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Riverkeeper calls for a safer Indian Point decommissioning

We urge the NRC to reject the exemption requests and instead insist on a more stringent level of protective measures than Holtec’s proposal.

Holtec International, the firm responsible for the decommissioning of Indian Point has filed for a number of exemptions with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that would loosen existing oversight requirements.

Indian Point

These exemptions were discussed in a July 27, 2022 Decommissioning Task Force meeting that was open to the public at the Cortlandt Town Hall.

Riverkeeper is working to ensure adequate security and emergency preparedness measures are maintained at Indian Point throughout the decommissioning process. Holtec’s request includes reducing the current security measures, such as a major reduction of on-site firefighting force, retiring the siren alert system and eliminating an offsite emergency response plan.

Holtec has a blemished record, incurring fines for bribes made, falsifying reports and lying to public officials. Reducing oversight and protective measures to the extent proposed should not be an option.

Holtec should work with the local communities to re-envision their emergency preparedness measures, and consider integrating their resources to increase effectiveness rather than relying on the limited local and state resources. For example, the excess capacity of Indian Point’s on-site firefighting force could be used to support the local firefighting forces. Similarly, the existing siren system could be recalibrated to provide alerts for both nuclear and pipeline emergencies.

These relatively minor commitments from Holtec can provide much benefit and added security to the local communities who have been forced to bear increased risk for so many years, and the NRC should assure that Holtec be looking at ways that maintain and not reduce protective measures.

In addition to these existing measures, Holtec must take more precautions against decommissioning specific risks. Riverkeeper hears and supports the community’s call for the following items:

  • Both radiological and non-radiological monitoring must be implemented as soon as possible in the local community, especially around schools. Monitoring is necessary to identify problems immediately, so they can be addressed. It is essential that parents are informed about possible impacts to ensure the health of their children.
  • Stringent dust controls must be used throughout the decommissioning process. Dust from the decommissioning construction may contain radiation and other harmful contaminants. This dust must be completely contained to avoid spreading contamination into the surrounding areas.
  • Holtec must coordinate emergency planning with the adjacent Algonquin Incremental Market pipeline to prevent and respond to any incidents. The proximity of this high pressure gas pipeline to Indian Point heightens the potential damage from any catastrophe during decommissioning, and additional precautions must be taken.

According to the reports presented during the Indian Point Decommissioning Oversight Board, the decommissioning of Indian Point is progressing on schedule. The spent fuel pads are slated for completion by October 2023, allowing Holtec to complete the transfer of spent fuel into dry cask storage. Taking apart the internal reactor components is also projected to be complete around the same time as the transfer of dry fuel. In addition, a New York State inspector has been installed on-site to ensure Holtec is following all the laws and regulations, adding an unprecedented level of State oversight in accordance with the historic Joint Proposal.

As part of the decommissioning plan, wastewater being discharged from the site is expected to end within a few years after spent fuel transfer and the removal of internal reactor components are complete. Until then, while the radiation levels are well within NRCs standards, Riverkeeper continues to monitor the situation carefully in our watchdog role that strives to ensure a timely decommissioning that at which point, will end all radioactive discharges.

Additional resources:
NRC fines owner of former nuke plant for 2nd security lapse >

Riverkeeper comments on NRC regulatory improvements for production and utilization facilities transitioning to decommissioning >

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