The Indian Point 2 nuclear reactor returned to service late Thursday following a more-than-three-month shutdown while workers repaired nearly 300 cracked or deteriorated bolts.
Indian Point Unit 2 in Buchanan, NY, began sending electricity to the grid serving Westchester County and New York City Thursday night after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) signed off on repairs performed by workers for Entergy, the Louisiana-based owner of the plant.
“Nearly 2,000 professionals, including 1,000 specialist contractors, performed hundreds of activities that can occur only while the unit was shut down,” said Larry Coyle, the top-ranking Entergy official at Indian Point. “More than 900,000 person-hours of work were performed over the last three months to prepare Indian Point for continuous, safe operations well into the future.”
Entergy initially planned to reopen the reactor in time for summer, when demands for electricity would be greatest.
Entergy engineers replaced 278 bolts, many of which federal safety regulators in March determined were either cracked or degraded. The discovery occurred during the reactor’s planned refueling outage, a labor-intensive task performed every two years at a cost of $120 million.
The bolt repairs and other safety-related enhancements added two months to the reactor’s scheduled reopening. The company said it also upgraded certain equipment on the plants’ cooling systems to provide an extra layer of safety.
“The levels of back-up safety protections now installed at Indian Point are unprecedented and, while unlikely ever to be needed, they make the facility safer than ever,” Coyle said.
Unit 2 set a record by being in operation 627 days in a row before the March refueling. Indian Point’s other reactor, Unit 3, has been providing electricity continuously for six months.
In a federal court challenge, anti-nuclear group “Friends of the Earth” opposed the NRC’s decision to allow Entergy to restart the reactor.
On Thursday, a panel of federal appeals court judges gave the NRC until Tuesday to respond to the group’s latest challenge, according to its lawyers. The panel turned down the group’s emergency request to shut down the reactor while the legal action is pending.
“The regulator’s response so far to this increased risk of public health and safety is to allow Entergy, the licensee and regulated party, free rein to decide whether and to what extent it should analyze the cause of the failure, and to determine when, in Entergy’s opinion, Unit 2 is safe to restart,” the group’s lawyers wrote in court papers filed this week in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.
Entergy spokesman Jerry Nappi said the company wasn’t surprised by Friends of the Earth’s petition and defended the company’s safety record.
“Rigorous technical analysis conducted by Entergy and outside engineering experts demonstrates Unit 2 and Unit 3 can continue to operate safely,” Nappi said. “Highly qualified experts at the NRC are fully aware of this analysis, and Entergy is proceeding according to NRC process and under the watchful eye of this regulator. NRC monitors our performance in this and other areas to ensure the plant is safe now and on an ongoing basis.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called for the shutdown of Indian Point, citing the potential danger to nearby residents in the event of a nuclear mishap.