Entergy, the owners of the nuclear reactors at Indian Point, continues its unremitting campaign of scare tactics about shortages and inflated bills should the reactors not be relicensed. Now ordinary people on both sides of the Hudson River are left with many unanswered questions.
How vital is Indian Point to the NYC/Westchester grid where a lot of New Jersey residents work? Con Ed transmits all of the electricity from Indian Point. What about the millions of people in the 50 mile radius of the plant that are not Con Ed ratepayers? Do they get any electricity from Indian Point? Exactly how would the closing of Indian Point affect New Jersey residents? Where would replacement electricity come from? Does it matter?
There is a big difference between generating capacity and usage. Capacity is what the reactors can generate. Usage is how much of that total actually goes into the regional grid. The facts are as follows: Indian Point reactors generate slightly over 2,000 MW of electricity. Con Ed, the only transmission company for the NYC/Westchester grid, transmits about 12,000 MW of electricity to this grid on an average summer day. Of that only 560 MW comes from Indian Point according to Con Ed’s annual report. This amounts to about 5 percent of the electricity used on a typical 12,000 MW summer day. Entergy refuses to say where the rest is sold.
However, it is clearly not to our regional grid and certainly not to New Jersey or to anyone in the area who has a utility other than Con Ed. People in that category get zero electrons from Indian Point and bear all of the risk.
Some communities like Ringwood are considering passing a non-binding Health and Safety Resolution asking, among other things, that the high-level radioactive waste currently in the spent fuel pool be moved to dry cask storage where it poses less risk. For the complete Health and Safety Resolution click here.
Some Entergy employees have objected to even this measure of safety. The rest of the power from Indian Point could be sold anywhere from Maine to Ohio, where ever the profit is the highest. Replacing such a small percentage of power in the NYC/Westchester grid is hardly a problem for New Jersey. A new transmission line from the New Jersey PJM grid has already been approved and will go under the Hudson River directly to Manhatten. It will carry 550 MW.
Several Entergy employees have risen to the defense of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission lately, citing numerous “inspection hours” and trying to reassure people that the plant is safe because they would not work there if it wasn’t. They are certainly entitled to their own opinions which are not to be confused with facts. Such assertions of safety are unconscionable given the fact that New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa joined with New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in recent legal actions against the NRC’s so called "Waste Confidence Rule," which allowed storage of spent fuel rods on site for 60 years with no studies or planning. Both Attorney Generals plus the Attorney General from Connecticut, George Jepsen, took the NRC to court for their lack of oversight over long-term storage of high-level nuclear waste and the risks it presents to 21 million people in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut who live and work within a 50-mile radius of the reactors. In its final decision the court lambasted the agency for its unrealistic assumptions about the storage of irradiated fuel on site with no studies, in violation of the law, on the assumption that a national repository would be available “when needed."
The court required the NRC to conduct an Environmental Impact Study for all pending licenses or renewal applications. This includes Indian Point. Even after spent fuel pools across the country were filled with high-level radioactive waste, it took a court order to force the NRC to follow the law and examine this issue in depth. Neither did the NRC allow faulty infrastructure, overcrowded roads, the evacuation plan or increased population to be part of the relicensing equation because of their infamous “back fit” rule. If something was approved during the original licensing, it could not be considered as part of the relicensing process 40 years later. Never mind the changes that have taken place over the last four decades. For a look at what might happen during a radiological emergency evacuation, click here for a video with Japanese experts who were at Fukushima and American first responders.
Another issue the New York Attorney General has taken up is fire safety at Indian Point. Certainly a catastrophic release of radiation at Indian Point due to fire would imperil many New Jersey residents. The NRC regulations call for material that provides 60 minutes of fire protection. When the material used did not measure up to standards, Entergy asked for and received 270 exemptions that involved manual workarounds as listed in the Attorney General’s brief. Only after legal challenges were some of the exemptions rescinded. This is hardly a picture of a regulator concerned with the nuclear safety of ordinary citizens; rather it is a snapshot of a faux regulatory agency captured by the industry.
When Indian Point goes off-line for refueling or other reasons the lights stay on and bills do not go up in either New York or New Jersey. The electricity flows from other sources. In reality, the market has already replaced Indian Point. Electricity is a commodity and other generators have lined up for vetting with the Independent Service Operators who run our grid and stand ready to provide what the market demands. Of course, demanding side management, conservation and efficiency provide ready alternatives to smoothing out the peaks in usage and lowering electricity bills.
To answer questions about how all of this works in practice, the Indian Point Convergence, Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition and Clearwater are sponsoring a conference on Sunday, Sept 30 at Stony Point Conference Center, Stony Point, New York from 1 to 5 p.m. (Exit 15 on Palisades Parkway). "It’s Electric - The Power Is Ours" is the conference title. The forum will delve into how the grid works as well as generation, distribution, transmission and how sustainable energy creates new jobs and can provide us all with a safe and green grid. It will be an interesting and informative afternoon with expert speakers, a panel and plenty of time for questions to be answered. Call 1-888-474-8848 for more information or to register.
Marilyn Elie is co-founder of WestCan and a member of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition. She is also active in the Indian Point Convergence at Stony Point. She has followed the issues at Indian Point for the past 18 years and has seen three different NRC chairmen come and go. She has stayed with the issue all of these years because of her overriding concerns about the storage of high level radioactive waste in the form of used fuel rods that are deadly for over a million years. She sees no advantage to centralized storage and firmly believes that high-level radioactive waste is much too dangerous to transport over highways and rails. It should be stored in the community that generated it. It is un-American and certainly undemocratic to try to impose it on a community that does not want it. So called reprocessing is not an option.