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NRC Staff Holds Briefing Pre-Annual Indian Point Meeting

WAMC, Allison Dunne

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is holding its annual meeting on the safety performance of New York’s Indian Point nuclear power plant tonight. The meeting begins at 7 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Tarrytown in Westchester County.

The NRC says both reactors operated safely in 2017, and all inspection findings and performance indicators for the plant were green, or of very low safety significance, as outlined in a February report.

During a call with reporters Thursday, NRC officials said they will talk about two topics:  Indications of a potential reactor pressure vessel leak that was found in Unit 2 during a spring refueling outage, where a small amount of boron was seen at the base of a reactor vessel head penetration. And they’ll also talk about previous O-ring leaks. Senior Resident Inspector at Indian Point Brian Haagensen talks about reactor vessel O-ring leakages.

“There was one problem coming out of the April 2017 refueling outage where both reactor vessel O-rings started leaking. Entergy shut down, cooled down the plant, replaced the O-rings, corrected the problem, brought it back,” Haagensen says. “But, unfortunately, last summer, one of the 2 O-rings started leaking, started leaking again. These O-rings are 100 percent backups. They form a mechanical seal so that if one of them fails, the design is that the other one takes over.”

He says the NRC is keeping an eye on whether there is any leakage coming from the outer O-ring of Unit 3, which is due for a refueling outage in 2019. With Indian Point 2 and 3 slated to close by 2020 and 2021, respectively, NRC staff will discuss decommissioning. Marilyn Elie, with the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, will attend the meeting.

“What we really need to hear from them is some information about decommissioning. And they, I have to say, they have been very generous in taking questions that are off the topic of their planned meeting. So that’s probably what’ll happen tonight,” Elie says. “I think people will have a lot of questions about decommissioning, the extent of what they’re charged with, what they will be doing, how they will be supervising it and what are some of the standards.”

Bruce Watson is chief of the Decommissioning Branch at NRC headquarters. He says NRC oversight continues until the license is terminated. The NRC is in the process of decommissioning rulemaking. Watson says the draft rule has been provided to the Commission, but there are two new commissioners, so it’s possible their review will take longer than thought. After public comment, Watson expects the final rule to be adopted by the end of 2019.

“Since all the rulemaking will be completed before Indian Point shuts down, it should make the process for transitioning from operation to decommissioning more efficient, for the utility and the NRC staff, who has to process all the amendments and exemptions to put the plant into decommissioning status.”

Again, Elie.

“When I took a quick look at some of the proposals, they were proposing fewer inputs for citizens and they were proposing more leeway for the company,” says Elie. “It’s like, okay, what else is new here.”

NRC officials say about 3-to-6 months after each plant is shut down, the Commission will reduce its resident inspectors on site, transitioning to a decommissioning inspection program.

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