On May 9, a transformer exploded and caught fire at the Indian Point Unit 3 nuclear plant in Buchanan, New York. Black smoke emanating from the site could be seen for miles. Media reported the public was never in danger. Entergy, owner and operator of the facility, tweeted: “No danger to community or employees at any time.”
But fear and danger live together in the public mind. As the story of the May 9 incident unfolds, worries about the plant that have already gripped the region will only grow. The accident was the third fire in eight years. It caused a spill of thousands of gallons of transformer oil into the river, also not the first.
In a statement delivered at the site, Governor Andrew Cuomo said:
The fire was started, they believed the fire had been put out; the heat from the transformer actually reignited, so the transformer went on fire a second time, and it had to be put out a second time.
There is no doubt but that oil did escape from the transformer . . . and there is no doubt that oil was discharged into the Hudson River.
Hudson River environmental organization Riverkeeper stated on its website:
The latest accident comes only days after an unplanned shutdown at the plant due to a steam leak. A 2011 transformer explosion leaked large quantities of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from the oil into the groundwater. Questions remain as to Indian Point’s compliance with consent order requirements following the 2011 explosion.
Riverkeeper has waged an aggressive campaign to shut down Indian Point. Paul Gallay, the organization’s president, said:
This is a problem to be taken with the utmost seriousness. Indian Point has a long, disturbing history of operational and environmental problems. The plant’s aging infrastructure has caught up to it and we must see that it is closed or these problems will only worsen with potentially catastrophic results.
The history of fire safety at Indian Point is one of mistakes, illegality, and failure by both Entergy and the NRC. The plant should not be operated under its current fire safety regime. The plant is not cheaper, it’s not safe, and it’s not necessary. It’s time to close Indian Point and move on.
Cuomo is the first New York governor to support closure. He took the opportunity to make the point again:
This plant is the nuclear plant that is closest to the most densely populated area on the globe. If something goes wrong here, it can go very wrong for a lot of people. So it’s always been a priority for us. I was the Attorney General before I was Governor and at that time I was very concerned about the plant. I had serious misgivings, and I made it clear at that time.
According to The New York Times, Indian Point Unit 3 will remain offline for weeks while the accident is investigated and repairs made. Spill investigation, containment and cleanup are being managed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.