Entergy Corporation, the company that owns the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant in Westchester County, will close its Vermont Yankee plant in 2014, even though it has fought hard in the past to keep that plant open. So people are wondering if the company will close down Indian Point as well.
The short answer is: No. According to the company, the decision to close the Vermont plant is based on economics, not safety or operating performance. At a press conference the company noted that the price of electricity has fallen due to competition from natural gas, and the plant no longer is profitable.
In 2010, the Vermont state legislature tried to close down the plant by denying certification, but actually lost its case in court. And as recently as last month, that decision was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Meanwhile, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) already had granted a new federal license to the plant to operate until 2032, trumping the state’s protest.
By comparison, Entergy ‘s Indian Point plant complex is equally old and, like Vermont, New York state is trying to deny permits and certification in order to close down the plant. But the company says that the plant “… is a large, two-unit station in a more favorable market. Indian Point continues to be a vital component of the region’s power supply and we are committed to its continued and safe operation.”
Environmental critics of Indian Point, such as the nonprofit group Riverkeeper, based in Tarrytown, note that there are safer, more sustainable energy alternatives to the aging reactors at Indian Point. These groups predict the reactors will not be re-licensed due to their aging infrastructure and major safety problems. The most recent safety concerns are based on new studies showing the reactors’ vulnerability to terrorist attacks and lack of an adequate evacuation plan in case of emergencies.
Indian Point’s operating license for its unit 2 reactor expires this month. The NRC has notified Entergy that it can continue to operate unit 2 while its application for a 20-year license extension is being reviewed. The NRC’s staff has recommended approval of the 20-year extension, but the final decision has been delayed while the regulators deal with New York’s claims and those of environmental groups that want the plant shut down.
Joyce H. Newman is an Emmy Award-winning environmental journalist, educator, and gardener. She holds a Certificate in Horticulture from The New York Botanical Garden, and is a tour guide there.