Tube Rupture Brings NRC Criticism
NRC's criticisms were made public in an exclusive story by "Inside N.R.C.," an industry newsletter published by McGraw-Hill Energy Information Group, Washington. Managing Editor David Stellfox discovered that Indian Point-2 was allowed to operate for an extended period of time without stopping to check the integrity of the thin-walled heat transfer tubes in the steam generators. The tubes had started to indicate cracks during the most recent examination in 1997. However, NRC regulators gave Con Ed a waiver, allowing it to continue running the plant for 10 months rather than stopping during the summer of 1999 for safety checks.
Stellfox reported that officials from the NRC Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research found Con Ed's analysis to prove the tubes safe for operation was not technically sufficient. NRC also criticized its own Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation for not further investigating Con Ed's arguments. According to one official, "Clearly the staff could have asked better questions." The unit has been forced to stay offline since the accident in February at an estimated cost of $600,000 per day.