Indian Point faces no risk from gas pipeline, says NRC

16 April 2020

Entergy's Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York State would remain protected in the unlikely event that a newly-installed 42-inch natural gas transmission pipeline that runs near it ruptures, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has concluded. However, it said Entergy should revisit the assumptions it made in its analysis.

Indian Point units 2 and 3, which are both scheduled to shut down by the end of April 2021 (Image: Entergy)

Enbridge Inc's Algonquin Gas Transmission pipeline transports 3.08 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas through 1131 miles (1820 km) of pipeline through New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, connecting to the Texas Eastern Transmission and the Maritimes & Northeast pipelines. The 37.6 mile-long Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline crosses the Indian Point plant site and entered service in January 2017. The plant, located on the Hudson River, lies about 24 miles from New York City.

A 26 February directive from NRC's Executive Director for Operations, Margaret Doane, called for a review by a team of NRC and external experts to review issues raised in an earlier NRC Inspector General's Event Inquiry into the NRC's 2014 safety analysis of the AIM pipeline. The team members were chosen to be independent from the previous work described in the Event Inquiry and included both NRC staff and external members with expertise regarding the concerns that were raised.

The team's 8 April report concludes that, "even though Entergy and the NRC made some optimistic assumptions" in analysing potential rupture of the pipeline, the Indian Point reactors remain safe. The report says the pipeline was installed "using modern techniques, stringent quality standards, and construction precautions that limit the likelihood of later pipeline damage". The team notes that, as Indian Point unit 2 is scheduled to shut down by the end of this month and unit 3 by 30 April 2021, "the risk of a pipeline rupture affecting the reactor units is very small".

However, the report says in the event that a rupture did occur, the plant would remain protected. The plant's safety systems, it notes, are all far from the pipeline. The team found that the robust concrete structures housing the plant's safety-related equipment, used fuel pool, and dry fuel storage containers would withstand the heat and pressure impacts of an explosion or fire that could follow a pipeline explosion. The safety-related equipment would be able to safely shut down the reactors and maintain them in a safe shutdown condition, it said. Equipment or structures outside these buildings could be affected, but these serve as backups or alternatives to the safety-related equipment.

The team recommended that Entergy update the assumptions used in its analysis with the new information the team developed during its review. The team also recommended several improvements to NRC processes related to the conduct of technical reviews, peer review, inspection support, interagency cooperation and public petition processing. The NRC intends to hold a public meeting near the plant regarding the report when the region has sufficiently recovered from the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News