Radioactive water leak prompts new call for Indian Point to close

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New York State Troopers stand at the main entrance of the Indian Point nuclear power plant. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
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ALBANY — A spike in radioactive groundwater around the Indian Point nuclear facility has prompted elected officials to call again for the plant’s closure.

Indian Point’s operators reported that radioactive tritium-contaminated water leaked into the groundwater at the facility, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in a press release Saturday. He said Entergy reported “alarming levels of radioactivity” at three monitoring wells, including one that rose 65,000 percent.

The governor, who has pushed before for Indian Point to close, directed the state's commissioners of health and environmental conservation to investigate the leak's causes, its extent, its likely duration and its potential impacts on the environment and public health.

“This is not the first such release of radioactive water at Indian Point, nor is this the first time that Indian Point has experienced significant failure in its operation and maintenance,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This failure continues to demonstrate that Indian Point cannot continue to operate in a manner that is protective of public health and the environment.”

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Entergy officials said the measured amount of radioactivity was still below federally permissible levels but acknowledged the leak was not in “accordance with our standards.”

“The tritium did not affect any source of drinking water onsite or offsite,” company officials said in a statement.

Cuomo acknowledged that the plant had reported that the leak did not pose an immediate public health risk.

Indian Point has had a series of mishaps in the last year, including a transformer fire that forced the facility to shut down one of its reactors. Cuomo has used a number of the incidents to back his claim that the facility should be shuttered, saying it poses a danger to New York City.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer did not call for the plant’s closure. He urged state and Entergy officials to work with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to address the leak's cause.

“It is critical that proper safety measures are in place to prevent water contamination,” Schumer said in a statement. “That is why I am urging NRC to fully investigate all the wells surrounding Indian Point and determine why the pump was not working, how far the contamination spread, how to prevent future spills and more importantly determine if local residents’ health and safety are at risk.”

U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat who represents the Hudson Valley district north of Indian Point, reiterated Cuomo’s call for the plant’s closure.

“This latest incident isn't the first time Indian Point has been responsible for radioactive water and unless we get serious about shutting this place down, it's far from the last,” he said in a statement. “Since coming to Congress, I've worked to bring an end to operations at Indian Point because it's too great a risk to the Hudson Valley.”