“WHITE PLAINS — Indian Point’s 2,000 megawatts of electricity can be replaced by other forms of energy in the next decade, but alternatives would be difficult to put in place because of “political, regulatory, financial and institutional” obstacles, according to a new study.
The two nuclear plants in Buchanan combine to provide a little more than 10 percent of the state’s power needs — about 17 million megawatt hours last year out of a total of 164 million megawatt hours.
The National Academy of Sciences 280-page report, funded with a $1 million federal grant secured three years ago by Rep. Nita Lowey, D-Harrison, says that no “insurmountable technological barriers” exist to replace the nuclear plants.
“(We) are less confident that government and financial mechanisms are in place to facilitate the timely implementation of alternatives,” said Lawrence T. Papay, a consultant in La Jolla, Calif., and a member of the National Academy of Engineering who chaired the committee that wrote the report.
The report, conducted by the NAS’s National Research Council for the Department of Energy, provided grist yesterday for both sides of the debate over whether Indian Point should be closed.
Indian Point 2 must be relicensed by 2013, and Indian Point 2 by 2015, or be shut down. Opponents for years have demanded that the licenses not be renewed. But their requests have become more strident since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Lowey, who wants to close Indian Point, said the report shows the nuclear plants in Buchanan aren’t necessary for meeting future power needs, despite estimations of a growing need for electricity.
“A combination of strategies can replace the power produced by the plants and meet the state’s growing energy needs,” Lowey said at an outdoor news conference at Pace University.
Jim Steets, a spokesman for Entergy Nuclear Northeast, Indian Point’s owner, said the report highlights how important the plants are to the region’s power grid and to the future of clean air because fossil fuels aren’t burned to create electricity.
“I don’t think you can make a better case for Indian Point than the case that was made today,” Steets said.
Steets cited Lowey’s acknowledgement that electric rates could rise for the short run, the fact that Entergy pays $25 million in local taxes, and its ability to supply reliable energy now, rather than through a combination of still-to-be-sited alternative plants.
The New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, an industry group, said the report shows “that in the real world of politics, our economy and our environment, it would be extremely difficult to replace this critical element of our energy infrastructure.”
Indian Point supplies about 25 percent of the electricity delivered to the New York City and the Lower Hudson Valley. The study noted the need to develop reliable options as replacements.
Alex Matthiessen, president of the environmental group Riverkeeper, said the report has provided the answer to whether alternatives to nuclear power on the Hudson River are possible.
“The NAS study is the final and definitive answer to the debate,” Matthiessen said. “Let’s move on in order to assure that they appropriate processes are set in motion to bring about a prompt and orderly decommissioning of both reactors.”
The report does not comment on the nuclear facility’s vulnerability to attack or whether it should be closed.
The report and elected officials noted the need for strong leadership in Albany and Washington to accomplish what is needed in the seven years until Indian Point 2’s license expires.
“Here is a chance for us to take constructive action,” said Rep. Eliot Engel, D-Bronx. “What we need now is the political leadership to ensure a smooth transition.”
Lowey said if the governor or his successor decides that Indian Point can be replaced, it can happen by 2013.
Gov. George Pataki’s office did not respond to a request for comment late yesterday.
Republican gubernatorial candidate John Faso said he wants to review the report, but supported the need for alternatives to be found.
“I think it’s clear that the siting of the facility is problematic,” Faso said. “At the same time, I think it’s very, very important not to grandstand on an issue like this, but to look at all the factors and weigh all of those issues. It would be irresponsible to just consider closing it without all those alternatives.”
A spokesman for New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, the Democratic candidate for governor, said Spitzer has been supportive of closing Indian Point, provided that replacement power can be brought online.
“Today’s report indicates that’s a possibility,” Mark Violette said.“
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