How One Nuclear Plant Became Too Pooped To Power

Forget about ominous threats from abroad. A much bigger nuclear threat might be hovering over us right now.

(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)
(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Forget about ominous threats from abroad. A much bigger nuclear threat might be hovering over us right now. But, take it from this writer, it’s probably best not to look up — and if you do, better keep your mouth shut.

According to reports dropping in last week, New York’s Indian Point nuclear reactor was shut down for three days in mid-December by what investigators think might have been a tactical air deposit by a “large bird.”

The Indian Point nuclear power plant. (AP Photo)The Indian Point nuclear power plant. (AP Photo)

While some hopeful governors were out and about at Christmastime campaigning for a nomination to the highest post in the land, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had his sights set much higher, or lower, and he wasted no time ordering an official report to get to the bottom of this mess.

“Damage was caused by a bird streamer,” the operator of the plant, Entergy, said in the state-commissioned report. “Streamers are long streams of excrement from large birds that are often expelled as a bird takes off from a perch.”

The findings by Entergy said that the power plant, located just 25 miles north of New York City, automatically shut down on Dec. 14 when a string of droppings fell into some of the plant’s electrical equipment, which triggered the reactor’s automatic shut-down mechanism.

Following the presumably unplanned attack, plant managers announced that preventative maintenance guidelines would be revised and “bird guards” would be placed on all transmission towers. 

(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Good idea.

While the eagle-eyed sleuths discharged to inspect the mess were quick to point out that the New York metropolis was in no danger of becoming an Old World Poopopolis, the whole episode does leave the roof open to some questions.

Why did it take nearly three months for investigators to tell the rest of the world what happened? What have they been doing with the evidence all this time?

But, perhaps more importantly, could the delay have anything to do with the fact that the licenses for two of Indian Point’s three reactors expired in 2013 and 2015?

According to a recent op-ed from The New York Times, even now the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has yet to renew them.  In the same piece, the authors even called on the NRC to cancel Indian Point’s operating licenses as the plant was “aging” and “unsafe.”

Something smells birdy here.

With the NRC hovering, all involved probably just want to keep their heads down for now and let the chips fall where they may.

Besides, what else can they really add other than “it” happens?

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