BUCHANAN, N.Y. – Officials at the Indian Point nuclear power plants in Buchanan say a leaky coolant pump seal was replaced, putting Indian Point Reactor Unit 2 back online Wednesday evening. Reactor Unit 2 was shut down on Tuesday, Jan. 10, after officials noticed increased leakage coming from the SUV-sized pump.
“The part that was replaced is really a seal,” said Jerry Nappi, spokesman for Entergy, owner and operator of Indian Point. “Unfortunately to replace that seal you have to shut the entire pump down, which means you have to shut the plant down.”
Normally, these kinds of seal repairs are done during refueling shut downs, but as plant operators saw the leakage slowly climb to five gallons per minute, from the usual two gallons per minute, the decision was made to shut down the 1,000 megawatt plant for repair.
"Nuclear reactors don’t shut down very often, they usually average less than once a year, but it is not unusual for this to occur," said Diane Screnci, spokesperson for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The plant ran for 230 consecutive days before the shutdown.
The seal is about a foot in diameter, and is part of one of four coolant pumps which circulate 90,000 gallons of water per minute over fuel rods to create steam and generate electricity. The coolant pump is contained in what’s called the “primary loop,” a loop of pipes which have direct contact with radioactive material. The primary loop recirculates the same water over and over again, and does not come into contact with Hudson River water.
Hudson River water is pumped through the "tertiary loop," which does not have contact with radioactive material. The plant sucks about 2.5 billion gallons of water per day out of the Hudson River, and then returns it to the water way.
Environmental advocacy groups Clearwater and Riverkeeper could not be immediately reached for comment.