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Industry News

Indian Point 2 May Not Restart this Summer

LCG, July 14, 2000--It appears increasingly unlikely that Consolidated Edison Co. of New York will be able to restart its 931 megawatt Indian Point 2 nuclear power plant in time to keep air-conditioners working during the heat of this summer, even if the utility wants to.

And the extent of the utilities desire to restart the plant was brought into question by three letters between the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Con Edison were posted on the NRC Website yesterday.

The whole problem with Indian Point 2 surfaced on February 15 when the plant was shut down after a steam generator tube sprang a leak, emitting a one-cubic-foot puff of radioactive steam into the atmosphere.

Con Edisons initial reaction was that it would simply pinch off the offending tube and make do with one fewer. It has been doing that for years, which is why Indian Point 2 puts out 931 megawatts of power on a good day instead of the 975 megawatts it was designed to generate.

It then came to light that the plants steam generators had been faulty from the day the plant was licensed in 1973. When the steam generators began causing trouble in the mid-1980s, Con Edison joined several other utilities in a lawsuit against Westinghouse, the manufacturer.

In settlement of the suit, Westinghouse provided all of the utilities with replacement steam generators, and Con Edison got theirs in 1988. Though every other utility replaced their steam generators right away, Con Edisons have been gathering dust in a warehouse for 12 years.

In a letter dated June 8, Con Edison advised the NRC that it planned to bring the plant up to operating temperature and pressure in order to test the steam generator tubes, indicating that it had pinched off the leaky tube. Such a test could take up to a week, and the NRC review of the test could add another week. There was widespread belief that the plant could be restarted at the beginning of July.

In the second letter, dated July 3, the NRC asked Con Edison to submit additional information on a steam generator analysis the utility had provided the agency on June 2. The company had been supplementing the June 2 information right along.

The third letter was from Con Edison, dated July 7, and consisted of information the NRC had requested on July 3.

Where does this leave Indian Point 2? Not even the NRC is sure. Diane Screnci, a spokeswoman for the agency, said Con Edison had not yet conducted any tests, that the agency did not know whether the utility still planned to carry out the tests, and had no idea how long the tests would take if they were carried out.

Today is Friday, July 14. If the tests could be started on Monday, the plant would not be able to restart before the first week of August, and only then if everything went very well -- more well than anything Indian Point 2 has experienced in recent years.

Some observers believe that Con Edison has no intention of restarting Indian Point 2 this summer and is waiting until fall to replace the steam generators. Others believe that the utility is hoping to complete a sale of the plant and let the new owners change the steam generators.

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