Indian Point Nuke Plant Emergency Shutdown Follows Power Loss
The latest in a series of troubling mishaps at the aging Indian Point nuclear power plant a week ago Saturday prompted a shutdown or “trip” of one of the two operating reactor units on the site and the dispatch of inspectors from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office made the announcement that the reactor was “forced to shut down,” but New Orleans-based Entergy Corp., which owns the plant, claimed there was no release of radiation or chemicals from the incident. The company said magnets holding control rods failed when power was lost, causing the rods to sink into the reactor vessel as designed and shutting down the nuclear reaction. Control rods, which absorb the radiation that occurs during fission chain reactions are a critical feature of nuclear reactors that allow the nuclear reaction to be adjusted or shut down altogether.
Coincidentally, at the time of the incident, Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chair Stephen Burns was visiting the plant. The NRC reported on Monday that the power loss was caused by a short circuit in a roof fan. Cuomo, who has been calling for closure of the 40-year old plant, said that he had “directed the Department of Public Service to investigate and monitor the situation.”
The second of the two working nuclear generating units at Indian Point was not effected and remains on line. Burns was met on his visit by a demonstration on Monday at a hotel in Tarrytown, NY where he was holding meetings. The protesters are opposed to construction of a natural gas pipeline that is intended to pass near the nuclear plant. The pipeline has been approved and construction will begun in March. Protesters say they fear a potential gas explosion might threaten the nuclear plant.
This is the second incident at Indian Point this year. In May an electrical transformer exploded releasing 3000 gallons of oil into the Hudson River. The catastrophic failure ignited the oil and black smoke billowing from the fire was visible for miles. A report by the NRC released earlier this month said that the transformer fire itself was never a threat, but the subsequent flooding of an electrical switching room may have caused a loss of power to the reactor.