NY’s Troubled Indian Point Nuclear Plant Will Close

MANHATTAN (CN) — Dogged by outrage and litigation from its dirty record, Indian Point operators reached a deal with the New York attorney general on Monday to wrap up operations at the nuclear power plant 38 miles from the city.

“Shutting down the Indian Point power plant is a major victory for the health and safety of millions of New Yorkers, and will help kick-start the state’s clean energy future,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement this morning.

Setting an April 2021 deadline for the embattled plant to shutter, the agreement requires plant owner Entergy to pay $15 million for environmental and community funding. Located outside Buchanan, New York, the Indian Point Energy Center sits on the east bank of the Hudson River, a river that flows south toward Manhattan.

Entergy defended its record Monday despite increasing criticism the plant owner has faced after a transformer explosion sparked a fire in May 2015.

“Since purchasing the plants 15 years ago, we have invested more than $1.3 billion in safety and reliability improvements,” Entergy chairman and CEO Leo Denault said in a statement. “The plants have delivered hundreds of millions of megawatt hours of virtually emissions-free power to the Hudson Valley and New York City safely.”

The plant owner’s bid for a 20-year license extension faced heavy scrutiny from state regulators.

“This agreement marks the successful culmination of our work to address the serious health and safety risks that the plant poses to neighboring communities,” Schneiderman added.

Federal law requires nuclear plants to use insulation so that electrical-control cables can withstand blazes for one to three hours.

But the Nuclear Regulatory Commission relaxed this rule for Indian Point, allowing the plant to operate with 24 minutes of protection, a time period activists have said is not enough.

The exemption set the stage for disaster after the May 9, 2015, transformer explosion activated Indian Point’s sprinklers.

A Washington-based advocacy group called the Union of Concerned Scientists found that the sprinklers caused water to pool onto the floor of the plant’s switchgear room, but that the water stayed below the 5-inch threshold that could have prompted a station blackout and increased the risk of nuclear meltdown.

After a rash of fires, radiation leaks and fluid dumps, the 2015 incident quickly led New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to voice support for a lawsuit over the plant that had been in the works since 2009.

Cuomo convened an investigation of the plant this past February after it spilled highly radioactive water. A month later, hundreds of faulty bolts caused the plant to shut down the following month. Come October, an unknown quantity of oil spilled from the plant into the Hudson River.

“For 15 years, I have been deeply concerned by the continuing safety violations at Indian Point, especially given its location in the largest and most densely populated metropolitan region in the country,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I am proud to have secured this agreement with Entergy to responsibly close the facility 14 years ahead of schedule to protect the safety of all New Yorkers.

Schneiderman said that the agreement puts heightened scrutiny upon Indian Point before it closes.

“This agreement puts in place several important safety provisions that go beyond federal requirements to ensure that Indian Point operates as safely as possible as it transitions to a timely shut down,” he said in a statement. “These measures include new requirements for safer storage of spent nuclear fuel at the plant, increased inspections to address faulty and deteriorating bolts throughout the facility, and $15 million in new funding from Entergy to support the environment in the Hudson River and neighboring communities.”

The shutdown will occur in two parts, with Indian Point’s Unit 2 reactor shutting down in April 2020 and its Unit 3 reactor shutting down a year later.

The governor noted that Unit 1 had been inactive since October 1974 because its emergency core cooling system did not meet regulatory requirements.