Indian Point Transformer Fire Raises Questions about New Pipeline Approval

Media Contact: Susan Van Dolsen 914-525-8886

(Cortlandt, NY), May 11, 2015 A transformer fire at the Indian Point nuclear facility garnered wide coverage in the global media this weekend, including a visit to the site by Governor Cuomo, but throughout the coverage, there was no mention of Spectra Energy’s proposed new 42 inch diameter high pressure natural gas pipeline which presents a dramatic new hazard to the troubled plant. For over a year, local, state, county and federal elected officials, as well as the public, have been outspoken in their calls for an independent risk assessment of the siting of a massive new gas pipeline within 105 feet of vital structures at the aging nuclear plant. Yet, both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) signed off on the project. The events this weekend dramatically demonstrate that a truly independent risk assessment must be undertaken immediately. Furthermore, FERC must rescind its approval of the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) project.

Rick Kuprewicz of Accufacts, a renowned pipeline expert, engaged by the Town of Cortlandt to evaluate the project’s impacts on the plant, and Paul Blanch, a nuclear expert with over 45 years of nuclear safety experience, analyzed the Entergy hazard study that was confirmed by the NRC, and believe the analysis severely underestimate the risk of catastrophic failure at the plant in the event of a pipeline rupture. Mr. Kuprewicz said, “in the event of a pipeline rupture in this sensitive location, the system dynamics will substantially delay the recognition and appropriate shutoff and responses such that the gas will explode and burn for quite a period of time. “

Mr. Blanch submitted a formal petition to the NRC in October 2014 and was recently notified by the Petition Review Board that “the staff’s overall conclusion is that both Indian Point units could safely shut down.” Mr. Blanch strongly disagrees with this conclusion and stated, “The gas isolation valves designed to terminate gas flow and prevent core damage must be designed and operated in accordance with NRC’s requirements specified within 10 CFR Part 50. The NRC is delegating its exclusive responsibility for nuclear safety requirements and enforcement to the DOT. The NRC position is unacceptable, unprecedented and unparalleled in the history of commercial nuclear power.” Mr. Blanch has requested a local venue for a final presentation to the Petition Review Board. A local meeting would be in compliance with NRC guidelines regarding public participation because it would enable all stakeholders, including Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Governor Cuomo and the public, to attend this critically important presentation.

The 20 million residents living within the 50 mile radius of the Indian Point nuclear facility are keenly aware of the fact that the plant has been under scrutiny for many years and that there are many problems associated with its operation. For example, the NRC has ordered Entergy to do a full seismic study that will not be completed until June 2017. The introduction of a significant new risk from the new gas pipeline is unfathomable. As Governor Cuomo stated at the site on Sunday, “”This plant is the nuclear plant that is closest to the most densely populated area on the globe. If something goes wrong here, it can go very wrong for a lot of people. So it’s always been a priority for us.”

Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Governor Cuomo and all other leaders must fulfill their responsibility to protect the health and safety of the citizens of the region and must publicly insist that the NRC allow Mr. Blanch to present locally and that FERC rescind its approval of the AIM project immediately.