Supporters and opponents of Indian Point were out in force Wednesday evening at a hotel in Tarrytown. They were there for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s annual public meeting about the performance of the Westchester County-based nuclear power plant.
The NRC delivered a presentation before holding a public speaking session. Supporters of Buchanan-based Indian Point touted the plant’s importance as an employer as well as an electricity provider to some 25 percent of New York City and Westchester. The latter is of particular importance to Mayor Richard Thomas.
“So as mayor of the City of Mount Vernon representing over 70,000 people, I urge all to embrace the findings of the NRC that Indian Point is safe,” says Thomas. “It should continue to operate.”
Environmental attorney and member of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition Susan Shapiro wants Entergy’s Indian Point shut down.
“It’s dangerous and you know it. And you know that you’re doing a half-assed job. And I’m mad as hell, and so are a lot of people in this room that you continue to treat us with such disrespect,” Shapiro says. “You don’t care about our lives. You don’t care about our futures. All you care about is how you’re going to grease the pockets of Entergy.”
After hearing those and other heated comments hurled at NRC staff, NRC Spokesman Neil Sheehan describes his agency’s response.
“We try to respond to it as respectfully and patiently as possible,” says Sheehan. “These are highly complex topics and we try to put it in perspective.”
One issue raised repeatedly by plant opponents was failed baffle bolts at Indian Point 2. During inspections that uncovered the issue during a planned re-fueling and maintenance outage in March, Entergy found degradation involving about 227 of these 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. Friends of the Earth in May filed an emergency petition asking the NRC to prevent Entergy from restarting Unit 2 until the NRC is satisfied that it knows the root cause of a bolt failure. David Lew is NRC deputy regional administrator.
“The root cause is radiation assisted stress corrosion and cracking,” Lew says.
“Why so much at this reactor?” asks Gallay.
That’s Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay with the question, to which Lew responds there are three factors.
“One factor is the neutron field,” says Lew. “Another factor is a susceptible material and a third factor is stress.”
Lew says Entergy replaced the failed bolts and several others with bolts of a new design and different material and the NRC finds no safety concerns to propel it to prevent Entergy from restarting Unit 2 at the end of June. Here’s Gallay.
“You need to tear this thing down before you reopen it and you need to close 3 and look at it tomorrow. That’s what safe means,” says Gallay. “I say this as a man who was a regulator for 13 years, you guys are living in a dream world if you think what you are doing is safe.”
Before the public meeting, protestors lined the drive to the hotel and there were competing press conferences. One included Jerry Kremer, chairman of the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, of which Entergy is a member.
“Indian Point has credibility and Indian Point has reliability, and that beats all the people who stand around the street corners knocking this plant with no knowledge of the facts,” says Kremer.
Meanwhile, the NRC found that Indian Point Units 2 and 3 operated safely during 2015. Unit 2 stayed in the green classification, or lowest safety significance, while Unit 3 transitioned to increased NRC oversight during the fourth quarter of 2015 after exceeding the number of allowable unplanned shutdowns, changing its color classification from green to white, still of low safety significance but necessitating the NRC to perform a supplemental inspection. Jerry Nappi is Entergy spokesman.
“The NRC’s annual assessment has stated Indian Point is a safe plant. They inspect the plant thousands of hours each year. There’s inspectors who literally come to the plant every day,” says Nappi. “They have access to any employee, any meeting, any document, and they could shut the plant down tomorrow it they felt it was unsafe.”
The licenses for Buchanan-based Indian Point 2 and 3 have expired, with the licensing renewal process in progress.