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Indian Point, Entergy and a Problematic History

Indian Point

Photo courtesy Giles Ashford
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On November 7, 2010, an undetected malfunction at Indian Point resulted in an explosion and fire of a main electrical transformer. This event is the next in a seemingly never-ending stream of operational difficulties that have plagued the nuclear plant: frequent component malfunctions and unplanned shutdowns, years of ineffective emergency sirens, leaking spent fuel pools, corroded underground piping, to name a few.

The most shocking aspect of this most recent failure is that a similar explosion of an electrical transformer occurred once before at the plant, just 3 years ago. The cause of this earlier explosion included the fact that components of the transformer were so improperly maintained that years of deterioration was left undetected until it was so severe as to cause a malfunction. What’s more is that just last year, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (“NRC,” the federal government agency that oversees how nuclear power plants in the U.S. are operated) communicated to industry that transformer issues can be prevented with a more proactive and effective maintenance program.

Needless to say, it is surprising and inexcusable that another transformer explosion has occurred at Indian Point: the owner of the plant, Entergy, is aware of its problematic history, and thus should have enhanced its maintenance efforts to make sure to prevent future problems. This latest event in a long and pervasive history of operational issues at the plant, raises serious questions about Entergy’s lack of commitment to safely maintain its aging nuclear reactors, and casts further doubt on the NRC’s ability to strictly regulate the nuclear industry.

In light of this newest incident, Riverkeeper has called for the NRC Inspector General’s office to conduct an investigation of Entergy’s maintenance programs. The Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) is an independent arm of the NRC that performs investigations in order to prevent and detect mismanagement and promote effectiveness of NRC programs. Given the situation at Indian Point, such an independent investigation is clearly necessary in order to determine why Entergy is having so much difficulty detecting problems before they lead to significant consequences.

Riverkeeper’s letter to the OIG.

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