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NY - Officials demand another shutdown at nuclear plant

By JIM FITZGERALD The Associated Press 1/3/01 5:31 PM

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) -- Just hours after the Indian Point 2 nuclear power plant went back into service, local officials demanded that it be shut down again because of a small, contained leak of radioactive coolant.

"I cannot go out and tell the people of Westchester County that the nuclear plant in Buchanan is safe," said County Executive Andrew Spano. "Close down the plant, fix the leak."

He said he had asked President Clinton and Sens. Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer to intervene. Schumer's office said he would look into it and that he considered the leak "a major concern given Indian Point's history."

Congresswoman Sue Kelly, whose district includes Indian Point and who had argued against restarting the plant, also called for a shutdown. She said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission "seems to regard safety issues as mere annoyances that can be solved at a later date."

Con Edison, which owns the plant and spent nearly a year getting it back online after a leak of radioactive steam in February, said it began generating electricity again at 2:14 a.m. and was operating safely.

"Shutting down the plant at this time is totally unwarranted and not in the public interest," the company's written statement said. "As with any restart, adjustments and corrections are made as warranted. At no time has any circumstance presented a threat to the health of the public or our workers."

Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said the leakage was "minute," between 0.04 and 0.08 of a gallon -- 2 to 5 ounces -- per minute. Industry guidelines allow a leak of 10 gallons per minute, he said.

"If there were any signs that the plant wasn't going to be operated safely then we would take the appropriate steps," he said.

Spano said he was not comforted, partly because of the nuclear plant's recent history and partly because he had not been kept informed.

"I certainly don't trust Con Ed and now I don't trust the NRC either," he said. "It sounds to me ... like something much more serious than they're saying." His office announced later that Spano would meet with top Con Ed executives on Thursday.

Sheehan said the leak, at a safety valve on a pressurizer, was contained in the coolant line.

"It remains in the pipe," he said. "It's kind of weeping past this valve seat and from there it goes into a tank. Whatever flows into the tank is removed from there and is cleaned up."

Sheehan said there was no radioactivity escaping into the reactor's containment building "and certainly none into the atmosphere" as happened last Feb. 15, when a steam generator tube that had been corroding from the inside burst open. Superheated, radioactive water leaked inside the plant and a tiny amount of radioactive steam escaped into the atmosphere. There were no injuries but it was the worst accident in the plant's 26-year history. It sparked unprecedented criticism of Con Ed from nearby residents, politicians, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and ratepayers throughout the metropolitan area, whom Con Ed billed for the cost of replacing the lost electricity.

Sheehan said it would be misleading to compare the new leak to last year's accident.

"In one case you're talking about a rupture of a boundary between the radioactive side of the plant and the nonradioactive side of the plant," he said. "In this case you're talking about a valve that's weeping. So they really aren't anywhere close to each other in magnitude."

Spano was disdainful of the commission's assurances, noting that it was the NRC was "that approved the testing that Con Ed did before we had the incident last February."

-- Doris (, January 03, 2001


Sorry, I y2k glitched and double posted.

-- Doris (, January 03, 2001.

Thats ok Doris. We know how to fix those y2k bugs. Its history.

-- Martin Thompson (, January 03, 2001.

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