This report goes on to challenge the contention by Entergy Nuclear Northeast, Indian’s Point’s owners, that New York can’t do without the nuclear power that the plant supplies.
State hearings on Indian Point began this week—and federal hearings begin soon—to help determine whether Entergy will be able to obtain a 20-year extension on its license to operate Indian Point.
These hearings were initiated by Entergy, to contest the New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation’s momentous refusal last year of a water quality certification for Indian Point, which the plant needs to receive a renewed operating license.
For these hearings, Riverkeeper is presenting evidence and testimony covering several significant environmental issues in hopes of demonstrating that DEC’s refusal was a just decision.
Riverkeeper says that the the wedgewire screens Entergy has proposed installing will not minimize the impact of thermal pollution to Hudson River fish near the plant. The organization also hopes to point out that ongoing radiological leaks from the aging plant are contaminating groundwater and the river, and that they violate state water quality standards.
There have been a lot of questions concerning the safety of Indian Point in recent months. A recent study by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says that the Indian Point 3 reactor has the highest risk of catastrophic failure in the event of a regional earthquake.
The Commission calculated the odds of catastrophic failure for all nuclear reactors under its watch, and found the Westchester County reactor to be the most susceptible to its core being damaged and the public being exposed to harmful levels of radiation.
At the typical U.S. nuclear reactor, there’s a 1 in 74,176 chance each year that the core could be damaged from the effects an earthquake (the effects of a secondary events, such as a tsunami are not calculated). But the chance of a core damage from a quake at Indian Point 3 is calculated to be a mere 1 in 10,000 each year.
And according to Nuclear Regulatory Commission specifications, that’s dangling on the edge of what it deems having “immediate concern regarding adequate protection of the public.”
Previous to that, a seismologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory stated that the New York City area is past due for a significant earthquake. Won-Young Kim told Metro New York that “it can happen anytime soon,” and that “we can expect it any minute, we just don’t know when and where.”
The minor earthquake felt in New York this summer has made the metropolitan area residents jittery about Indian Point’s ability to stand a more significant quake. The New York City area sits on top of the Ramapo Fault Zone, which spans more than 185 miles in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. However, Entergy frequently states that the reactors can withstand a significant earthquake.
A 2008 study by Lamont-Doherty argued that a magnitude 6 or 7 earthquake was destined to originate from the Ramapo Fault Zone. The study also discovered that there was an additional fault zone extending from the Ramapo Fault Zone into Southwestern Connecticut and running just one mile from the Indian Point plant.
In February, New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman challenged federal regulators’ plans for loosening regulations regarding the storage of nuclear waste at the sites. The State joined two other Northeastern states in suing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for expanding the amount of time that radioactive waste can be stored onsite at a nuclear power plant, such as Indian Point, after it shuts down. Regulations had limited the time to 30 years until 2010, but the limit was recently expanded to 60 years.
“Whether you’re for or against re-licensing Indian Point, we can all agree on one thing: Before dumping radioactive waste at the site for at least 60 years after it’s closed, our communities deserve a thorough review of the environmental, public health, and safety risks such a move would present,” said Schneiderman.
In the lawsuit, Schneiderman challenged both a 2010 NRC rule amending federal regulations and its recent “Waste Confidence Decision Update” as violating two federal laws, the Administrative Procedure Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The former is a federal law that governs the way in which federal administrative agencies may propose and establish regulations, while the latter is a federal law requiring federal government agencies to study the environmental impacts of proposed federal agency actions.