The embattled Entergy Corporation faced shutdowns at two of its nuclear power plants located in New York state last night. In one incident, a leaky pipe led the company to shut down the Vermont Yankee power plant in Vernon. The second incident took place in Buchanan, where Entergy was forced to shut down a reactorÂ at the Indian Point power plant after a transformer explosion. Â Only thirty minutes separated the two incidents.
Entergy was quick to tell the press that neither incident posed a threat to public health, according to the Albany basedÂ news station WTEN. Still, it's not the first time the company has found itself in hot water over safety concerns. The AP reports that a tritium leak was discovered at Vermont Yankee back in January. That leak led Vermont lawmakers to reject a bill to renew the plant's operating license, which expires in 2012.
Now Entergy says that itÂ is exploring the option of selling the trouble prone Vermont Yankee. "The plant has an outstanding operational record," boasts a press release discussing the possible sale. There's good reason not to take the company for its word though.Â Entergy officials have beenÂ accused of making misleading statements to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Employees at Vermont Yankee once claimed that the underground pipe now suspected of being the source of the tritium leak did not even exist. That's quite the oversight.
The string of bad news coming out of Entergy has to be frustrating for the rest of the nuclear power industry. News about explosions and leaks does little to reaffirm the image of nuclear power as clean energy, an image that the industry's lobbyists in Washington have been working hard to promote. Indeed, the timing of these latest incidents couldn't be worse for proponents of nuclear energy.Â The policy of expanding the nation's supply of nuclear power seems to be one of the few things President Obama and Republicans in Congress agree upon, but that doesn't mean that the public is sold on the idea yet.
If we've learned anything from the energy debate that has been raging over the past few years, it is that the "Not in my back yard" (NIMBY) mentality is still alive and well. The NIMBY frame of mind has motivated groups of local citizens to rise up against even the safest and greenest forms of energy. Case in point: the Cape Wind Project. With this in mind, it seems unlikely that communities across the nation will embrace a new wave of nuclear power plants, at least so long as the industry remains mired in Entergy-like scandals.
Picture of Vermont Yankee courtesy of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission