Bird poop blamed for Indian Point nuclear reactor shutdown

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Bird feces piling up on power lines is the most likely reason behind the latest shutdown of the Indian Point reactor in New York, a state-commissioned probe into the incident at the aging nuclear power plant has revealed after months of investigation.

One of the reactors at the Indian Point nuclear power plant, 25 miles north of New York City, was shut down after a transmission line trouble on December 14.

After months of investigation into the cause of the malfunction that lasted for three days, the plant operator Entergy Corporation now says that the shutdown was likely a result from a string of “large bird” droppings landing on the plant’s electrical equipment.

“Damage was caused by a bird streamer. Streamers are long streams of excrement from large birds that are often expelled as a bird takes off from a perch,” company officials said in last month’s report, obtained by Lohud, part of the USA Today news network.

“If a streamer contacts an energized conductor, the electrical current may travel through the streamer back to the bird or pole/transmission tower. The result may be a bird electrocution, power outage, and/or line trip,” Entergy explained.

Following the investigation, managers at the nuclear plant have started installing bird guards on transmission towers and are now conducting additional inspections and cleanings of the lines.

An Entergy spokesman Jerry Nappi confirmed that the December accident was caused by an “electrical disturbance” on outdoor high voltage transmission lines, stating that the actual cause is “still being reviewed by an outside engineering expert.”

“A possible cause is bird 'streaming',” Nappi said, an issue that is a “common cause” for electrical interruptions in high voltage transmission lines throughout the world. Yet Nappi noted that he couldn't recall a similar incident in the past several years from birds at Indian Point.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has raged a personal vendetta to shut down the nuclear plant that lies within an hour drive of 20 million people. Two days after the December 14 accident, Cuomo ordered the Department of Public Service to investigate a series of unexpected outages.

The Indian Point Energy Center produces some 25 percent of New York City’s and Westchester’s electricity. The combined power generated by the two units amounts to over 2000 megawatts. The facility employs some 1,600 people.