Bird poop blamed for nuclear reactor outage in New York

Posted at 4:36 PM, Mar 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-03 16:36:00-05

An errant bird dropping appears to have caused the temporary shutdown of part of the Indian Point nuclear plant in upstate New York.

A report by Entergy, the site operator, pointed the finger at a bird “streamer” — colorfully explained in the document as “long streams of excrement from large birds that are often expelled as a bird takes off from a perch” — as the cause of the shutdown, which tripped a safety breaker and took a reactor at the site out of commission for three days in December.

There was no leak of radiation as a result of the accident, and at no time was public health and safety in jeopardy, the report to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission noted.

While, more commonly, the buildup of guano on the lines hampers operating efficiency, in this case the report said that it had caused an electrical arc between wires at a transmission tower.

If a streamer contacts an energized conductor, the report says, the current can travel up the stream of poop back to the bird or its perch, resulting in “bird electrocution, power outage and/or line trip.”

Thankfully, the document reported that no bird carcasses were found in the vicinity of the transmission tower.

Additional anti-avian security will be put in place to minimize the chances of another poop-related outage.

“Additionally, bird guards will be installed on Entergy-owned 345 kV and 138 kV Transmission Towers to preclude the effects of bird streaming,” the report said.

Last year, a fire that ruptured a transformer at the nuclear plant sent several thousand gallons of oil spilling into the adjacent Hudson River.

No one was injured in the blaze, though responding to a question about the impact on wildlife in the river, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters at the time, “it’s obviously not good.”