BY PAUL DeRIENZO |Governor Andrew Cuomo used his annual State of the State message to confirm reports that New York had reached an agreement to decommission the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan on the Hudson about 35 miles north of the city.
The agreement was worked out between State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, several other state agencies and the environmental watchdog group Riverkeeper.
The two operating reactors at Indian Point are owned by New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. Under the deal, Unit 2 will close on April 30, 2020, and Unit 3 by April 30, 2021. Entergy had originally asked for a 20-year license extension, the license for both plants having expired. According to Cuomo, hydropower from Quebec will eventually replace the electricity generated by Indian Point.
Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay was delighted.
“This agreement provides what we’ve been fighting for for decades — a definite early closing date for Indian Point, which is our biggest existential threat in the region,” Gallay said. “It’s a win for the safety of our communities, a win for the Hudson River and all the rich variety of life within it, and a win for a clean, sustainable energy future.”
Riverkeeper board member Hamilton Fish said, “Governor Cuomo promised to close Indian Point and he flat-out delivered.”
The agreement forbids any extension of the 2021 deadline, “except due to a sudden and unexpected energy emergency.”
“Riverkeeper will play a major role in assuring the details of the agreement are strictly complied with,” Gallay added.
Entergy spokesperson Jerry Nappi said in a press release that declining gas prices — due primarily to supply from the Marcellus Shale formation — have made nuclear power less profitable. The Marcellus Shale lies beneath Pennsylvania and Upstate New York where the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has tapped once-inaccessible reservoirs of natural gas. Two years ago New York became the second state after Vermont to ban fracking.
As part of the deal, Entergy will take an “impairment charge” of $2.4 billion that is basically a write-off. They’ll also get about $180 million to retain and relocate some of Indian Point’s 1,000 full-time employees.
Westchester County officials say they weren’t consulted. The town of Buchanan could lose $4 million it gets from the plant, and the local school district might raise property taxes.
Customers reportedly would see an increase of about $3 a month in electric bills.
At Indian Point, the highly radioactive spent fuel stored in concrete-lined pools lay relatively unprotected outside the reactor containment buildings. Exposure to nuclear waste could be fatal or have long-term health consequences. Under the deal, Entergy agreed to move the waste from the pools to “dry casks,” in preparation for eventual shipment to a waste dump. Indian Point has been storing waste since the 1970s.
The agreement to close Indian Point includes the withdrawal of state challenges to the relicensing of the nuclear plant.
Entergy says that, despite its plans to close the plant, it will ask for a new license to operate until 2025, in case regulators need the reactors to “insure reliability” of the electric grid.
Entergy will allow state inspectors access to the plant and will increase its monitoring of crucial “core baffle former” bolts which were found to be heavily corroded last year.
The company will also provide $15 million to clean up the Hudson River near Indian Point.