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Entergy Reassesses Earthquake Risk For Indian Point Three

WAMC/Allison Dunne

The parent of the Indian Point nuclear power plant has submitted a report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, saying that the earthquake risk for one of its reactors is not nearly as great as initially estimated.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Spokesman Neil Sheehan says the NRC had already been looking into seismic risk, but that the topic took on greater urgency following the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan.

Plus, Sheehan says, there is better modeling available to calculate seismic risk. In evaluating which plants posed higher risks, the NRC found that Westchester County-based Indian Point Three fell into that category.

Lower, by nearly 10 times the calculated risk. In its recently submitted report to the NRC regarding seismic risk reassessment for Indian Point 3, Entergy finds that earthquake risk leading to an accident and reactor core damage is estimated to be reduced from the earlier NRC screening estimate of 1 in 10,000 reactor years. The new estimate puts it at about 1 in 106,000 reactor years using U.S. Geological Survey hazard curves, and nearly 1 in 141,000 using improved plant capacity and Electric Power Research Institute hazard curves. Jerry Nappi is a spokesman for Entergy.

He explains that one of the reasons for increased scrutiny of Indian Point Three for earthquake risk was because of a televised news report.

In addition, the initial assessment for earthquake risk came from Indian Point’s previous owners, and the two Buchanan-based reactors, which stand alongside one another, had different owners. Again, here’s Entergy’s Nappi.

Con Edison was the previous owner of Indian Point Two, and the New York State Power Authority of Indian Point Three.

Entergy’s report also states that the company does not believe the Ramapo Fault to be a concern. Indian Point opponents have questioned Entergy’s ability to handle earthquakes of high magnitude. Scientists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, who have previously weighed in on earthquake risk and Indian Point, had not yet reviewed Entergy’s report and were unable to comment in time for this broadcast.

Here’s the NRC’s Sheehan on what the NRC now does with the report.

He says the NRC is continuing with its seismic hazard reevaluations for all U.S. nuclear power plants, including Indian Point, and expects the plants to assess their seismic risk.

This evaluation, Sheehan points out, is separate from an NRC study currently out for public comment that looks at the potential impact of earthquakes on spent fuel pools, a study that began following the Fukushima disaster.

In addition, the NRC spokesman says there is no contention in the Indian Point license renewal hearing involving seismic issues, and that seismic issues generally do not factor into license renewals. The license for Indian Point Two expires in September, and for Indian Point Three, 2015.

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