By Marilyn Elie, Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition
Indian Point – the reactors – seem to just keep rolling along. Here is a quick update on the many aspects of actions surrounding the troubled Units 2 and 3.
Indian Point – the film – is starting a nationwide theater run. It will eventually be shown on Epic TV and be available on Netflix. It is an evenhanded look at nuclear power and provides an opportunity for dialogue in what is a highly charged, polarized debate.
Indian Point Loses a Coastal Water Permit
The New York Department of State, Bureau of Coastal Management has declined to give Entergy a permit to operate in coastal waters. Its beautifully written 150-page report lists all of the reasons why the continued operation of Indian Point is not in the interest of good coastal management. One of the most important reasons is that the Hudson River ecosystem can no longer tolerate the damage the plant inflicts with its once-through cooling. The report goes on to state clearly that Indian Point is not needed, since we have a surplus of power, and that closing the reactors is “carbon neutral.” That is, no new generation is needed and greenhouse gas emissions will stay the same when the plant closes. The documentation in this report is excellent. It was obviously prepared with an eye towards litigation and, sure enough, Entergy filed an appeal shortly after the report was released. It is now pending in court.
Indian Point Loses a Water Quality Permit
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation has long maintained that the once-through cooling used at Indian Point is in violation of the Clean Water Act since it is not the Best Available Technology (BAT). BAT is closed-cycle cooling. which reduces fish kill and water usage by 95%. DEC has refused to grant Entergy the water-quality permit that it needs to operate. It costs $400 million to install a four-story radiator-style system for both reactors. Entergy has exhausted its court appeals and a decision is pending.
Unit 2’s Disintegrating Bolts
A recent inspection reveled that 34% of the baffle former bolts that hold a metal sheet (a baffle) that channels water for cooling across the fuel rods were disintegrating or lost. The bolts were replaced and Unit 2 restarted despite a court case calling for closure until a root cause analysis was done. The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission declined to order an inspection for Unit 3, deciding it could wait until that unit shuts down for refueling in 2017. Westinghouse and Entergy are doing a root cause analysis, because of which the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) has postponed their hearings for the next eight months. The ASLB is charged with deciding the validity of all of the contentions that Riverkeeper, Clearwater, and the State of New York have brought against Entergy in an attempt to close Indian Point. It is anticipated that the ASLB will find in favor of Entergy, at which point the matter will go to the NYS Court of Appeals and could possibly go on to the United Stated Supreme Court.
NY Governor Cuomo Reverses Position
Rather than working for a just transition to clean energy, Governor Cuomo recently instructed the NY Public Service Commission (PSC) to include nuclear power in the Clean Energy Standard. He evidently did this in order to save jobs and tax ratables in the struggling upstate economy, since the reactors were facing closure. The subsequent decision of the PSC creates the worst of all possible worlds. It skews the energy market with a taxpayer funded subsidy of $7.2 billion to nuclear power and guarantees that Entergy and Exelon will continue to operate four failing nuclear plants that cannot compete in the energy market place. Even worse is the fact that Indian Point is specifically included in this policy, should it start to lose money. It sets a precedent that NY State, formerly touted as having one of the most progressive energy programs in the country, will include nuclear power as a green, carbon-free source of electricity, which it is not. The nuclear industry is already hard at work pointing to this example and encouraging other states to do the same. Hats off to those who attended the public hearings, spoke up, and worked so hard using facts, logic, and market economy to try to stop this debacle. It is a clear case of a politician more concerned with reelection than with the cutting-edge energy policy that was in place.