Baffle Bolt Issue Takes Indian Point Relicensing Timeline To Summer 2017

Nov 28, 2016

The relicensing process for the Indian Point nuclear power plant has been extended. This time, testimony related to a baffle bolt issue from earlier this year is the reason.

Inspections uncovered the matter of degraded baffle bolts at Indian Point 2 during a planned re-fueling and maintenance outage in March. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan says the baffle bolts are a key issue in a recently released order from the panel handling the Westchester County-based plant’s relicensing proceeding — the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board.

“They’ve been sent to a laboratory for analysis, metallurgical analysis, to try to better understand what exactly was causing the degradation,” Sheehan says. “One of the questions that has been raised by Riverkeeper and the State of New York in a filing is whether or not the company has provided the results of those lab tests as quickly as they should. So the judges have asked Entergy to provide a response. Once they get that then they’ll decide where to go from there.”

New York contends that the results from a summary report were prepared in July but not disclosed until October. Jerry Nappi is spokesman for Indian Point parent Entergy.

“Our position is we disclosed the preliminary information even though the parties, the parties being New York State and Riverkeeper, previously agreed that draft, interim documents need not be disclosed,” Nappi says. “So we fully intended, of course, to share completed analyses. We shared the interim analysis again, even though it’s our position that it need not had been shared.”

The ASLB, in its order from earlier in November, says quote, “Failure to disclose the summary report on hot cell testing until 3 months after it had been prepared does not appear to be a ‘practicable’ delay, nor does it appear to demonstrate an effort to avoid needless deferment.” End quote. Paul Gallay is president of Riverkeeper.

“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission called Entergy’s three-month delay in producing key information on problems in the core of Indian Point reactor 2 disconcerting. That’s putting it mildly,” Gallay says. “This delay reveals a company scrambling to deal with one mishap or accident after another. When you’re talking about a 50-year-old nuke plant sitting next to 20 million people, that’s just not acceptable.”

The ASLB says in its order that despite the Board’s reluctance to further extend an already substantially delayed schedule, the Board does find good cause to grant New York’s and Riverkeeper’s request for more time to address degraded baffle-former bolt issues. The ASLB has laid out deadlines for the two parties as well as for Entergy and the NRC with regard to testimony. The final deadline is July 31, 2017. The NRC’s Sheehan says the ASLB judges already allowed the parties to submit new contentions based on the baffle bolt issue, also with prescribed deadlines.

“But, as part of that, the parties obviously want to see the information that’s been developed from these laboratory tests that are being done on some of these bolts that have been removed,” says Sheehan. “So this would impact the schedule because the parties need to see that information before they can submit those contentions and then have the other parties have an opportunity to respond to that.”

Entergy had found degradation involving about 227 baffle bolts, which amount to some 25 percent, the highest percentage ever found at a U.S. nuclear plant, as confirmed by the NRC. Baffle bolts hold in place baffle plates, which channel cooling water to the reactor core.  

Meanwhile, the NRC has determined that Indian Point 3 will return to the normal level of oversight. The NRC had found that both Units 2 and 3 had operated safely during 2015, but Unit 3 was transitioned to increased NRC oversight during the fourth quarter of 2015 after exceeding the number of allowable unplanned shutdowns. Unit 3 went from green to white, still of low safety significance but necessitating the NRC to perform a supplemental inspection. It’s now back to green.

This all comes as New York's highest court in November said the state has the right to review federal relicensing applications for Indian Point. The license for Indian Point 2 expired in September 2013, and for Indian Point 3, in December 2015.