The Indian Point Energy Center is a three-unit nuclear power plant 24 miles north of NYC, and it has become more than just a big environmental problem in recent years. The plant, which has been leaking radioactive materials into the Hudson River for the past several months, is now the subject of an outright battle between local citizens and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and there is no end in sight. After the NRC’s recent assessment declaring the nuclear power plant “safe,” elected officials and environmental advocates are calling the bluff, and renewing efforts to shut down the plant before contamination levels increase further.
The NRC released its annual assessment of the Indian Point nuclear plant last week, alleging that the plant is safe enough to continue operating and poses no immediate threat to public or environmental health. Local citizens disagree, because the problems at the Indian Point facility are almost too numerous to name. But we’ll try. For starters, the nuclear power plant is currently running on expired licenses. In the past 12 months, the plant has enacted seven separate emergency shutdowns, stemming from a host of technical equipment failures. Tests of nearby groundwater, as well as water from the Hudson River, have shown a spike in the concentrations of radioactivity, which has local residents nervous because the river’s watersheds are a major source of drinking water for local communities. Entergy, the 100-year-old company that operates Indian Point, has a slew of talking heads and fancy infographics on its website touting the facility’s safety, but people just aren’t buying it.
A recent non-routine inspection, ordered by New York State, found that a whopping 27 percent of the 832 baffle bolts inside Indian Point 2 (IP-2) reactor were missing, failed, or deteriorated. Those bolts are responsible for securing metal plates around the 100 tons of uranium fuel inside the reactor, which channel cooling water to its base and then up through the center to prevent overheating. A failure rate such as the one registered at Indian Point is unprecedented in the industry, and suggests some level of negligence when it comes to maintenance. That finding also fuels suspicions about the potential failures of other critical components in IP-2 and IP-3.
At a press conference held following the unveiling of the NRC’s assessment, elected officials, nuclear experts, and citizens’ groups spoke out against Indian Point’s continued operations. David Freeman, the former president of the New York Power Authority, claimed the NRC was no longer doing its job. He called for a “righteous” public movement to close Indian Point. Damon Moglen spoke on behalf of Friends of the Earth, which filed an emergency petition to force a prolonged shutdown and an in-depth damage assessment. Moglen said the NRC allowed “corporate profits trump public safety.”
New York State Assemblyman Tom Abinanti also released a statement following the NRC assessment. “How many accidents must occur before we admit that keeping a nuclear power plant in a densely populated region is a disaster-in- waiting?” wrote Abinanti. “Every day, the risks get greater that this old plant will leave Westchester County a contaminated wasteland that we can’t return to. It’s like an old car ready to fall apart. Somewhere along the way, you have to say, the risk is too great.”
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