* Explosion on main transformer forces Unit 2 to shut
* No injuries reported at Indian Point
* Vermont Yankee plant also shut due to pipe leakage
(Adds comment from NRC, traders and background, changes dateline pvs BANGALORE)
By Scott DiSavino
NEW YORK, Nov 8 (Reuters) - An explosion on the main transformer has forced Entergy Corp (ETR.N) to shut its 1,020-megawatt Unit 2 at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York on Sunday, the company’s second reactor shutdown in the same night.
Entergy also shut its 605-MW nuclear plant in Vernon, Vermont due to a system pipe leakage. The reactor is known to have leaked tritium earlier this year and the Vermont Senate has voted to shut the plant in 2012. [ID:nSGE6A701X]
There were no casualties or injuries associated with Sunday evening’s explosion at the Indian Point reactor and no resulting fire, a company spokesman said.
Electricity traders noted prices in the U.S. northeast region were much higher than expected on Monday due to the unexpected shutdown of the two reactors and the increased heating demand.
Officials at Indian Point could not immediately say whether the transformer could be fixed or needed to be replaced and whether there was a spare transformer at the site.
Electricity traders guessed it would take about a week for the unit to return to service if there is a spare transformer on the site. It could take several weeks if a transformer had to be brought in.
Other plants have run at reduced power with a transformer down but officials at Entergy could not immediately say what they would do with Indian Point.
Company spokesman Jim Steets said an electrical problem set off the explosion and workers have begun inspecting the equipment.
Sunday’s explosion, which took place at about 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time (2330 GMT), holds no danger of a radiation leak, he added.
“The plant safely shut down automatically,” Steets said. “The plants system responded well to the shutdown.”
Neil Sheehan, spokesman at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said at both plants Entergy did all they were expected to do to safely shut the plants. There was no release of radiation at either site and no injuries.
While the company has not named the substance leaked out of the feedwater system piping at the Vermont Yankee plant, some media outlets reported the water to have low levels of radioactive elements.
The company, however, did not immediately return calls seeking comments on the Vermont plant.
These shutdowns come at a bad time for Entergy.
The company is already facing strong local opposition to its quest to renew both plants’ reactor licenses and is facing a civil investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into the way its utilities operate their transmission system and power plants in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas.
Entergy has been plagued by several problems in relation to its older, inefficient power plants.
Independent power producers and small municipal utilities have complained for a decade about how Entergy controls access to its 15,000-mile (24,000-km) transmission system, alleging the company has avoided upgrading its grid network. (Reporting by Antonita Madonna Devotta in Bangalore and Scott DiSavino in New York; Additional reporting by Ratul Ray Chaudhuri in Bangalore; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Marguerita Choy)