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NRC Says Indian Point Has Safety Gaps

After the nuclear disaster struck Japan in March, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission ( NRC) ordered special inspections of commercial reactors across the nation, including Indian Point, to make sure they would be prepared for emergencies caused by a combination of fires, floods, or earthquakes. On Friday, May 13, a report detailing the findings of the special inspections was released by the NRC. It showed that Indian Point has several specific safety gaps.

The Journal News evaluated the NRC report on Indian Point’s emergency systems, citing the following safety gaps:

  • At Indian Point 2, hydrogen containment devices, which are supposed to be tested every other year, haven’t been tested for five years.
  • Fire protection equipment in locations that are not “seismically designed,” or protected from a quake.
  • At Indian Point 3, not enough firefighting equipment if severe events included both reactors simultaneously.
  • In on-site availability of submersible pumps and sandbags needed at certain flood levels.
  • Carbon-dioxide tanks used for firefighting are not seismically qualified.

Speaking about the release of the report, NRC’s Eric Leeds, director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation said, “Our inspectors found all the reactors would be kept safe even in the event their regular safety systems were affected by these events, although a few plants have to do a better job maintaining the necessary resources and procedures. As with all our inspections, we’re making available to the public all the information not related to security issues.”

According to the Wall Street Journal’s review of the report, Indian Point would be vulnerable if an extreme earthquake caused its back-up generators to fail, leaving the plant without electricity.  Disabled back-up generators could cause a loss of coolant which, in turn, could mean a gradual increase in pressure in the plant’s containment system and possible damage to it.

The NRC says that its  Reactor Oversight Process will further evaluate these findings to determine if they are regulatory findings or violations. Any resulting findings or violations will be documented by the NRC in a separate report at a later, unspecified date.

Please see our investigation on this topic, earlier this year.

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Joyce Newman
Joyce Newman
Joyce H. Newman is an Emmy Award-winning environmental journalist, educator, and gardener. She holds a Certificate in Horticulture from The New York Botanical Garden, and is a tour guide there.
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