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Safety Analyses Show Meltdown at Indian Point Could Cause a Large Radiological Release


Riverkeeper, Tina Posterli, 914-478-4501 x 239, [email protected]
Technical Information, Mark Leyse, 646-623-6835, [email protected]

Riverkeeper files petition with NRC; calls for permanent shutdown of outdated nuclear plant

Ossining, NY – November 14, 2012 – Riverkeeper filed an enforcement petition with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) today, requesting that the federal regulator order the Indian Point nuclear power plant to be shutdown permanently. The petition cites safety analyses indicating that hydrogen produced in the event of a meltdown could detonate and breach one of Indian Point’s reactor containment buildings, causing a large radiological release to the environment.

Mark Leyse, who researched and wrote Riverkeeper’s enforcement petition, said: “Even after the Fukushima accident, the NRC is ignoring safety analyses for Indian Point from the early 1980s, which found that in a meltdown, either of the plant’s containment buildings could be breached by a hydrogen explosion. The NRC is not looking out for the millions of people who could be displaced if there were a large release of radiation.”

Indian Point is located in Buchanan, New York on the Hudson River, 34 miles north of Central Park. According to a 2011 Natural Resources Defense Council report, if winds were blowing south, a release of radiation from Indian Point on the scale of the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident could contaminate a swath of land between Buchanan and the George Washington Bridge, rendering it uninhabitable for generations. An accident releasing radiation on the scale of the Chernobyl accident could render Manhattan uninhabitable.

“Since the devastating accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in March of 2012, Entergy spokespeople have been quick to make unsubstantiated claims about how ‘it can’t happen here,’ stated Deborah Brancato, Riverkeeper staff attorney. “Such public distortions include misleading statements about whether Entergy could avoid large-scale radiological releases from Indian Point during an accident. The safety issues raised in his petition are just the latest in a long line of reasons why this dangerous, outdated nuclear plant must be shut down.”

If a meltdown were to occur at either of Indian Point’s two reactors, a large quantity of hydrogen would be produced when reactor core materials, such as the fuel cladding, chemically reacted with steam. However, there is no assurance that Indian Point’s owner, Entergy, could control the total quantity of hydrogen generated in a meltdown—which could exceed 1000 kilograms—and prevent a hydrogen detonation.

Indian Point has two pressurized water reactors with large dry containment buildings; the NRC does not require owners of such reactors to control the hydrogen that would be generated in a meltdown, claiming that the pressure spike of potential hydrogen explosions would remain within the design pressure of their containment buildings. However, there are safety analyses indicating that hydrogen explosions inside of Indian Point’s containment buildings could cause pressure spikes exceeding 110 pounds per square inch, which is about twice their design pressure.

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