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Aging nuclear reactors, like Indian Point, raise safety fears

He believes that the NRC does not enforce nuclear safety strictly enough, and he is especially concerned with the degradation of older reactors like the ones at Indian Point.

Concerns Raised Over Pipeline Near Indian Point : NPR, 25 Oct 10, A former utility executive and nuclear opponent is raising concerns about the presence of two large underground natural gas pipelines that cross within a few hundred feet of the Indian Point nuclear facility in Buchanan, N Y

Paul Blanch, an energy consultant from West Hartford, Conn., filed a petition with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Monday that questions whether the NRC has properly studied the effects of an explosion of the lines or planned for such an accident. The lines supply New England with a quarter of its daily natural gas needs.

“It’s a low probability event,” said Blanch of a rupture of one of the pipes. “But the consequences are unimaginable.”

Concerns about natural gas pipeline safety have been heightened since a large pipeline in San Bruno, Calif. ruptured and exploded in September, killing eight people and destroying 37 homes. Blanch’s fear is that similar explosion and subsequent fire at Indian Point could damage or destroy the cooling and safety systems at the site and lead to a catastrophic nuclear accident.

The pipelines near Indian Point carry about double the amount of natural gas as the San Bruno pipeline……..

New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who is running for governor of New York, opposes extending the licenses because, he says, the plants are too close to heavily populated areas. They are 45 miles from New York City. Blanch has testified in hearings on Cuomo’s behalf.

Environmental advocates do not want Entergy’s licenses renewed because they say the cooling system used by the plants kills unacceptable numbers of endangered fish like the Atlantic sturgeon and other marine organisms.

David Lochbaum, director of the nuclear safety program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, agrees with Blanch that the pipeline issue needs to be explored. He helped Blanch draft his petition…….

The gas pipelines were installed in the 1950s and 1960s, and predate construction of the nuclear plant. Blanch suspects that changes to the pipelines since their safety was first studied in the late 1960s have not been properly evaluated by the NRC.

The NRC said in a letter to Blanch that it had Entergy evaluate the consequences of a failure of the gas pipelines in August of 2008. In September 2008, Entergy concluded that the pipelines do not pose a safety or security hazard, according to the NRC.

The NRC would not make the details of the study available siting “sensitive information.”…….

Blanch spent 20 years at Northeast Utilities, where he was a nuclear operations engineer. While there, he raised safety concerns about Connecticut’s Millstone generating station. He was fired by the company, but after the NRC substantiated Blanch’s concerns he was rehired and defended Millstone’s safety procedures. He believes that the NRC does not enforce nuclear safety strictly enough, and he is especially concerned with the degradation of older reactors like the ones at Indian Point.

The type of petition filed by Blanch, called a 2.206 petition, can be filed by any concerned member of the public. As of the end of August, there were 11 such petitions under review by the NRC. The NRC is expected to decide within a month whether or not to investigate Blanch’s claims.

Concerns Raised Over Pipeline Near Indian Point : NPR

October 26, 2010 - Posted by | safety, USA | , , , , , , , ,

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