By Cliff Weathers / AlterNet June 13, 2016
Photo Credit: credit: Leah Rae.
A little more than a year ago, a transformer fire and oil spill reminded the world that Indian Point, an aging nuclear power plant, sits only about 40 miles north of midtown Manhattan. Later it was revealed that the fire was caused by a short circuit due to insulation failure in a high-voltage coil in the transformer.
Soon after, we learned that at the time of the fire, water was flooding the electrical supply room that provides power to plant safety systems. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “had the flooding not been discovered and stopped in time, the panels could have been submerged, plunging Unit 3 into a dangerous station blackout, in which all alternating current (AC) electricity is lost…. A station blackout led to the meltdown of three nuclear reactor cores at Fukushima Dai-ichi in 2011.”
The Union of Concerned Scientists classifies the May 9, 2015 incident as a “near miss.”
A few weeks after the fire, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission met with a concerned public at its Annual Assessment for Safety of Indian Point. But many of those who attended thought that the NRC was too deferential to the claims by Entergy, Indian Point’s operator, regarding the aging nuclear plant’s safety.
Besides seeking answers regarding the transformer explosion, the public urged the NRC not to renew the licenses for Indian Point’s two reactors. The operating license for Indian Point 3 was set to expire in December 2015 and Indian Point 2’s license expired in 2013. Yet both reactors remain active as Entergy, Indian Point’s operator, continues to press for renewals. The NRC licenses new commercial power reactors for 40 years terms and can renew operating licenses for an additional 20 years. The reactors first opened in 1973 and 1975, respectively. The original Indian Point reactor was shuttered in 1974 because of its emergency cooling system was discovered to be inadequate.