The Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant in Buchanan, N.Y. At least two dozen nuclear reactors in the United States, including Indian Point, will undergo analysis of their earthquake preparedness.

Fred R. Conrad • New York Times,

Some reactors not prepared for the most severe earthquakes

  • Article by: Matthew L. Wald
  • New York Times
  • April 5, 2014 - 6:25 PM

– Owners of at least two dozen nuclear reactors across the United States, including the operator of Indian Point 2, in Buchanan, N.Y., have told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that they cannot show that their reactors would withstand the most severe earthquake that revised estimates say they might face, according to industry experts.

As a result, the reactors’ owners will be required to undertake extensive analyses of their structures and components. Those are generally sturdier than assumed in licensing documents, but owners of some plants may be forced to make physical changes, and are likely to spend about $5 million each just for the analysis.

Richard S. Drake, a structural engineer with Entergy, which owns Indian Point 2 and 3, north of New York City, said the plants had far thicker concrete and steel than the minimum required. They could probably withstand far bigger challenges than their licenses specified, he said.

But on the basis of engineering analyses already in hand, Drake said, “I just can’t say, ‘It looks good from here.’ We’ll have to crunch the numbers.”

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is presuming, for the time being at least, that plants built to the old standard do not present any immediate risk. But critics say that contradicts a recommendation made by a task force of commission staff members after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan three years ago, which caused three reactors to melt down at Fukushima Daiichi.

One recommendation was that the commission “re-evaluate and upgrade” the original design requirements.

Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., a critic of the commission, said in a statement: “The NRC should be demanding implementation of seismic safety upgrades it called for following the Fukushima meltdowns, not merely more study of nuclear reactors that it knows are clearly at higher risk than was previously believed.”

The commission required the reactors to file reports on March 31. The commission’s work was driven in part by a re-estimate of the quake potential in 2008 by the U.S. Geological Survey.

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