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Both Of Indian Point's Reactors Are Offline, For Different Reasons

WAMC, Allison Dunne

One of the reactors at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York is offline. The unexpected shutdown comes as the other unit is also offline for a scheduled refueling outage.

Unit 2 at Buchanan-based Indian Point shut down March 15 just after 3 p.m. Neil Sheehan is spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“The shutdown was uncomplicated. We, our resident inspectors who are at the plant, they immediately made their way to the control room and checked to make sure that everything was being handled properly and that there were no significant equipment challenges. They did not identify any issues,” Sheehan says. “Preliminarily, it appears that this was caused by a fault in the main electrical generator for the plant. So we consider that to be on the non-nuclear side of the plant. In other words, if you go into any power plant, you will find this kind of equipment, which is really taking whatever the source of the heat is for the plant, using that, the power that’s been generated to spin the turbine and generate the electricity.”

An Entergy spokesman was unavailable for comment in time for this broadcast.

“It’s not that uncommon that, over time, the plants will experience an issue with their turbine or electrical generator,” says Sheehan. “That very well may be the case, but, so we’ll take a look and see what we can find on that front.”

Entergy completed its final refueling and maintenance outage for Unit 2 during 2018. Unit 2 is slated to permanently close by April 30, 2020. And Unit 3 is offline for its final scheduled refueling and maintenance outage before being permanently shut down in 2021. A spokesman for the New York state Department of Public Service says the plant owner has kept DPS fully apprised about the status of both reactors and the Department is monitoring the situation. He says that, at this time, the Department does not have any concerns about the facility’s safety, and there is no impact on the reliability of New York’s power system. Cliff Weathers is spokesman for Riverkeeper, a party to the agreement to shut down the plant.

“The grid’s operating fine without Indian Point, and we’ll have more than enough energy to compensate for its 2021 shutdown,” Weathers says.

There have been other shutdowns in recent years due to main generator issues. The NRC’s Sheehan says the Indian Point 3 reactor shut down twice in 2018 and once in 2017 for such reasons. Again, Riverkeeper’s Weathers:

“This malfunction further demonstrates that Indian Point is no longer reliable,” says Weathers. “We’ve seen many of these unexpected shutdowns over the last several years, and they’ll continue to happen until it closes.”

Sheehan speaks to Unit 3’s current refueling and maintenance outage.

“They’re in the process of removing fuel from the reactor so that they can access it and do certain work, including checking on the baffle bolts, which was an issue at the plant within recent years,” Sheehan says.

Indian Point completed replacing about a third of Unit 3’s baffle bolts in 2017 following the replacement of roughly the same number in Unit 2 the year prior. In both cases, the number of degraded bolts was higher than expected.

Neither the NRC nor Entergy indicated when Unit 2 might be back in service, for economic reasons. Meantime, Entergy is working toward selling the plant once Indian Point shuts down.

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