Riverkeeper > News & Events > News > Stop Polluters > Power Plant Cases > Indian Point > New analysis Refutes Industry Spin about Indian Point’s Capacity to Prevent Hydrogen Explosions in the Event of a Meltdown

New analysis Refutes Industry Spin about Indian Point’s Capacity to Prevent Hydrogen Explosions in the Event of a Meltdown

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Tina Posterli, 914-478-4501 x 239, tposterli@riverkeeper.org

Riverkeeper & NRDC nuclear safety analysts counter Entergy’s misleading statements and inaccuracies

Ossining, NY – December 12, 2012 – In a follow up analysis to a Riverkeeper enforcement petition filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in November, Riverkeeper and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) counter industry spin and show that Entergy has not adequately equipped Indian Point to minimize the threat of a hydrogen explosion in the event of a core meltdown. The petition requests that the NRC order the Indian Point nuclear power plant to be shutdown permanently, citing safety analyses indicating that hydrogen explosions inside of Indian Point’s containment buildings could cause pressure spikes exceeding 110 pounds per square inch – about twice what they were designed to withstand – which could result in a catastrophic radiological release to the environment.

Entergy and the NRC publicly responded to the petition with inaccurate and misleading statements. Entergy stated that Indian Point is designed with back-up safety equipment to protect the plant, including equipment inside containment that automatically turns hydrogen gas into harmless water in the unlikely event of damage to the nuclear fuel. And the NRC said that plant operators could use controlled burns and open purge lines to manage a significant buildup of hydrogen inside a containment dome.

Entergy disputes the premise that a severe nuclear accident leading to a hydrogen explosion is even possible and offers up fuzzy assurances that the plant has all the back-up equipment that is needed, including hydrogen recombiners, which can only eliminate several grams of hydrogen per second. The NRC’s assurances are even more disturbing, as controlled burn capability does not even exist at Indian Point and managing a significant buildup of hydrogen in a severe accident by opening existing purge lines, as the regulator suggests, would result in radiological contamination of the local environment.

Mark Leyse, nuclear safety analyst and author of Riverkeeper’s petition, said, “Entergy has claimed their safety equipment—two recombiners for each reactor—would eliminate all the hydrogen produced in a major accident, yet recombiners have a very limited capacity. Using a couple recombiners to mitigate hydrogen in a meltdown would be like bailing a sinking ship with a teacup.”

The nuclear safety analysis, authored by Mark Leyse and NRDC nuclear program director Christopher Paine, highlights that there is no assurance today that Indian Point’s owner, Entergy, could control the total quantity of hydrogen generated in a meltdown and prevent a hydrogen detonation that would breach the containment and spew radioactive contamination into the regional environment.

“Judging by their initial fumbled response to the Riverkeeper petition, Entergy continues to count on a pliable federal regulator to discount the true economic cost risk of a severe accident at Indian Point. Meanwhile, the NRC appears reluctant to step-up and perform its essential regulatory function, which is vital not only to preserving public health and safety, but also to the rational allocation of resources for energy investment in New York State,” stated Christopher Paine, director of NRDC’s nuclear program.

The relicensing hearings to determine the fate of Indian Point continue this week, and concerned citizens must continue to demand that Entergy and the NRC perform in a more responsive and responsible manner when the safety and economic well-being of the greater New York City area is at risk.

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