Indian Point nuclear reactor could be offline for weeks after fire

An Indian Point nuclear reactor may be offline for weeks after a transformer failure sparked a fire at the site and an oil leak into the Hudson River

BUCHANAN, N.Y. (AP) — A reactor at a nuclear power plant in the New York City suburbs may be offline for weeks because a transformer that failed over the weekend, sparking a fire and oil leak, must be replaced, officials said Monday.

The transformer at Indian Point Unit 3 failed Saturday evening, causing a fire that forced the automatic shutdown. A spokesman for plant owner Entergy Corp. (NYSE: ETR) said the company is still investigating what caused the failure but that the machinery must be replaced. Transformers typically last 30 years, but this one was installed in 2007, spokesman Jerry Nappi said.

The transformer at Indian Point 3 takes energy created by the plant and changes the voltage for the grid supplying power to the state. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a longtime critic of the plant that sits along the Hudson River about 35 miles north of midtown Manhattan, said that even after the blaze on the non-nuclear side of the plant was quickly doused, the heat reignited the fire that was again extinguished.

Several thousand gallons of transformer oil spilled into the Hudson River after the fire. Cuomo said the oil seeped into a holding tank that did not have the capacity to contain all the fluid. The state Department of Environmental Protection set up booms over an area about 300 feet in diameter to keep the oil from spreading.

The reactor itself has been deemed safe. The plant's other active reactor, known as Unit 2, is still operating.

Cuomo said Monday that if it were up to him, he'd close the plant.

"This is a nuclear plant that is in the most dense area on the planet," the governor said. "You do not have a nuclear plant in as dense a populated area anywhere else on the globe."

He said that if something goes wrong at the privately owned Indian Point, it affects millions of people.

He has been critical of the plant since his time as state attorney general when he accused the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of being irresponsible as it sought to relicense the plant in 2007.

The Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan supplies electricity for millions of homes, businesses and public facilities in New York City and Westchester County.

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