Expert: Concern about risk of gas pipeline rupture at NYC-area nuclear plant — Could lead to multiple meltdowns — “Possible severe damage to fuel in spent fuel pools” — Sissonville, San Bruno cited as examples

Published: December 23rd, 2012 at 5:27 pm ET


Authors: Lawrence S. Criscione, PE and Paul M. Blanch, PE
Date: December 18, 2012
To: Senator Joseph Lieberman, Chairman; U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs

[…] We are writing to you and your committee about our grave concern regarding the failure of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Homeland Security to protect the United States against potential terrorist attacks and random dam or gas transmission pipeline failures. The potential energy released in a gas line rupture at Indian Point is equivalent to that from a massive conventional bomb; the 2010 explosion and fire in San Bruno, CA is an example of the destructive force, which a pipeline rupture can unleash. […]

Although a terrorist attack upon or the random failure of a dam or natural gas pipeline is extremely unlikely, the potential impact of one of these events is the meltdown of multiple reactors, at either Indian Point or Oconee, resulting in severe radiological and economic consequences to areas surrounding these plants. For the natural gas pipeline explosion at Indian Point, New York City and areas extending beyond 50 miles, along with the infrastructures could be rendered uninhabitable for generations. […]

The first enclosure details the vulnerability at the Indian Point Nuclear Power Station due to natural gas lines that pass through the station. It is noteworthy that there was a 20-inch gas line rupture on December 11, 2012 in Sissonville, West Virginia. It was reported this explosion sent flames more than a quarter mile (1300 feet). There are vital structures at Indian Point within 400 feet of much larger and higher-pressure gas lines. (See photos in Enclosure 1). It is a well-known fact that there is little or no protection from either a waterborne or airborne attack. […]

In addition to potential malevolent acts, our concern is also the failure of the gas pipeline or dam due to natural phenomena (e.g. seismic activity) or latent engineering/construction flaws. The mislabeling by the NRC of these concerns as “Security-Related Information” has impeded their resolution […]

Enclosure 1

Paul M. Blanch, Energy Consultant, October 25, 2010

Mr. William Borchardt Executive Director for Operations U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

[…] I am submitting this 10 CFR 2.206 petition solely on behalf of myself due to my grave concern about the undue risk presented by the natural gas transmission lines traversing the entire Indian Point site.

In early 2009 I first became aware of the presence of the natural gas lines1 from an Indian Point Condition Report (CR) dated December 2008. This CR identified the existence of gas line or lines and its potential to cause buried pipe corrosion of other lines important to nuclear safety.

After many months of research I determined that the proximity of these gas transmission lines to Indian Point nuclear plants may not have been properly analyzed, may not be in compliance with NRC regulations, and likely present an undue risk to the general public.

My concern increased to alarm at news of the San Bruno, California gas line explosion on September 10 of this year, and the realization that the gas lines passing through the Indian Point facility are the same vintage, however are much larger in capacity.

Specifically, my concerns are:

  • • Indian Point is not in compliance with existing regulations or the regulations in effect at the time of the initial issuance of the license.
  • • Sections of the gas lines2 are unprotected from those wishing harm to the United States.
  • • The potential consequences to the general public and the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut infrastructure are incalculable and could be devastating to the US economy.
  • • The potential energy released in one hour3, should a gas line rupture occur, is about the same as that released over Hiroshima in 1945 (about 15,000 tons of TNT).
  • • It is possible that a rupture of the lines would result in a significant release of radioactive materials from both operating plants along with possible severe damage to the fuel in the spent fuel pools and subsequent releases.
  • • The original license was predicated on the fact that there were automatic shutoff valves in the gas lines; but these were subsequently removed without any apparent analysis as required by NRC regulations4.
  • • There has been no specific training by the onsite or offsite fire departments to deal with this type of fire/explosion.
  • • There is no means to extinguish a major gas line fire until the flow of gas is terminated (upstream and downstream) from multiple gas transmission lines.
  • • Operators may be impaired (dead) due to the heat generated or due to lack of oxygen.
  • • It is not know if specific procedures are in place to coordinate with the gas company in the event of a rupture or an explosion.
  • • Even if these procedures are in place it is likely communication channels would be disrupted in the event of an explosion/fire.
  • • A gas line explosion would likely disable all sources of electrical power due to the proximity to the offsite power and potential lack of oxygen to the emergency power sources.
  • • There are no references to the gas lines ability to withstand a seismic event.
  • • Testing of the integrity of the gas pipes is unknown.


Watch footage of the recent gas pipeline blaze in West Virginia here

Published: December 23rd, 2012 at 5:27 pm ET


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  2. Sissonville Pipeline Victim: “I was suffocating and thought I’d be burned alive” — Household items sizzling and melting January 29, 2013
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19 comments to Expert: Concern about risk of gas pipeline rupture at NYC-area nuclear plant — Could lead to multiple meltdowns — “Possible severe damage to fuel in spent fuel pools” — Sissonville, San Bruno cited as examples

  • jec jec

    Whew. Telling it like it is. And what are these regulatory agencies doing..other than pushing papers? Hope the Senator can help, or others can. Senator Joe Lieberman is a great resource for the American public no matter what political party..

    • PurpleRain PurpleRain

      It's really good to hear him speak out and tell it like it is. I just wish more people would or could even begin to fathom the consequences of these horrible monster-plants!

      • jump-ball jump-ball

        How GE, other NPP designers, and the Federal agency and worldwide nuclear cabals, together, have approved the designs and operating parameters of NPPs that have within the last 21 months brought the world to the current onset of extinction (Nukushima) – required me to understand the u.s. political corruption and financial incentives that led to what can now be seen as the 'profits of doom'.


      Have a good Christmas, and just let it all go, for one day…a well-deserved break for all.

  • TheBigPicture TheBigPicture

    The nuclear plants are unneeded, and keep us all in grave danger for no reason.

    • jump-ball jump-ball

      U.S. administrative and congressional corruption in dealing with their respective corporate patron contributors, GE and others, has, as of 3/11 Nukushima, has given new impact and meaning to me of the traditional double entendre "grave danger".

  • PavewayIII PavewayIII


    The entire premise of the NRC is to appear to make utilities do what they wouldn't naturally do at a price they're unwilling to pay for a result that does not benefit the utility company one single bit. The NRC's bosses in the boiler industry are already mad at them about discouraging future boiler investors.

    Entergy and Duke won't budge without government handouts. Exact same situation in gas pipelines and pumped storage reservoirs.

    You can't regulate OR mandate morality where it does not exist. The engineers are probably right, but it's like writing a letter to the Japanese government pointing out how TEPCO has been ignoring a particular set of safety issues and the government should DO something about it.

    I'm not sure what to make of the DHS mention – they exist to protect the federal family, not citizens. DHS has three million hollow-points and Humvee-mounted .50 cals to MAKE citizens act safely.

    • kalidances

      If a senator receives a letter that indicates a potential terrorist threat against the US it can be obtained from then on under the FOIA act. If he does not provide an alert about a credible threat he is in violation of the Patriot Act(H.R. 3162)

      Start at Sec. 212

      • Radio VicFromOregon

        Yes, kalidances, thank you for that insight. This is how our system works in the US. No saying what can come of it, but, not writing WILL guarantee that nothing can come of it. If writing and agitating our elected officials didn't sometimes work, then the many advances in civl rights, environmental protections and the like would never have happened. ALL social uplift is brought about through citizen action first, then taken up through political channels once they have been appealed to with repeated petitioning. The slide back into complete avarice and greed within our political and economic system coincides with a time in US history when the public is apathetic and uninvolved. Citizens must always be vigilant, always be willing to communicate to their representatives, and always be wiling to publicly get out and agitate for an important cause. It is our best and only recourse. Power corrupts. It must always be kept in balance by citizens. It will not balance itself.

        • DUDe DisasterInterpretationDissorder

          I soo agree Vic , well said !

        • PavewayIII PavewayIII

          "…This is how our system works in the US…"

          The 'system' has devolved to the point where it doesn't even provide a convincing illusion of representation, yet you still insist on acting as if it is?

          Reminds me of the Germans and the Weimar Republic. You know… democracy, constitution, protests, petition the government and all that. Look how that turned out in 1933. Now explain how it will *somehow* be different this time in the U.S.

        • PavewayIII PavewayIII

          "…This is how our system works in the US…" Pt II

          20 years and counting. Minor fixes to one BWR plant, but not the others. Anything look like it might have helped at Fukushima?

          Petition away… I'm still looking for a responsible party somewhere in the federal government to bother petitioning.


      And they shall fail, but that is another discussion. Otherwise agree whole heartedly.

  • VyseLegendaire VyseLegendaire

    Lol, your senators don't care. You're better off just whistling dixie than write these letters.

  • sentinelle sentinelle

    "• The original license was predicated on the fact that there were automatic shutoff valves in the gas lines; but these were subsequently removed without any apparent analysis as required by NRC regulations4."

    Amazing! The original license was based on having automatic shutoff valves, but then they were removed! Does this mean that there were shut off valves installed but they were removed, or the requirement for them was removed and they never were put in the place at all? Either way, done without proper oversight.

    • PavewayIII PavewayIII

      The pipeline utility originally had automatic shut-offs on either side of the Hudson. They removed them because the valves occasionally detected leaking when there was none, and shut the pipeline down.

      The pipeline company decided on their own to remove them and probably didn't think to run around and find someone with a reason to oppose their removal.

      However worded in the NPP license, I'm sure the valves were only mentioned as a supporting condition to *obtain* the license and not as an ongoing, eternal 'requirement' to remain licensed. Besides, who would inspect or enforce a condition like that – the NRC? [Hyuck!] No chance. They have their own well-established, too-cheap-to-be-metered human baking methods.

      • sentinelle sentinelle

        And it didn't even cross their minds to try to repair them rather than remove them. Amazing!

        • FREEDOMROX

          Corporations live by the motto: "If it ain't broke, then don't try to fix it, until it is." Lieberman's past company affiliations also live by that rule, so he is a hypocrite. Period.
          Must be their competition…

  • Tom in AZ Tom in AZ

    I am sorry to say I do NOT have your faith in Sen. Joe, jec. Will be glad to see him retire to where they have paid him the most over the years. No matter what political parties he pretends to be part of these days.