In 1976, Robert Pollard, a rarity among U.S. government nuclear officials—honest and safety-committed—said of the Indian Point nuclear power station that it was “an accident waiting to happen.”
Pollard had been project manager at Indian Point for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from which he resigned at that time charging the NRC “suppresses the existence of unresolved safety questions and fails to resolve these problems.” He joined the Union of Concerned Scientists.
An explosion and fire at a transformer at Indian Point 3 on Saturday is but one of the many accidents that have occurred at the Indian Point facility through the years—none catastrophic as have been the disasters at the Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plants.
But Indian Point 2 has been in operation for 41 years, although when nuclear power was first advanced in the United States, plants were never seen as running for more than 40 years because of radioactivity embrittling metal parts and otherwise causing safety problems. So licenses were limited to 40 years.
Indian Point 2 is thus now running without an operating license while the NRC considers an application before it from the plant’s owner, Entergy, to allow it to run another 20 years—for 60 years.
Indian Point 3, where the transformer explosion and fire occurred, has been operational for 39 years and its license expires this year. (Indian Point l was shut down early because of mechanical deficiencies.) Entergy also is seeking to have Indian Point 3’s operating license extended to 60 years.