CORTLANDT, NY — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s recent inspection of Indian Point as part of a series of requirements imposed on the nation’s nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster in 2011 turned up one minor problem. Inspectors found that at temperatures below freezing, the diesel fuel being used could solidify and damage portable emergency equipment.

The inspection was conducted from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, 2017.

“The inspectors discovered that at low temperatures the diesel fuel in the portable equipment could begin to gel/solidify and cause the equipment to malfunction during below-freezing temperatures,” said NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan. “As our report explains, ‘Due to the design of the FLEX storage building, temperatures for FLEX equipment stored in the FLEX storage building have been estimated to drop to minus 6 Fahrenheit when outside temperatures reach minus 15 Fahrenheit. Once the FLEX deployment is begun, the area and equipment will be subjected to ambient conditions, potentially as low as minus 15 Fahrenheit. Initial Indian Point fuel oil samples show that the cloud point was approximately 21 degrees Fahrenheit, which is substantially above the worst-case beyond design basis temperatures. At temperatures below the cloud point, the fuel oil crystalizes and gels, causing it to clog fuel lines and filters, thereby disabling the equipment.'”

The problem is of very low safety significance and the inspection finding was classified as “Green,” Sheehan said. The NRC inspectors identified the condition and the licensee took immediate actions to ensure the equipment was supplied with suitable diesel fuel that would not be susceptible to this condition, he said.

By Lanning Taliaferro