future.
Although Entergy said Sunday’s shutdown was planned and would not affect its performance ratings, Screnci said that had not yet been determined.
“We will need to look at that more fully and whether this met the criteria of an unplanned shutdown,” she said. “If one of those performance indicators moves from green to white, we would conduct an additional inspection to make sure they are getting to the root cause.”
Nappi said the company was taking steps to “holistically” look at the problems. Officials believe the problems may be connected to when it was shut down for a biennial refueling and other preventive maintenance work during March 10 and April 15.
“Shutting down three times in three weeks is not preferable and clearly indicates that coming out of the refueling outage, the plant needs to be looked at to see why it’s not running as reliably as before,” he said. “Obviously, there’s an issue.”
Before the refueling, the reactor had been operating for a record 678 days, officials said.”
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