New calls to shut Indian Point; plant’s critics cite age, proximity to cities
A nuclear power plant just 15 miles from North Jersey is at a crossroads as federal regulators determine whether to allow Indian Point in Westchester County to continue operating for another two decades in the face of fierce opposition from New York officials.
A series of mishaps this year, including one in which a reactor was shut down this month, has renewed calls by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to close the aging plant on the Hudson River. They come as an arm of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission continues to scrutinize Indian Point’s application to renew the licenses on its two reactors, a marathon process that began eight years ago.
In a scathing letter to the commission last month, a top Cuomo official called the 40-year-old reactors brittle and fatigued, and said the plant’s proximity to a major population center makes it impossible to have an effective evacuation plan.
“Given the deterioration of this aging plant, it should not be permitted to operate for another 20 years,” wrote Jim Malatras, director of state operations in New York.
A spokesman for Entergy Corp., which owns Indian Point, did not respond to a request for comment.
The company has argued that its reactors can be operated safely for the next 20 years. And industry executives have said Indian Point’s 1,000 employees and the ability to produce 2,000 megawatts, or 25 percent of the power used by New York City and Westchester, are worth what they consider a small risk.
The reactors’ 40-year licenses have expired — Unit 2 in 2013 and Unit 3 on Dec. 12 — but they are allowed to operate while the renewal process continues.
“The fact that Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has spent 37,000 hours over eight years reviewing and inspecting Indian Point’s application should be reassuring to everyone that all aspects of the license renewal process have been thoroughly examined, and that the facility will continue to operate at the highest levels of safety and reliability,” Fred Dacimo, an Entergy vice president, said in a statement.
Indian Point has long been a concern of North Jersey officials because Bergen and Passaic counties sit just outside the plant’s federally designated 10-mile evacuation zone, which critics have long said is too small. New Jersey has developed emergency plans, including one to accept thousands of people from Rockland County if need be.
New Jersey has not weighed in on Indian Point’s future. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has not submitted any comments to the NRC because it has “no regulatory role” over the plant, said Larry Hajna, an agency spokesman.
Indian Point’s relicensing saga comes during a relatively quiet time for New Jersey’s own nuclear industry. Three nuclear reactors have been approved to operate for several more decades while a fourth – Oyster Creek in Ocean County – is scheduled to close by the end of the decade. Although Governor Christie has called for another reactor to be built in New Jersey, plans by the state’s largest electric utility to build one in Salem County are on hold.