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A string of malfunctions over the past few years has made it harder for the surrounding population to ignore the unfathomable risks that Indian Point poses to us every day. These concerns for our own health should remind us of the damage this outdated plant already does to the river’s life every day – killing tiny fish and eggs through its destructive intakes and heated discharges. Riverkeeper has been battling against this damage since its earliest days. And every year seems to bring new reasons to fight ever harder to shut it down.
Recently Indian Point has suffered a spate of troublesome incidents, including the crippling of one reactor from radiation-damaged bolts, a radiation leak, transformer explosion and oil spill, water pump failure, electrical anomalies and the loss of power to several reactor control rods.
In one of the most recent incidents, an inspection of the Unit 2 reactor revealed that some 27 percent of essential baffle bolts inside the core of the Unit 2 reactor are either degraded or missing, necessitating that the reactor remain closed until a robotic repair unit can assess the extent of the damage.
Just prior to that, a leak of radioactive tritium into the groundwater at Indian Point captured national headlines. At one monitoring well, a 65,000 percent increase in tritium was initially recorded, and a few days later those levels shot up by another 80 percent. As of this writing, we do not know what other radioactive isotopes were also released.
And in May 2015, a transformer explosion, fire, and oil spill was the third major transformer incident at the nuclear plant in eight years. If these malfunctions aren’t frightening
enough, consider these:
• The NRC says one of Indian Point’s reactors has the highest risk of earthquake damage of all the nation’s reactors.
• Federal studies have shown that the plant is severely vulnerable to acts of terrorism.
• Indian Point has 2,000 tons of radioactive waste overpacked into leaking spent-fuel pools.
• The evacuation plan in the wake of a catastrophic incident is unworkable. Tens of millions of people would be sitting ducks in the event of a disaster.
Despite this, Indian Point’s two reactors continue to operate without licenses, one having expired in 2013 and the other last year. The NRC allows Indian Point to operate while it considers a 20 year license renewal for both. And the NRC — known to be very friendly with the nuclear energy industry — shows no indications that it wants Indian Point closed.
Public opinion favors closing Indian Point as long as there’s enough replacement energy and electric rates don’t skyrocket. So let’s do the math: Indian Point’s generating capacity is just over 2,000 megawatts. After accounting for over 1,000 MW of newly restored electrical supply, roughly 400 MW of transmission improvements in the lower Hudson Valley, and over 100 MW of efficiency improvements by Con Edison, the New York Independent Service Operator indicated a net reliability “need” of 500 MW in 2014.
Since that study, downstate NY load forecasts for this summer have dropped by about 500 MW. Thus, adequate resources will be in place to assure reliable system operation this summer, and the cost to ratepayers will be minimal — they may even see a net decrease in rates if they opt for renewable energy.
In the future, new efficiency and renewables projects — on commercial and private buildings alike — will drive still greater savings, thanks to $5 billion in planned energy investments by New York State. Once we close the plant down, we will be immediately safer and significantly closer to a truly sound, reliable energy supply.
Although a new power plant’s initial operating license depends on consideration of many factors, including population density around the plant and the assurance that evacuation plans can be effectively implemented in the case of a radiological emergency, the NRC’s review for relicensing does not examine these public safety issues.
In fact, the license renewal process is limited, focusing on environmental effects, such as endangered species, the effects of cooling water systems on fish and ground water quality; and, physical plant safety, such as the long term maintenance of coolant system piping or steam generators, as well as motors, diesel generators, and batteries.
Every exposure to radiation poses health risks, including programmed cell death, genetic mutations, cancers, leukemia, birth defects, and reproductive, immune and endocrine system disorders. While government regulations allow “permissible” levels of contamination, there are no safe levels of exposure. And yet, exposure occurs constantly, since radiation is released regularly from Indian Point in the form of liquid, gaseous, and solid radioactive wastes.
Despite ongoing safety problems at Indian Point, Entergy, its owner, is seeking a 20-year license extension for both reactors. On April 26th, 2007, former Governor Eliot Spitzer asked the NRC to conduct an Independent Safety Assessment (ISA) at the Indian Point nuclear power plant. He received support from some of New York’s top Congressional delegates, who introduced legislation requiring an in-depth review of Indian Point’s vital safety and mechanical systems, spent fuel pools, and radiological emergency evacuation plans.
Despite advertisements depicting nuclear energy as a “clean energy source,” the life cycle of generating nuclear power – from mining to refining to transportation to storage – requires a tremendous amount of energy. And, while some tout nuclear energy as the solution to the global energy crisis, it actually accounts for only 2.5 percent of the world’s electricity needs.
Indian Point’s nuclear power is neither clean nor green, and the process needed to create fuel from uranium for its reactors is energy-intensive and creates greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. Riverkeeper supports New York State’s plan for reliable, sustainable power sources. The investment in truly clean and green energy production such as wind, solar, and biofuels, and offering incentives to encourage Smart Energy use by consumers would drastically reduce our contributions to global warming and reduce our dependency on nuclear power. Learn More