Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney stood outside the Indian Point nuclear power plant Monday morning, calling for the suspension of operations at Unit 2 and an immediate safety review at Unit 3. As WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne reports, this comes on the heels of a problem with baffle bolts at the Westchester County-based reactor.
Democratic Congressman Maloney, who wants to see power reliance eventually moved to other sources and Indian Point decommissioned, shorter-term wants Unit 2 shut down until a definitive root-cause analysis of a baffle-bolt issue comes to light.
“It is not too much to ask that we have a 100 percent microscopic understanding of what these safety issues are before we gamble with the safety and welfare of the people who live in this region,” Maloney says.
Inspections uncovered a problem with baffle bolts during a planned re-fueling and maintenance outage of Unit 2 in March. Indian Point parent Entergy found degradation involving about 227 of these bolts, which amounts to some 25 percent, the highest percentage ever found at a U.S. nuclear plant. Baffle bolts hold in place baffle plates, which channel cooling water to the reactor core. Maloney’s 18th District does not include Indian Point but several communities nearby.
“So what I’m calling for today, and I want to let Paul talk about this in more detail, is an immediate shutdown of Unit 2 until we understand better what the root causes were of this safety issue with the baffle bolts and until, and unless we understand it, we shouldn’t be operating that unit,” says Maloney. “And I don’t think it’s too much to ask for the safety and welfare of the millions of people who live in this area that we understand it better before we proceed.”
He refers to Paul Gallay, president of Riverkeeper.
“If they don’t know why these bolts have failed and won’t know for months, what, in God’s name, are they doing opening this reactor in the near term,” says Gallay.
Jerry Nappi is Entergy spokesman.
“Riverkeeper may be good at studying fish in the river or fundraising for their causes but, when it comes to reactor engineering, the experts and their analysis demonstrates that the plant is safe and the bolt replacement that we did assures its safety going forward,” Nappi says.
Buchanan-based Indian Point’s Unit 2 returned to service June 16 following a scheduled $120 million refueling outage and inspection and upgrade of plant equipment and systems. It was during this inspection that the baffle bolt issue was found. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on June 8 held its annual public meeting about Indian Point safety and performance, where NRC staff as well as several audience members raised the baffle bolt issue. During the meeting, NRC Deputy Regional Administrator David Lew said the root cause is radiation assisted stress corrosion and cracking and acknowledged that the results of other tests and analyses would not be ready for months. Lew also noted that Entergy replaced the failed bolts and several others with bolts of a new design and different material and the NRC found no safety concerns to have prevented Entergy from restarting Unit 2. Entergy’s Nappi says the bolt degradation was not a safety issue.
“The analysis showed the plant was operating safely before it shut down for a planned refueling,” says Nappi. “And the plant’s back online as of Thursday generating electricity for Westchester and New York City, right now.”
Again, Riverkeeper’s Gallay.
“Action needs to be taken now. This plant needs to be back offline,” says Gallay. “Investigations need to be complete.”
In a letter dated June 17th, Maloney called on the NRC chairman to require Indian Point to discontinue use of Unit 2 until a root cause analysis that included metallurgical testing on the failed bolts is completed. Entergy has moved up its baffle bolt inspection plans for Unit 3 from