Entergy Corp., which owns the Indian Point power plant in Buchanan, New York, conducted a required safety inspection of its Unit 2 reactor in March and recently reported that more than 25% of the bolts keeping the inner walls of the reactor core from coming apart–were either missing or seriously degraded or damaged from radiation.
The Unit 2 reactor — one of the oldest in the U.S.– is currently offline for refueling and, given the bolt damages, experts say it probably will stay down for some time. According to the nonprofit Riverkeeper, which monitors Indian Point and wants it to be permanently closed down, “…the damage is unprecedented. No other nuclear plant in the U.S. has reached this disturbing level of disrepair.”
Regarding the possible risks from failed bolts, Riverkeeper quotes nuclear engineer David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists as follows:
“These highly irradiated bolts perform a critical safety and operational function at the plant. Loss of a single bolt or isolated multiple failures of the baffle-former bolts are considered to be manageable, but catastrophic or clustered loss of multiple bolts at adjacent locations could cause a lack of structural stability and potentially raise safety and operational concerns.”
Since the Indian Point Unit 3 reactor is basically similar to Unit 2, experts now are wondering if that reactor should be shut off and inspected as well. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not yet made a decision about the damaged and missing bolts in Unit 2.