Engineers Assess Fire Damage at Indian Point Nuke Plant as DEC Monitors Oil in Hudson River

Engineers and inspectors are examining damage caused by a transformer fire at the Indian Point nuclear power plant that forced a temporary shutdown of a reactor, officials said Sunday, as the Department of Environmental Conservation continued to monitor how much oil from the facility has leaked into the Hudson River.

The fire, which started at about 6 p.m. Saturday at the suburban New York facility, was quickly extinguished by the plant's sprinkler system and utility managers declared the reactor safe and stable. No one at the plant was injured.

Entergy Corp. owner of the facility, deemed the fire an "unusual event" -- the lowest of four emergency response classifications.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was briefed on the failure at the site and said officials would review how the emergency was handled to determine if anything could have been done better.

Cuomo said the fire had caused oil to leak into the Hudson River, although the amount of oil in the river is unknown.

The spilled oil is from the ruptured transformer. Oil is used to cool down the transformer, but leaked out of it when the transformer ruptured. From there it went into a holding tank, which overflowed and spilled onto the ground, which empties into a drainage system that goes right into the Hudson River.

"There is no doubt that oil was discharged into the Hudson River," Cuomo said at Indian Point on Sunday. "We have booms in the water now around the discharged pipe to collect any oil that may be in the river." 

Cuomo said that the New York state DEC is monitoring the oil in the Hudson.

The incident also raised concerns that foam used to extinguish the fire could pose an environmental hazard if it leaks into the nearby river, the governor said.

The transformer at Indian Point 3 takes energy created by the plant and changes the voltage for the grid supplying power to the state.

The blaze Saturday sent black smoke billowing into the sky.

"Saw a huge ball of black smoke and then alarms audible across the river," said Gustavus Gricius, who witnessed the explosion.

Entergy spokesman Jerry Nappi said Westchester County police and fire were on site as a precaution.

It was not immediately clear what caused the failure, or whether the transformer would be repaired or replaced. Nappi said there were no health or safety risks. It's unclear how long the 1,000-megawatt reactor will be down. Entergy is investigating the failure.

Unit 3 had been shut down Thursday morning for an unrelated issue, a water leak on the non-nuclear side of the plant. It was repaired and there was no radioactive release, Nappi said. In March, Unit 3 was shut down for a planned refueling that took about a month.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokeswoman Diane Screnci said there was no impact on the public. She said it was not out of the ordinary for a transformer to have a problem, and noted that it was on the non-nuclear side of the plant.

An NRC inspector assigned to the plant will be monitoring Entergy's response to the incident, she said.

The plant, located 35 miles up the Hudson River from midtown Manhattan, supplies electricity for millions of homes, businesses and public facilities in New York City and Westchester County.

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