Two New York State departments said this week they had been directed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to investigate last Friday's oil spill at the Indian Point Energy Center. Both the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Department of Public Service (DPS) announced they would look into the matter as it pertains to “the operational reliability and safety of the aging nuclear power plant.”
The DEC said that visual inspection over the weekend past revealed rusted and broken containment systems in and along the discharge canal “which suggests that due to either poor design or maintenance, the infrastructure may be inadequate to prevent contaminant releases into the Hudson River.”
Since 2011, there have been over 40 spills and unexpected shutdown events at the Indian Point Nuclear Reactor, which as been criticized repeatedly by Gov. Cuomo, who has said the plant, run by Entergy Nuclear Operations Inc. and just 24 miles north of New York City, is too close to a major population center to allow for a reasonable evacuation process in the event of a significant emergency.
Entergy said Friday that an unspecified amount of uncontaminated oil had leaked from a heat exchanger into a cooling water discharge canal inside the power plant facility and that a boom had been put in place to contain the oil. The incident originated in the cooling system for a turbine that is not part of the reactor core's function and, therefore, safe from radioactive contamination. State officials termed the incident as a “cooling center malfunction” that prompted Gov. Cuomo to tour the area by boat to see how much oil may have gotten past the boom.
“We did not see any oil apparently discharged into the Hudson River, so that is the good news,” Cuomo said in a press event. He also said the cooling mechanism for the turbine had been taken offline and that a secondary cooling system was allowing the turbine to continue operating.
At the press event, Cuomo did not call for the plant to close. Instead, he said that the answer to Indian Point's series of problems was “total vigilance.”
The Indian Point plant includes two Pressurized Water Reactors, Units 2 and 3, which have been in service since September 1973 and December 1975, respectively. Both units are operating on their original, 40-year licenses, which were set to expire in September 2013 and December 2015, respectively. However, because the plant's licenses are under review at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and because the renewal applications were submitted prior to 2008, the reactors – with applications for 20-year extensions submitted more than five years before their licenses expired – are operating under a “period of extended operations.”
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