back to article Electrified bird bum bomb shuts down US nuclear power plant

In a bizarre turns of events, a large bird shut down a nuclear power plant after it crapped on vital equipment. The Indian Point Energy Center runs two nuclear reactors in south New York state. It emerged this week that on December 14, the plant went into emergency shutdown after a power surge in its transmission lines. …

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  3. Ole Juul

    bird in hand

    This is one of those situations where it may actually have been better to have the bird in the bush.

  4. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  5. Tromos

    First it was aircraft concerned about bird strike.

    Now it's power stations concerned about turd strike.

    1. Roq D. Kasba

      Re: First it was aircraft concerned about bird strike.

      Good to know all you need to shut down a country's nuclear power infrastructure is some curried mice.

      1. Fungus Bob Silver badge

        Re: First it was aircraft concerned about bird strike.

        Some? Shouldn't that be a *shitload* of curried mice....

  6. s5PGmU

    After the excrement..

    ..the vultures got hungry and ate three of the comments on El Reg!

    1. x 7

      Re: After the excrement..

      "..the vultures got hungry and ate three of the comments on El Reg!"

      comments? don't you mean "commenturds"?

  7. Captain DaFt

    Hmmm... Could it be...

    SPB's Vengeance Vulture charging up Gojirra Style before the final battle with the FAA??

  8. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Then truly, shite happens. So would this have properly been called a brown-out*?

    *Yes, bird crap is usually white... but literary license? Dispensation?

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Willing suspense of disbelief.

      (As this seems to be 'Quote Saturday', at least on some of the threads, how about "I'm not letting anyone stare in disbelief at my willie suspension!")

      Anyway, have you ever seen what a couple of swans can leave on the lawn?

      But I digress. If something like that can get a powerplant, nuclear or not, in trouble, there is a lot of room for improvement in the design of the plant.

      1. Chris King Silver badge

        Anyway, have you ever seen what a couple of swans can leave on the lawn?

        Those things have TARDIS-like bowels, and it's not so much a "deposit", more like a "puddle".

        1. Graham Bartlett

          Surely that's a TURDIS?

  9. Uberseehandel


    The British suffer from "leaves on the line", and a train is delayed.

    In the US, they have a mini explosion as, almost certainly an American Eagle (yes like Sam on The Muppets). was the culprit. Late trains and leaves are about as exciting as damp macintoshes - exploding eagles, that's the American Way!

    All joking apart, the story tiptoes around the fact that the return of the Eagles to an area so close to NYC has consequences. Eagles are big (and spectacular), Indian Point is famous for them. It would not take an ornithologist long to look at the avian deposit and determine exactly what species of bird had anointed the power distribution equipment.

    1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

      @Indian Point?

      It just has to be thunderbird, probably just having eaten coyote.

    2. Snafu1

      Re: Oneupmanship

      [quote]It would not take an ornithologist long to look at the avian deposit and determine exactly what species of bird had anointed the power distribution equipment.[/quote]

      ..even /after/ being fried by xxKV going through it? An avian forensics examiner may have more luck, but I doubt it..

      Isn't the above-mentioned eagle in question protected in that state? Will the power company be prosecuted for killing an endangered species? ;)

    3. harmjschoonhoven

      Re: Oneupmanship

      Or a Swan? Google Maps shows what looks like a swan (white, size 1.5 m) on the Hudson River near the Indian Point Energy Center. Definitely not a penguin.,+Broadway,+Buchanan,+NY+10511/@41.2708395,-73.9586827,21z/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x89c2cf53c87f192b:0x5caf08ed472a463

      1. Daedalus Silver badge

        Re: Oneupmanship

        I think I can speak with some authority, since I live in the area. Number 1 most common large flying bird is the Red-tailed Hawk, whose scream is used to suggest the wilderness in the wildlife documentary or horror-in-the-woods drama of your choice. There are so many Red-tails in our region that their territories have no room to expand. If you want to see one, just wander to the edge of town.

        After that we have a few vultures who can be seen gliding in some of the more picturesque areas. Eagles are rare by comparison. Swans don't perch on pylons: that's what hawks do. The largest local bird is the wild turkey, which frequently does what chickens do to get to the other side, to the detriment of local cars. But they don't fly, or perch on pylons. Or produce aerial streams.

        1. art guerrilla

          Re: Oneupmanship

          of course turkeys and chickens fly, not very far, usually, but they will flap up into the trees when disturbed...

        2. DropBear Silver badge

          Re: Oneupmanship

          "whose scream is used to suggest the wilderness in the wildlife documentary"

          I swear there is only exactly one recording of that sound ever, and it must come pinned to the "top ten foley fx quick list" of every damn mixing software (only to be topped by the "fwoooosh" sound and that "eeeeeeaaaaurgh" sound - also a single sample ever existing of each of those)...

          1. phuzz Silver badge

            Re: Oneupmanship

            I think you're referring to the "Wilhelm Scream", as famously used in about half of all films it seems like.

            1. Daedalus Silver badge

              Re: Oneupmanship

              While we're talking stock cliches, let's not forget the "white Jaguar over a cliff" sequence that was seen as late as the 80's in a US TV comedy short. Pity nobody expects a classic white Jag to show up at random anymore.

            2. DropBear Silver badge

              Re: Oneupmanship

              Actually, it turns out I was thinking about the "Howie scream", but thanks for the tip, it made it easy to find...

    4. DanceMan

      Re: Oneupmanship

      Have an upvote for the Sam the Eagle mention. My fave pompous blowhard.

    5. MrT

      Re: Oneupmanship...

      ... size matters. Were any feathers found around the area? At least, that survived the outage...

    6. PNGuinn

      Re: Oneupmanship

      "It would not take an ornithologist long to look at the avian deposit"

      Before or after high voltage cremation?

  10. Chozo

    I was going to call birdsh#t on this but apparently it's a genuine problem and there are guidelines in the IEEE regs. Of course having a lattice of power lines outside the facility that rival those of down town Mumbai probably doesn't help. Check out the main entrance on Google street view opposite the sub-station.

    1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

      Check out the main entrance on Google street view opposite the sub-station.

      What magazine are you on?

  11. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Terrorist birds!

    Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered an investigation

    Film at 11: Andrew Cuomo does the PHB thing.

  12. Denarius

    have to say it, cant help it

    Oh crap

  13. b0llchit

    TLAs to the rescue

    The FAA must make new rules for nature's flying elements close to power lines and power stations. The DHS must ensure that the TSA will reduce the fluidic content to less than a wire's length before they may fly. The NSA must listen in and map the grouping of flying terrorists and map their path across the terrain. All those terrorist birds! They are probably trained and controlled by foreign powers, trying to disrupt our daily life.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: TLAs to the rescue

      Maybe some of their avian cousins did in the Ukraine. The plot to a new Hitchkockian thriller abouts a coordinate vulture attack taking down a country near you. Did the Russians train these birds for a first strike.

  14. Stoneshop Silver badge


    Streamers are long streams of excrement from large birds that are often expelled as a bird takes off from a perch,"

    Shit-Assisted Take Off?

    1. x 7

      Re: SATO

      so thats how birds do it without runways........

  15. AlbertH

    Sounds like....

    ....birdsh¹t to me!

  16. thexfile

    Shit happens.

  17. Charles Manning

    "In a bizarre turns of events..."

    C'mon El Reg... getting slack... you missed a pun.

    Surely the opening line should be:" In a buzzard turns of events...".

    1. Unicornpiss Silver badge

      Re: "In a bizarre turns of events..."

      Beat me to it...

  18. Charles Manning

    Nothing new... move along...

    This is an age old problem....

    The age old solution (at least back to the 1980s when I was in the power industry) has been using helicopters to wash the insulators while they're live:

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Nothing new... move along...

      That would be a bit expensive - shadowing all eagles with a helicopter! The birds rest on the wires and, as they take off produce a long conductor that shorts out between the wires. It really makes it apparent just how vulnerable our distribution system is, as are nukes which could be disabled by well though out attacks on the distribution system.

  19. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    OK it was bird poop.

    But did they really have to finger it?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Comedy has moved on ..

    .. from the laden swallow then?


  21. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

    Shouldn't there be something to prevent this?

    At the very least, the conductors should be separated enough that something like this couldn't happen. But even then, I figure that they should have some kind of net over the switching stations to prevent birds from getting in, or at the very least, people flying drones into the things to shut down the station intentionally.

    1. Charles Manning

      Re: Shouldn't there be something to prevent this?

      There's lots to prevent this...

      There is no way a long stripe of bird shit falling between two conductors cause have caused this:

      1) It would have had to fall perfectly parallel to the ground to hit both conductors at the same time.

      2) The energy unleashed would have exploded the shitbomb causing it to be no longer conductive.

      3) Even if exploding the shitbomb blew the safety relays, these are automatically re-tried and the power would have flowed again in a second or so.

      So it was not between conductors.

      The only place a problem like this can occur is if the shitbomb hits an insulator. That way it gets some mechanical integrity and can last through the hammering long enough to cause the protection mechanism to fire multiple times (typically three or so).

      On massive power lines the insulators must be cleaned often to get rid of bird shit. Even if not highly conductive, highly resistive losses still add up when you're dealing with 500kV or so.

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: Shouldn't there be something to prevent this?

        If a streamer contacts an energized conductor, the electrical current may travel through the streamer back to the bird

        I Am Not An Electrical Engineer, which is perhaps why I can't understand this. If the bird's in the air (not specified, but strongly suggested by the reference to takeoff), where's the current going to? It's no different from a bird on a wire.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Shouldn't there be something to prevent this?

          And the moral of the story is if the Foo Shits, Wear IT!

          Really, projectile feces often occurs while the bird is in flight but it has been known to happen when the bird takes off from its roost. We have dozens of Turkey Buzzards in town that roost on electrical substations, cell antennas etc. The cell antennae are particularly covered in bird excrement after only one day. The Canadian Geese are another avian pest, I've seen large dogs leave less of a mess. Hawks are usually too small for the required volume of material to bridge insulators. Eagles would be more like it but the Buzzards are as large and more prolific a source of "fertilizer".

          1. W4YBO

            Re: Shouldn't there be something to prevent this?

            Upvote for the Foo Bird reference.

  22. this

    Avian Conspiracy

    Didn't this happen to the Large Hadron Collider some time ago?

  23. flat wrong

    Probably a Vulture

    There are two species of large bird that hang out around Indian Point. One is the bald eagle, but they tend to stay about 15 miles up river. The other is much more common and is known locally as a "Turkey Buzzard" which are really Turkey Vultures. They are prolific streamers and quite a nuisance when they roost near your property (yuck). Extremely common around Indian Point. The only other birds in the region of similar size are swans, herons, and turkeys, but they rest on ground or water and not trees, poles, or other high places. Below those the next largest in size are the various hawks of the region, but they are a big step down in size.

    Given the above, it is reasonable to suspect a Turkey Vulture as the most likely culprit.

    Just offering some local knowledge.

  24. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Good thing the Governor is on the case.

    The power plant may have completely ignored the problem if the Governor didn't release a statement calling for an investigation.

    When the cosmic background radiation was discovered by Penzias and Wilson, the first thought was that there may have been noise introduced by a "white dielectric substance" (bird business) covering the antenna. This makes me wonder if the same substance could have built up on an insulator until a final application caused power to arc to ground setting off a protective relay.

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