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Additional violations by Holtec cited in Indian Point decommissioning


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In a March 2023 letter, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission released a notice sent to Holtec International, providing details of two additional violations during their decommissioning of the Indian Point nuclear power plant. Although these violations were rated low safety significance by the NRC, we believe all violations are significant because they expose weaknesses in Holtec’s management of the decommissioning.

These violations include a failure by Holtec to identify overflows of radioactive liquids from storage tanks, and after identifying the spills, failing to test the radiological levels in required areas within the plant. These overflows were first discovered in the spring of 2022, but went unreported to the public until March of 2023 because NRC inspections happen infrequently.

Pumps that should have rerouted the overflow instead were recirculating the radioactive liquids back into the very tanks that were overflowing, furthering the problem.

Belated tests of the floors onto which the liquids spilled subsequently revealed “high levels of contamination.”

As stated by the NRC, the initial failure to track the contamination caused by the spill resulted “in a failure to adequately assess radiological conditions and conduct operations to minimize the introduction of residual radioactivity into the site.”

The second violation identified Holtec’s failure to implement fire protection equipment surveillance requirements. These requirements state in part that Holtec maintains a fire protection program to address the potential for and prevention of fires that could cause the release or spread of radioactive materials.

Fire protection readiness criteria require the high-pressure fire water system be tested every 36 months. Inspectors identified that the last flow surveillance test was completed in August of 2018. At the time of the inspection in October of 2022, the surveillance test had yet to be completed nor did Holtec provide notification that they were out of compliance and the surveillance requirements were missed. As stated by the NRC, “Holtec failed to implement its fire protection impairment criteria and surveillance procedure and testing test as required.”

The lapse in Holtec’s fire protection testing raises a serious red flag. In 2022, Holtec requested exemptions at Indian Point that, if approved would result in a major reduction of an on-site firefighting force, retiring the siren alert system and eliminating an offsite emergency response plan. Holtec made this request while already operating out of compliance with their fire testing requirements and the NRC unaware of the violations.

“I don’t see how we can place our trust in Holtec or the NRC’s oversight process. Holtec’s own checks and balances have failed on numerous occasions,” said Riverkeeper President Tracy Brown. “These violations occurred almost a year ago. How can we feel safe when errors occur and the public is kept in the dark for so long? The violations concern us. The lapses in reporting and taking corrective measures compounds our concerns exponentially.”

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