A Letter from our Indian Point Campaign Team

Dear Friends of Riverkeeper,

Indian Point - courtesy Giles AshfordI am writing you today to bring you up to date on Riverkeeper’s continued work and to thank you for your ongoing support for our campaign to close the Indian Point nuclear power plant, located just 24 miles north of New York City on the banks of the Hudson River.

Your continued support on this critically important issue will enable Riverkeeper to vigorously oppose Entergy’s application to renew Indian Point’s license for twenty years, which was filed in April 2007. In response to the filing, Riverkeeper prepared a comprehensive legal petition which raised numerous environmental and safety concerns. In summer 2008, Riverkeeper reached a significant milestone when a panel of judges from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (“NRC”) granted our hearing request on three out of five of our specific legal challenges, or “contentions.” The judges also admitted ten contentions from the State of New York and two from Clearwater, making the Indian Point case the strongest and most complex challenge to a nuclear power plant relicensing yet.

In the NRC hearing on Indian Point that is scheduled for late summer 2010, Riverkeeper will present its case on three key issues. Riverkeeper’s two “safety” contentions, supported by the expertise of former NRC nuclear engineer Dr. Joram Hopenfeld, challenge the validity of Entergy’s plans to manage the aging and degradation of critical systems such as cooling pipes and reactor components from corrosion and mechanical stress. Our third “environmental” contention challenges Entergy’s response to the radioactive water leaks from Indian Point’s deteriorating nuclear waste storage pools. These leaks have contaminated the groundwater and possibly the Hudson River near the plant, and may have been going on undetected for years.

To introduce our current Riverkeeper Indian Point team, we have Phillip Musegaas, the Hudson River Program Director, and me, Deborah Brancato. Phillip has been with Riverkeeper for four years and I’m our newest staff attorney and am dedicated solely to the Indian Point case. After successfully defending repeated attempts by Entergy to have parts of our case dismissed, Riverkeeper is currently engaged in case development: reviewing thousands of pages of documents released by Entergy and the NRC, strategizing with our co-petitioners at the New York Attorney General’s office and Clearwater, and working with our expert to prepare for next year’s landmark hearing.

In addition to preparation for the hearing, our Indian Point team is challenging the NRC’s analysis of the environmental impacts caused by Indian Point’s current and future operation. In December 2008, the NRC staff released its 800 page draft environmental assessment, which concluded that the impacts caused by Indian Point’s operation are not severe enough to prevent relicensing of the plant for 20 more years. Riverkeeper staff thoroughly reviewed the report and presented detailed oral and written testimony challenging its findings. Our comments identified numerous significant impacts that were either improperly assessed or ignored in the NRC’s draft environmental review, including: the slaughter of more than one billion Hudson River fish, eggs, and larvae every year by Indian Point’s wasteful and destructive cooling system, which is contributing to the decline of already stressed fish populations; the risks and future environmental impact of storing thousands of tons of nuclear waste in spent fuel pools and inadequately secured dry casks; the utter lack of a workable emergency evacuation plan and the potential impacts to the Hudson Valley from a radiological release at Indian Point caused by an accident or terrorist attack; and the impacts of leaking spent fuel pools on the Hudson River ecosystem. Riverkeeper’s comments were supported by the State of New York, the Attorney General of Connecticut and our other co-petitioners in the case.

We are currently awaiting the release of the NRC’s final environmental review scheduled for February 2010, in which the agency is required to respond to our criticisms and make a final determination as to whether the environmental impacts caused by Indian Point are severe enough to preclude relicensing. With the expectation that the NRC staff may continue to ignore our challenge in favor of Entergy, our Indian Point team will be prepared to appeal the staff’s conclusions to the NRC Commissioners and potentially in federal court.

Once again, Riverkeeper is at a defining moment in our battle to retire the Indian Point nuclear power plant. Through legal and technical expertise, we have successfully fought to have a public, formal hearing on Indian Point’s relicensing. We need your help now, more than ever, to support our efforts as we prepare to go to court against one of the largest energy companies in the U.S. We stand with a New York State government committed to preventing the relicensing of Indian Point, and will strive to build the strongest possible case against relicensing at the critically important public hearing in 2010. Your investment in our attorneys and technical expert expenses translates in important ways to the environmental balance in the river’s ecosystem. For example, through a gift of $10 a month – $120 a year, our successes can help to save 420,000 fish and their larvae from destruction.

I hope you have found the foregoing update informative. We’re grateful for your past and ongoing support of Riverkeeper’s campaign to retire Indian Point. In partnership with you, we will have the resources we need to continue our important work.

I look forward to keeping you posted on future developments as we proceed to next summer’s hearing and welcome hearing from you with any of your questions or to further discuss the case.

Deborah Brancato
Staff Attorney – Indian Point
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