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Indian Point on its Way Out

I have been trying to close this plant since the February 2000 steam pipe rupture that released radioactive steam into the air near our home and radioactive water directly into our beloved Heritage River, the Hudson. After years of work with dedicated citizen activists, I am now very hopeful and optimistic that this ticking radiological time bomb will be closed.  Before I tell you why I feel that way, I want to put some context around the risk.

Indian Point Nuclear Power Station

Indian Point Nuclear Power Station

In 1979 the NRC’s head of emergency planning called Indian Point “one of the most inappropriate sites in existence for a nuclear plant.”  Approximately 20 million people live or work within a 50-mile radius of Indian Point and 300,000 live within the 10-milie Evacuation Zone.

In 2003 Fformer FEMA Director, James Lee Witt, concluded that the 10-mile Emergency Evacuation Plan could not work, and NYC has no plan. The four counties around Indian Point have among the highest thyroid cancer rates in the country.

Much of the New York City water supply goes through reservoirs within 20-miles of Indian Point.  The Tokyo water supply, 140 miles from Fukushima Daiichi, was contaminated.  What would happen if New Yorkers woke up one morning and their water was unusable for drinking or washing?

The US GAO has just identified Indian Point as the US nuclear plant with the most safety violations.

Why I am Hopeful

The nuclear plant business model is not working because energy prices have dropped dramatically.  Entergy tried to spin off their Nuclear Northeast business into a separate company to limit liability to the parent conglomerate, but the New York Public Service Commission vetoed that, saying that it was not in the best interest of the public.  Entergy has since announced that they are shutting their Vermont Yankee plant and they are laying off Indian Point workers because of falling revenues.

The relicensing process for a nuclear plant usually takes 2-3 years.  Indian Point’s relicensing is in the sixth year because of challenges filed by Riverkeeper, Clearwater and the State of New York.  Never before been has a home state been an intervener.

New York State’s DEC is withholding a Water Quality Certificate that would allow the plant the keep using 2.5 Billion gallons of Hudson River water daily using a once-though cooling unless the plant builds a closed cycle cooling system (see the discussion here).  That would cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars at a time when they are struggling.  Entergy has already lost appeals of that decision and if they do not get the certificate, they cannot be relicensed.

In addition, the state is considering withholding a Coastal Management Consistency Certification.  The Coastal Management policies are intended to protect the fish and animal habitats around waterways, wetlands and coastlines, and the plant violates at least several stated policies.  This certification is also a requirement to obtain a new license.  If you go to the Riverkeeper website), you can add you own comment(s) to the New York Department of State evaluators.  Your voice can help.

Judge Holding up Relicensing

A Federal Judge has prohibited any relicensing or new licenses until the NRC can show that there are programs in place for safe, long term storage of the high level nuclear wastes that each reactor produces.  There is was a hearing in Tarrytown on October.

The Public Service Commission just approved more energy efficiency initiatives and transmission line upgrades that will provide 780 MW of capacity without new generating plants so, Indian Point is no longer needed.

We are making progress and now is the time to apply more pressure.  Citizen action works.

Gary Shaw is a member of the Leadership Council of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition (IPSEC) and is a member of the New York State Sierra Club’s Indian Point Task Force.

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