Editorials

“Indian Pointless” by Marilyn Elie

“The column, “Indian Points to Ponder,” which ran in your paper on April 21 is full of errors.  While everyone is entitled to their opinion, facts are not subject to whim.  I would like to correct the most egregious polemics and, unlike your columnist, cite sources so that readers can check out the following information and make their own informed decisions.

       The Indian Point reactors produce about 2,000 megawatts of electricity. The New York City/ Westchester grid uses 9,000 to 13,000 megawatts daily, depending on the temperature. These figures are available on the Independent Systems operators website. Elementary school division revels that this comes to 22 to 15 percent of the region’s electrical power.  Check the Con Ed web site and you will see that 30 percent of the electricity they purchase comes from nuclear power.  However this includes all of the reactors in New York and New Jersey – not just Indian Point.

       The twin, 40-foot-wide intake conduits to the two power plants take in 2.5 billion gallons of Hudson River water daily: in the process, they suck in at least 1.5 billion fish annually. That’s fish, not fish eggs, larvae or plankton as was stated. As part of the environmental impact assessment, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation counted the number of 5 species of fish – two surface dwellers, one mid level swimmer and two benthic fish over the course of a year.  An additional 500 million fish died when they encountered the thermal plume from the hot water dumped back into the river as part of once-through cooling.  This is all detailed in the Environmental Impact Statement released by the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation in 2003.

This and other conclusions in the report were arrived at using stringent scientific methods.  It is not nameless or faceless bureaucrats who did this work.  Rather it is duly appointed, highly trained professionals, acting in the public interest to protect the eco system of the Hudson River, a Heritage Site that belongs to us all. Entergy has been allowed to use this public resource as a dump for far too long. The 23 page letter detailing the denial of the water quality certificate and the work that went into it is posted on the DEC web

       Every year the once through cooling system at Indian Point uses the equivalent of twice the volume of the river from the Battery to Troy, a distance of 183 mile.s Indian Point is the single largest user of water in the state. This is documented in the EIS published by the DEC in 2003 and is far more than the 1 percent figure, used without a citation in the April 21 column.

       The death of two billion fish each year is not “well within the bounds of the eco system’s ability to replace the loss.” This argument has lost at every judicial proceeding. There is no comparison between 2 billion fish that fail to reach maturity because they are eaten by other fish and nourish the food chain and 2 billion fish sucked out of the food chain by the intake pipe and dumped back into the Hudson River ecosystem as decaying organic matter. Removing so much from the bottom of the food chain has an adverse impact on the entire ecosystem. If you don’t care to read the court proceedings, look up food chain in any high school biology text for more details on how this works.

       There is a difference between closed cycle cooling and cooling towers.   As the name implies, closed cycle cooling reduces the need for water by reusing the same water over and over again. The statement that closed cycle cooling “uses twice as much water as the current system” is absurd.  It uses 90 percent less. The DEC did not require Entergy to use Cooling Towers.  It required them to go to closed cycle cooling which is common in the industry. Entergy’s Vermont Yankee plant already has closed cycle cooling. It looks and operates much like a giant radiator and cost $300 million, not the exorbitant sums referenced in the Entergy PR campaign. Figures which are used to generate fears of scarcity and a higher electricity bill.

       The DEC said it would take cost benefit analysis into account if Entergy would provide detailed plans of the type of system it intends to use, along with its building permit applications for verification. Entergy declined, preferring to appeal the decision and issue public relations statements to the gullible such as your columnist, rather than actual plans to regulators. The system that Entergy wants to substitute for closed cycle cooling is called wedge wire.  It is designed for lake use and is not effective in fast moving rivers such as the Hudson. In addition, the use of screens would not address the thermal discharge responsible for killing hundreds of millions of fish. Entergy’s public offer to use these as a “substitute” for closed cycle cooling can only be seen as a public relations dodge, not a solution to a real environmental problem.  Again, see the letter to Entergy on the DEC web site for details on this.  It is a great example of the use of science in making informed public policy. It is also an easy read.

    Far from picking on Indian point, the DEC has taken a serious look at the rape of the river by 17 heavy industrial firms – power plants, cement makers, and others – which are responsible for the death of more than 17 billion fish annually in New York’s lakes and rivers.  All are being ordered to adhere to the dictates of the Clean Water Act and use the best technology available to cool their equipment and minimize the damage to public property. The other companies are working with the DEC to meet the state’s requirements and end the degradation of our lakes and rivers.

     Only Entergy has mounted a massive, million dollar publicity campaign using uninformed and thoughtless commentators who refuse to check their facts and poison the air of public discourse. It is past time for both forms of pollution to cease.”

This editorial was originally published in the North County News

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