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Indian Point Discusses Safety Concerns with Cortlandt Officials

During a presentation by Entergy's Indian Point officials on the safety of its nuclear reactors, Units 2 and 3, the Cortlandt Town Board asked questions and discussed the safety of the plant in light of Japan's nuclear catastrophe.

Entergy officials from Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC) provided the Cortlandt Town Board with a presentation on the nuclear power plant located in the Village of Buchanan at last night’s work session. The Entergy officials focused on the catastrophe in Japan, and how it would be virtually impossible for the same environmental factors to occur in the northeastern United States; IPEC’s emergency and severe accident management preparedness; and current industry initiatives that will analyze lessons learned in Japan and then apply them to IPEC.

Supervisor Linda Puglisi and Town board members pressed the Entergy officials on safety and other issues such as the need for an improved evacuation plan, the age and accuracy of a few of their statistics and the number of active and stored fuel rods, among many other questions.

“We have an obligation to ask pertinent and important questions and to disseminate information to our community,” said Supervisor Puglisi.

Entergy Vice President of License Renewal Fred Dacimo talked through an approximately 30-minute long power-point presentation, stopping to field questions from Puglisi and council members. Mike Slobodien, Entergy director of emergency planning also answered questions more specific to his area of expertise. Four other Entergy officials were also present and some answered questions relevant to their areas: John Curry, Senior Project Manager for the License renewal project; Charles Caputo, an Indian Point consultant; Jerry Nappi, Manager of Indian Point Communications; and Debbie Fay, government affairs for Indian Point.

Here is a summary of the presentation and discussion:

Fukushima Daiichi

Dacimo said that at this point they are receiving conflicting and incomplete reports from Japan but that they believe the tsunami knocked out the emergency power that had kicked in when the earthquake began and then diesel power functioned but quickly ran out.

Explosions followed due to the hydrogen gas air mixture so seawater was added to cover fuel rods, but these reports are unconfirmed.

“It is impossible to fully understand what happened (at this point),” Slobodien said. “The lessons that come out of that will be reviewed for applicability to United States nuclear reactors.”

Design

As Patch Indian Point is designed to withstand an earthquake of a magnitude 6 on the Richter scale, which is greater in size than the area has ever experienced. Indian point is not susceptible to the type of earthquake that occurred in Japan because of the different geology and tectonics in the U.S. East coast region. IP is also not susceptible to the tsunami that followed and ultimately removed the cooling capability of the Japanese plants because of the geometry of the Hudson and its distance from the Atlantic Ocean.

Dacimo noted that Charle F. Richter, who developed the Richter Scale stated that the earthquakes in the Ramapo region, which IP is located within, are “of minor magnitude and are relatively trivial.”

Puglisi pointed out that Richter said that decades ago, to which Dacimo replied his scientists would still say the same now.

Puglisi said that since Entergy took ownership of the nuclear plant in 2001, the company has not been asked to modify its structure based on any geological information.

“This is a concern because things change,” Puglisi said.

“And our understanding of things change too,” added Councilman Frank Farrell.

“Things change on time scale that is very long for us, but is very short compared to the age of the earth,” Dacimo said.

Flooding

IPEC is not susceptible to a tsunami, as mentioned above, and Dacimo explained that the plant is also designed to be protected against natural phenomenon including hurricanes, floods and storm surges.

Puglisi asked how IPEC faired during Hurricane Floyd, the 1999 hurricane that caused torrential rainfall and high winds in the area. Indian Point official John Curry said that the plant can withstand flooding up to 15 feet and did not flood during Floyd.

Equipment Capabilities

IPEC officials said that IP2 and IP3 have redundant and diverse features to address emergency conditions. They have multiple emergency backup power generators capable of shutting down the plant in the event of a total loss of all offsite power. They also have fuel supplies that are protected from maximum floods or located at elevations above the maximum flood levels.

When asked by Puglisi, Dacimo explained that the on-site diesel back-up fuel could operate for seven days and back up battery could last from two to eight hours, depending on the load.

The power point presentation included a slide that stated a steam driven auxiliary feed water pump can supply cooling water to the stream generators and cool the reactor in the unlikely event of a complete loss of electrical power. Also, the reactor can be cooled by natural circulation through the reactor and one side of the steam generators upon a loss of AC power.

Emergency and Severe Accident Procedures and Guidance

Dacimo explained that plant operators are equipped and trained to manage severe natural and plant-centered emergencies and strategies have been developed to address emergency conditions. Such procedures and guidance were developed following the Three Mile Island initiatives and the 9/11 terrorist attack. The plant has procedures for many different situations, among those listed were: core cooling, steam generator cooling, external reactor vessel cooling, reduction of fission product release, reduction of hydrogen and control containment.

Current Initiatives

A comprehensive review of Indian Point’s ability to respond to catastrophic events will be performed and the National Regulatory Commission notice 2011-2015 notes that the assessment of the implications of beyond design basis phenomena is continuing.

“This is basically a warning that we will learn things (from Japan) and bring those lessons to United States reactors,” Dacimo said.

Discussion

At the conclusion of the presentation the town board and Entergy officials carried on a conversation regarding spent fuel rods, Yucca Mountain, emergency evacuation plan, recycling nuclear material and the recent United States recommendation to Japan that anyone within a 50 mile radius of the explosions may be subject to harmful radiation.

“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it was hypothetical and a very conservative calculation,” Dacimo said. The NRC has reported that only those within a 10 mile radius of Indian Point would be at risk in the came of an emergency. If that number were increased to 50, 8 million residents of New York City would also be at risk and evacuation itself would inevitably become virtually impossible for most.

“It was a worst case type calculation…we don’t know if assumption was reasonable or really extreme.”

Jeff Tkacks, Cortlandt’s former Homeland Safety Coordinator/Emergency Management asked what percentage of IP 2 and 3’s spent fuel were in dry casks.

All of Unit 1’s whole spent fuel is in casks since it was taken offline decades ago. Dacimo said that 320 of Unit 2’s spent fuel rods are in dry cask and 1100 are left in the spent fuel pool and that transferring Unit 3’s spent fuel rods to dry casks has not yet begun. It will definitely start within the next five years, Dacimo said.

The question prompted him to address the politics of nuclear energy.

“We would have been better served to get dry casking sooner,” Dacimo said. He continued to say that anti-Indian Point activists who worked to shut down the plant in the name of safety and the environment were counter-productive because now more fuel is in pools, rather than in casks. “It is a political problem, not technical,” he said.

“The community should be up in arms because we haven’t taken fuel and shipped it out…Yucca Mountain should be opened.”

“This is not about safety, it is about trying to shut down an industry and choke it,” Dacimo said.

Councilman John Sloan asked who would be in charge in the case of an emergency. IP officials explained that Entergy is required to have a well-defined structure to respond to emergencies, and a plan that says who’s in command and who takes over as things progress/conditions worsen. Also, he said the NRC can view a lot of data, and if the government steps in to take over then that would be who is then in charge.

The County Executive has the authority to issue evacuation order based on recommendations that Entergy is obligated to make.

Councilman Richard Becker summarized several concerns towards the end of the meeting, the largest being the evacuation plan.

“The evacuation plan as it exists won’t work,” said Becker.

He also explained: “We’ve become dependent on the energy and the local economy is dependent on the plant…We have to be sensitive to people concerned about nuclear material so close to city so I think relicensing every 20 years is too long.”

Puglisi reflected Becker's thoughts on re-licensing and said the town has asked the NRC to require re-licensing every five years, rather than every twenty.

After more discussion over recycling nuclear energy, wedge wire versus cooling towers and the life of radioactive material, Puglisi ended the meeting with Entergy by reiterating her request to have an Emergency Operations Center in the Town of Cortlandt.

J. Cattano March 22, 2011 at 03:11 PM
Building a Nuclear power plant so close to fault lines and New York City - just plain old stupid. Unfortunately there's no cure for financially motivated stupidity past another bigger and better financial deal. Oh, human life... well sorry, but that's just not as high on the list of priorities.
BOB BRUNO March 22, 2011 at 03:49 PM
How long did the people in Japan live next to their plant. SO you leave your home forever, insurance won't pay for it. The radiation within the 10 mile range has a 300 year life. 1000 to one change it will meltdown. If gave the Plant Manager a gun that took 1000 bullets and only put one in and spun the barrel, do you think he would pull the trigger with it pointed to his head. 18 million people are in range of that plant, keep pulling the trigger. It is the location that next to such great population that makes the difference. The entire economy of the entire U.S. is in that 5o mile range. Imagine NYC not being able to drink the water, like Toyko. Toyko is 200 miles from their plants. NYC is 30.
Flexer March 22, 2011 at 06:43 PM
Shutting down Indian Point would be detrimental and have a huge economical impact on the states energy source and economy. The owners of the plant has demonstrated and proven that safety is their number one priority. While many public officials and activists promote the fact that the plant should be closed, not one of them has shown us any alternatives to replacing the necessary power needed. Just imagine if the plant was closed for one day, that’s an outage of 2,000 mega watts (equaling 2 million homes and businesses that would be affected.)
Francis T McVetty March 22, 2011 at 10:44 PM
Flexer, we will all sit around the campfire and conjure up the electricity. They want wind and solar power to replace Indian Point. That won't happen. Do you know how many wind turbines and solar panels it would take? Where would you put them? NIMBY would be heard all over the place, and by these same people that want Indian Point closed.
Joe Brown March 23, 2011 at 11:42 PM
Let us all understand the reality and facts that we live with. The recent situation in Japan was far greater than ever expected with a one-two punch. The tragic loss of life and consequence that resulted for families and Japan has produced pain and suffering…it is just horrible! All of this is a result of nature and not from radiation exposure. No one died as a result of nuclear holocaust as the news and other skeptics of nuclear energy would like us to believe and live in fear. Japan is densely populated far worse than what we have in the USA. The population of Japan is ~1/2 that of the USA and its land mass is slightly larger than California. Japan is mostly mountainous ~80%. This makes for a very densely populated living area. I have been to Japan more than 25 times and visited the northern part, Sendai, upon three occasions. We should allow the facts to speak for themselves and know that we could greatly benefit from more nuclear energy so that we could bring manufacturing jobs back to the USA.

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