APR: your source for nuclear news and analysis since April 16, 2010

Monday, May 11, 2015

Physical versus Political Realities and Nuclear Plants - Indian Point

Over the weekend, an output transformer at Indian Point Energy Center in New York failed in a somewhat spectacular manner, as is fairly often the case with oil filled transformers at any power plant or electric substation -- it leaked, burned and exploded and required water and then firefighting foam to extinguish.  This event would have been fairly unremarkable except for the fact that some of the oil, whose volume was added to by firefighting water and foam, went into the Hudson River.  Even that would have been something likely contained to local news services and stations, but because the event occurred at a nuclear power plant, and because politicians are adept at capitalizing on problems to turn them into crises, we now face some 600 news stories on the event world wide.

"Public perception (of nuclear energy) is hindered by the symbiosis of the anti-nuclear lobby (who need public exposure to survive) and the public media (who need controversy to entertain)," said Sir Walter Marshall in a speech to the Atomic Industrial Forum in 1985.  His remarks could be amended to say that anti-nuclear politicians, who also require public exposure and a following to keep their jobs, are tied inextricably to the media -- a media that in this country is largely biased to the left.  And on that left politically is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who missed none of the opportunity to show up at Indian Point's gate for the press.

Cuomo has long been an opponent of having (clean, reliable, carbon free, around the clock) Indian Point operating in his state; the record is quite clear on this fact.  He kept that vein when he issued some of his typically deeply insightful analysis of the plant's situation, as reported by the AP.

When asked about environmental impact of the oil that reached the river, he said "obviously it's not good."  Well, the fact is that Entergy Nuclear's environmental contractors were on site the same day and this morning's report from Indian Point is that the oil is mostly contained to an area set up by floating booms and that very little has entered the larger waterway.  So Cuomo, without any real knowledge of the spread or the impact (which he could have had none of at the early hour he made the quote) steps out on a limb of credibility -- a limb which none of the media will shake or test.

Cuomo is quoted as having uttered this gem:  "Luckily, this was not a major situation.  But the emergency protocols are very important.  I take nothing lightly when it comes to this plant specifically."

"This plant specifically?"  Well, naturally - you're against the nuclear plant itself.  You'd like to drive up energy prices, drive down grid reliability, and drive up carbon emissions overall by shutting it down -- which panders to your environmentalist base.  The problem is that the plant's operating experience shows it to be safe and reliable. This is why Cuomo must by needs speak in such vague terms. Vague accusations are the stock in trade of the anti-nuclear politician.  They are carried instantly and breathlessly by the compliant media who needs such fabricated controversy to sell advertising spa-- sorry, I mean to sell news stories.

So the situation boils down to this:  Unit 3 at Indian Point was forced to shut down immediately as a result of the failure, and because most folks don't have transformers this big just sitting around and because even if you do they take time to put in, the unit might be down several weeks.  The impact of the oil and extinguishing measures was mitigated and contained as rapidly as possible... probably FAR more rapidly than if it had occurred at some unmanned remote substation.  There was no impact to the public at large at any time.  However, hundreds of news items (many of which are just the same AP piece reprinted over and over) are carrying the klaxon alarm of Cuomo, who vows to get to the bottom of the event.

A transformer failed.  Some oil got in the water, but its impact is minimal.  The plant is all right; the nuclear portion is safe, and stable.  Return to your home, Governor Cuomo - there really is nothing to see here except you, grandstanding for votes.

Will Davis  - May 11, 2015


  1. EXCELLENT article! I'd like permission to email it around to NYC media for their takes -- but I think I won't hold my breath!

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  2. As of 4pm Monday (46 hours after event) TV satellite vans were still parked outside the plant. Either it's a very slow news day, or they're trying to milk the last drop of ratings honey out of this story.

    1. They've been HAPPILY gobbling down all the FUD the local Green groups have been feeding them with relish -- and what's totally maddening is there're NO nuclear spokesperson in the region there or on the air to counter all this stuff! You ought see NYC cable news on this! I have real concerns of the fate of upstate nukes now. Fear is paving Cuomo's way to the WH.

  3. RE:

    The Mainichi
    May. 14, 2015 (Thu.)
    "M-6.8 quake rocks northeastern Japan...There have been no reports of injuries from the 6:13 a.m. quake or of abnormalities at nuclear power facilities, but bullet train services were temporarily disrupted..."

    Gee, it's nice that they've such close watch on nuclear facilities but how's everyone else doing??

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  4. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/nuclear-power-seems-doomed-to-dwindle-in-the-u-s-infographic1/

    How does a transformer fire condemn a nuke?? Tell me, does SciAm have it in for nuclear power?

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

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  6. Hi..
    Thank you for sharing this information really this is excellent article! I did like permission to email it around to NYC media for their take and it's nice that they've such close watch on nuclear facilities but how's everyone else doing..Exel generator