Federal regulators will have to redo an analysis of the economic impacts of a potential severe accident at New York’s Indian Point nuclear power plant. That’s according to a ruling issued Wednesday being hailed by New York’s governor and attorney general.
The ruling by the commission that oversees the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reversed the Atomic Licensing Safety Board’s approval of a prior analysis used in Westchester-based Indian Point’s 2007 application for relicensing. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office had raised the issue during the ongoing relicensing process and appealed the initial decision, saying there needed to be a new analysis of the impacts caused by potential severe accidents at the Buchanan nuclear facility and potential upgrades to protect the public against such accidents. Lemuel Srolovic is bureau chief of the attorney general’s Environmental Protection Bureau.
“We’re heartened that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission agreed with our arguments that the Commission staff and Entergy must fully count the costs and impacts associated with a potential severe accident at the Indian Point facility and fully analyze all available cost-effective measure to prevent a severe accident from happening in the first instance or to limit its severity,” Srolovic says.
For the relicensing applications for its two reactors, Indian Point parent Entergy had to perform a Severe Accident Mitigation Alternatives Analysis, or SAMA. NRC Spokesman Neil Sheehan explains.
“What is means basically is they needed to do some computer modeling that showed if there were to be a severe release of radioactivity following a severe accident, what would the cleanup cost be, the decontamination and cleanup costs,” says Sheehan. “And there were certain inputs that they used in that computer modeling.”
That computer modeling was done based on a 1990 NRC regulation that spells out which inputs are to be used in this type of modeling and is employed across the nuclear industry. Sheehan says the new ruling directs the following.
“So they instructed the NRC staff to do what’s known as a sensitivity analysis to take a closer look at whether those inputs into the computer modeling are appropriate,” Sheehan says.
Jerry Nappi is Entergy spokesman.
“We’ll rework that model and we’ll work with the NRC staff to make sure we’re in compliance,” Nappi says. “But, again, this has nothing to do with safety or any evaluation. This is about economics and fiscal implications stemming from a computer model.”
Meanwhile, Srolovic says the analysis is important in the relicensing process.
“This analysis is tied directly to the decision of whether this facility will be granted a license to continue to operate,” says Srolovic. “And, if so, this analysis would ensure that that plant is as safe as possible.”
As for whether the new modeling ends up necessitating upgrades at the plant, according to Nappi:
“The bottom line is Entergy has a demonstrated commitment to make the necessary investments at Indian Point to make sure it runs safely and reliably.”
The NRC’s Sheehan says there is no deadline imposed for completing the new analysis. Nappi says it is possible this could further delay the relicensing decision. The initial 40-year license expired in September 2013 for Indian Point 2 and December 2015 for Indian Point 3.