Indian Point 3 reactor shut down after fire, explosion
BUCHANAN - An explosion and fire in the transformer yard at the Indian Point nuclear power complex today led to the shutdown of the Indian Point 3 reactor, but officials said the fire was quickly extinguished with no impact on public health and safety.
The incident was reported at around 11:15 a.m. Shortly after noon, Michael Slobodien, a director of emergency planning for Entergy Nuclear Northeast, which owns and operates the plant, said the facility was stable and under control.
"Between the transformer and the reactor, there's a huge concrete structure," he said.
But the unplanned shutdown, the second this week, may push the plant's safety rating to white from green, the safest of four operational categories.
Entergy has declared a "notice of unusual events," the lowest of four emergency classifications in the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with the state and regional counties. An investigation has been launched to determine what caused the fire and what kind of damage.
"It's too early at this point," Slobodien said.
The Entergy declaration prompted Westchester County to open its emergency operation center at the Transportation Management Center in Hawthorne. Officials plan a press briefing there early this afternoon.
The Verplanck Fire Department responded to the scene this morning, but they were told they were not needed because the facility's internal brigade handled the situation.
Buchanan Mayor Dan O'Neill said he was not concerned about the fact that the fire had taken place at the nuclear facility.
"Unfortunately, these things happen when you're making electricity," he said. "It could happen at any type of power plant. ... This had nothing to do with nuclear power, it had to do with making electricity."
Indian Point 3 had returned to service Saturday, following a scheduled 24-day refueling outage when workers replaced 96 of the 193 fuel assemblies used during operation.
Then, a steam generator problem prompted workers to manually shut down the plant early Tuesday morning, but no release of radiation was reported and the plant was restarted less than 24 hours later.
Coming up from a re-start after that unplanned shutdown, Indian Point 3 was at about 90 percent capacity when today's fire broke out, officials said.
The plant, which went online 31 years ago this week, had two unplanned shutdowns in 2006, according to Nuclear Regulatory Commission records.
On Monday, 123 of the 150 new emergency-warning sirens failed to successfully complete an operational test. The sirens are required to be ready to go by a week from Sunday. It was not known immediately if the existing siren system sounded today or if it was supposed to.
Marilyn Elie of WestCAN spoke with Richard Backley at the NRC and published this on the indianpointsec list:
It is transformer 31 that caught on fire. At his time they do not know the extent of the damage and it is being investigated. "At this time we don't know what route the company will take in either repairing or replacing the transformer." This is one of two transformers. Evidently it is possible to operate with one, if power is reduced.
I think that this is the same transformer that was a problem several years ago when a grounds keeper was electrocuted. It was entered into the corrective action matriix then. I asked Backley for more information about this and will keep you posted. This unplanned shut down should take Unit 3 out of the white caegory and put it squarely in the green.
The plant uses part of the electricity they produce for internal purposes. Backley claims that emergency systems are not comprised and that the plant is running on electricity from the switch yard. He said that first responders were not notified promptly because the firewas extinguished on site. First responders wiere not notified until 12:15.
There is no emergency event notification on the NRC web site yet which is odd. A reactor in MO, Calloway, had a transformer fire yesterday morning and it was posted right away even though the plant was already in shut down. Why not Indian Point? Also, it was hard to get information. It is entirely possible that there is more here than meets the eye - at least so far. Stay tuned...