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Unplanned Nuclear Reactor Shutdown Highlights Power Plant's Dangers

Shutdown occurred after activists protested continued operation of Indian Point's expired Unit 3 reactor

Indian Point power plant. (Photo: Hope Abrams/flickr/cc)

A nuclear reactor at New York's Indian Point power plant was forced to shut down Monday due to an "electrical disturbance," days after its operational license expired.

Unit 3 was turned off around 7pm Monday and reportedly posed no threat to staff or the public. The shutdown took place just hours after dozens of anti-nuclear activists held a demonstration on site to protest the continued use of the reactor after its license expired at midnight on December 13.

It is also the latest in a series of unexpected failures at the power plant, which is situated roughly 30 miles north of New York City and operated by New Orleans-based firm Entergy. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered an investigation into the shutdown and said that the "recent unplanned outages" require "increased inspections and scrutiny" at the site.

But for the roughly 30 activists who on Monday draped yellow caution tape across the power plant's entrance—and the 11 who were arrested in the process—simply augmenting the inspection process is not enough to ensure safety for those who live in the vicinity of Indian Point.

"We want the plant shut; the plant never should have been opened in the first place," Gary Shaw, an organizer with Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition (IPSEC), told the Mid-Hudson News. "Indian Point is the nuclear plant that the [Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC] has defined as the nuclear plant in the United States with the highest probability of reactor core damage from seismic activity. Indian Point 3 is one mile from the intersection of two seismic faults."

As New York's director of state operations Jim Malatras told independent journalist Paul Derienzo for a piece published Monday, "'The NRC should, on an expedited basis, deny Entergy's application for relicensing of the Indian Point Facilities.' According to him, operating the plants so close to the city for another 20 years 'puts too many New Yorkers at risk.'"

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