`Missing Bolts' at New York Nuclear Power Plant Discovered

  • Bolt work may extend reactor maintenance outage by weeks
  • Missing bolts and bars and ``other degradation'' found

Entergy Corp. is extending an outage at its Indian Point nuclear power plant near New York City after discovering bolts missing in one of the reactors, marking the latest development in a series of incidents that have raised safety concerns about the complex.

Engineers inspecting the Unit 2 reactor at the plant identified missing bolts and bars designed to hold them in place, along with “other degradation requiring replacement,” the New Orleans-based company said in a statement Tuesday. Finishing an assessment of the issue and making repairs may extend a scheduled maintenance outage of the reactor by several weeks and increase costs, it said.

The discovery comes as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is campaigning for the permanent closing of the Indian Point complex. He has said evacuating a metropolis such as New York City would be impossible in the event of a major radioactive accident at the station. In December, Cuomo ordered the state’s utility regulator to look into operations and safety protocols after an unexpected shutdown at the plant. Two months later, Entergy said it had detected elevated levels of radioactive material in groundwater samples there.

“The issues identified with the reactor vessel insert liner bolts did not have an impact on public health or safety and will be corrected prior to returning Indian Point Unit 2 to operation,” Entergy said in its statement.

Agencies Notified

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other agencies have been notified of the bolt problems, the plant operator said.

Inspections of more than 2,000 bolts in the reactor’s removable insert liner revealed issues with about 11 percent and require more analysis, the company said. Each bolt holds plate inserts together inside the nuclear reactor, according to its statement.

“The good news is that they detected it with the plant shutdown, so they’ll try to recover as many of these missing bolts as they can,” Dave Lochbaum, director of the nuclear safety project at the Union of Concerned Scientists, an industry critic, said by phone. “The biggest thing that could cause Entergy some problems is if the problems they had with that 11 percent means they have to replace many or all of the other 89 percent -- that could become costly.”

Entergy began inspections of the reactor vessel on March 7 during a refueling and maintenance outage. Indian Point’s other operating reactor, Unit 3, was scheduled to continue to run during the shutdown.

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