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Troubled history of New York’s Indian Point nuclear power station

reactor-Indian-PointIndian Point nuclear plant reeks of troubled history As New York’s governor and other critics wage an ongoing campaign to shut the facility down citing leaks and old age, nearby residents explain complicated tale, Guardian, , 29 Mar 16  Outside the Westchester Diner in Peekskill, New York, about 40 miles from New York’s Central Park, a reactor dome crests the trees behind an overpass like a giant’s bald head.

It’s one of two at Indian Point Energy Center, at the bank of the Hudson river in neighboring Buchanan, among the oldest nuclear power plants still in operation, and a monument to the energy industry’s resistance to years of work by concerned scientists, locals and state officials to close down a facility that only last month dumped a plume of radioactive waste into their groundwater.

Indian Point’s two working reactors opened in the early 1970s and have had a lot of people worried for a long time. Five years ago the New York Times wondered if it was “America’s Fukushima” – the Japanese site of the world’s worst radiation crisis since Chernobyl. In February the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, called its operation “unacceptable” – he wants the plant closed.

It’s easy to see the source of his concern. The population density around Indian Point is of more than 2,100 people per square mile, by far the greatest for any of the US’s 61 nuclear power plants. Many of those people live and work in the plant’s shadow with growing unease.

In May 2015, an electrical transformer in the reactor called Unit 3 exploded, causing water to flood a room near the explosion where electrical distribution panels are housed and pouring 3,000 gallons of oil into the Hudson. The Union of Concerned Scientists classified the incident as a “near miss” in its annual review.Last year near misses occurred at eight nuclear facilities in the US. “Had the flooding not been discovered and stopped in time, the panels could have been submerged, plunging Unit 3 into a dangerous station blackout, in which all alternating current (AC) electricity is lost,” the report’s authors wrote. “A station blackout led to the meltdown of three nuclear reactor cores at Fukushima Dai-ichi in 2011.”

In February, radiation levels at three monitoring wells around the plant spiked, in one spot by 65,000%. Patricia Kakridas, a spokeswoman for Entergy, said the source was likely “water which exited a temporary filtration system that was set up and dismantled in late January 2016” in preparation for refueling; the company said radioactive material won’t leach into drinking water.

And in March, when the plant was being refueled, a breaker tripped and cut power in one of the reactors; when the diesel generators kicked in, they died while trying to restart the first electrical system. Fortunately a second backup worked.

Because the plant is cooled in large part by water from the Hudson – up to 2.5bn gallons a day – it kills about 1 billion fish and other aquatic organisms a year.

Incidents such as these are among the reasons Cuomo wants it closed, and Indian Point is now in a vulnerable position. The operating license for Indian Point 3 expired in December. The license for Indian Point 2 expired in 2013 (Indian Point 1 was decommissioned in 1974). Yet both remain active as the company pursues a license renewal and in the meantime Spectra, a pipeline company, is planning to add a gas pipeline that runs underneath the property to the two that have been there since the plant was built………

The fuel remains onsite at Indian Point, as it does at most nuclear power plants, and must be carefully maintained, for example it must be cooled for at least a decade before it can be sealed in concrete “dry casks”. Sheehan (and others) point out that moving it out of the state along Interstate 95 is impractical given the population density along the busy transport corridor. The plant has produced about 1,500 tons of waste and continues to produce more.

At this point, the license renewal process for Indian Point is scheduled through at least September of 2016 but the legacy of Indian Point, whether it closes or no, has a half-life of far, far longer.http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/mar/28/indian-point-nuclear-plant-new-york-troubled-history

March 30, 2016 - Posted by | incidents, safety, USA

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