Flaws found at nuke plant – Camera uncovers possible leak sources

Friday, November 4, 2005
Flaws found at nuke plant
Camera uncovers possible leak sources
By Greg Clary

The Journal News

BUCHANAN — Entergy engineers told a group of elected and public officials yesterday they have isolated three locations inside Indian Point 2’s spent fuel pool that may be the source of leaking radioactive water at the site and will start to work on those areas next week.

They also said they will start drilling at least five new wells at the same time to make sure the leak has been contained properly.

Though the tests are not yet conclusive, engineers said the flaws in the tank which range in size from 1 to 6 inches were discovered this week at joints along a quarter-inch stainless steel pool liner during an underwater camera inspection of the 400,000-gallon tank.

By next week, a diver will go into the pool and place a box over two of the locations between 16 and 22 feet from the top of the pool to create a vacuum and verify if the flaws are actual openings. If the leaks are coming from those locations, officials said, divers will seal the spots with new welds or an industrial coating.

The third location, according to officials, is too far down to allow a diver and would have to be sealed by another means, which engineers are still considering.

The five new wells, as deep as 90 feet into the ground, will be dug to test how the underground water around the fuel pool is moving. State health officials yesterday asked for samples of the earth and water collected during those borings and were promised they could independently analyze whatever is found.

Officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and New York state’s Department of Environmental Conservation corroborated the leakage findings, announced during a presentation and tour of the plant for about four dozen elected officials, their representatives and members of government agencies.

Entergy Nuclear Northeast, the owner of Indian Point, invited the group to answer officials’ growing concerns and questions about the leak, which was discovered in August and continues to produce between 1 and 2 liters of radioactive water per day.

“We don’t have all the answers,” said Fred Dacimo, an Entergy vice president in charge of Indian Point. “We’re working to get all the answers.”

Two hairline cracks at the base of the spent fuel tank were found Aug. 22. Since then, samples near the leaks have turned up cesium, cobalt and tritium, all radioactive elements.

After touring the site of the leak, officials from Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties said they had a better idea of what the problem was and what Entergy was doing to fix it.

“I think it puts things in perspective,” said Susan Tolchin, Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano’s chief adviser, adding Entergy’s effort to educate leaders about the leak didn’t change Spano’s call for the plant’s closing.

Greg Clary can be reached at gclary@thejournalnews.com