Indian Point nuclear plant in New York shuts down after ‘electrical disturbance’

The Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant on the banks of the Hudson River in Buchanan, NY. © Don Emmert
One of the reactors at the Indian Point nuclear power plant, 25 miles north of New York City, was shut down after transmission line trouble. It was the second shutdown at the complex this month, and the fifth incident this year.

The Unit 3 reactor was taken offline Monday evening, after an “an electrical disturbance on the non-nuclear side of the plant,” said a statement from Indian Point’s operator, Entergy Corporation. The company blamed a problem with the high voltage transmission line leading from the plant to an electrical switching station outside.

“There was no release of radioactivity and no threat to the safety of workers or the public,” Entergy said.

It was the fourth shutdown this year for the Unit 3 reactor, and the fifth this year at the facility. Last week, operators performed an emergency shutdown on the Unit 2 reactor, after several control rods inexplicably lost power.

Located in Buchanan, New York, just 25 miles up the Hudson River from New York City, the first reactor at Indian Point came online in 1962, and used thorium fuel at first. After switching to uranium dioxide, Unit 1 was shut down in 1974, because the core cooling system no longer met regulatory requirements. Unit 2 was brought online the same year, and Unit 3 followed two years later. Both operate uranium dioxide reactors, generating around 2,000 megawatts of power for New York City and Westchester County customers.

Unit 3 has had a turbulent year, to say the least. It had been taken offline to repair a steam leak this spring, and had just become operational in May, when it had to be shut down after a transformer explosion. The sound and the plume of smoke prompted fears of a nuclear discharge.

Transformer explosions are apparently fairly common, happening “roughly three or four times a year across the industry,” Nuclear Safety Project director Dave Lochbaum told WNBC in May.

A 2012 explosion on the main transformer caused an oil spill into the Hudson, costing Entergy $1.2 million in fines.

Unit 3 was shut down two more times over the following two months, though. In June, a balloon floated into the electrical switchyard, and in July there was a water pump failure.

The most recent trouble at Unit 3 comes just four days after the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission allowed Entergy to continue operating the reactor, pending license renewal. The facility’s initial 40-year license was set to expire on December 12, but the regulators are leaning towards recommending a 20-year extension.