Thomas C. Zambito
Updated 2:43 p.m. ET Nov. 1, 2017
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s latest inspection of Indian Point says the power plant’s owners must do more to resolve a recurring problem with O-rings used to seal off nuclear reactors, the cause of eight water leaks since 2003.
Indian Point’s owner, Louisiana-based Entergy, has taken “prudent, conservative action to shut down the plant” to make repairs and identify what may have caused leaks of slightly radioactive water.
But, the NRC notes in its inspection report of Indian Point for the third quarter of 2017, those efforts have not been completely successful.
“Corrective actions to address the causal factors over the years have not been completely effective at preventing recurrence of the issue,” the NRC report states.
The large stainless steel O-rings work to secure the lid or head of the reactor onto the body of the reactor vessel, where nuclear fission occurs.
The leakage issue is likely tied to a 2003 design change that affected how O-rings are installed during the plant’s maintenance shutdowns, typically every two years, the NRC adds. The NRC says Entergy must evaluate its installation procedure to make sure it meets requirements and expectations.
Currently, Indian Point’s two reactors — Units 2 and 3 — are operating without leaks, the NRC said.
The most recent leak was discovered in Unit 3 in June during scheduled maintenance.
And the leaks of slightly radioactive water dating back to 2003 have not escaped into the environment. Any leakage would likely be captured by a leakoff line or by a drainage system inside the reactor building.
“We will continue to follow developments involving the O-rings at Indian Point,” NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said.
In January, Entergy announced that it will shut down operations at Indian Point in 2021, following a protracted legal battle with the state of New York.
“Engineers previously identified steps that we believe will lessen the chance for future leakage past this seal,” Entergy spokesman Jerry Nappi said. “It’s important to note that any water that did leak past these seals is entirely contained within the reactor building and does not reach the environment.”