The Risks of Indian Point at the Sixth Seal

Drone photo of Indian Point Power Center in Buchanan on Tuesday, April 28, 2020.Indian Point: Mass. nuclear plant deal could be decommissioning model

John Meore & Peter Carr/The Journal News

“This agreement provides critical protections, includes compliance measures stricter than federal requirements, and secures the funds necessary to safely and properly clean up this site,” Healey said Wednesday.

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New York Attorney General Letitia James has voiced similar concerns about the shutdown and decommissioning of Indian Point, which is slated to power down next year after four decades generating electricity for Westchester County and New York City.

Earlier this year, New York joined eleven other states in supporting Massachusetts’ challenge of the sale of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station to Entergy, which also owns Indian Point.

Holtec’s pending deal to buy the Buchanan plant awaits the approval of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

In February, James called the deal with Holtec “very risky” and questioned whether the company had the experience and financial backing to tackle a full-scale decommissioning.

Holtec said it does and has promised to finish the job in 12 to 15 years, knocking decades off the typical timeline for a decommissioning with the help of state-of-the-art technology that allows for the swift removal and shipment of radioactive material.

Entergy said the Massachusetts settlement was good news for the pending sale of Indian Point.

“This is a positive development for Holtec and demonstrates continued progress in clearing regulatory hurdles and reaching agreements with key stakeholders,” spokesman Jerry Nappi said.

Entergy reached an agreement to sell Pilgrim to Holtec in 2018. The plant, which housed Massachusetts’ last power-generating reactor, shut down the following year.

Massachusetts agreed to drop its legal challenges to the sale in return for the agreement.

“Our commitment to be a good neighbor, and our shared goal of protecting the health and safety of our workers, the community, and the environment were clear drivers for both parties that led to this agreement,” said Pam Cowan, the chief operating officer of Holtec Decommissioning International, a subsidiary.

Pilgrim sits on 1,600 acres along the coast of Cape Cod Bay some 35 miles from Boston and, like Indian Point, has been the focus of efforts to shut it down.

Holtec said once the buildings and structures are taken down, the Pilgrim site will be reduced to 50 acres where much of the spent nuclear fuel will be stored.

Indian Point sits on 240 acres along the Hudson River.

The leaders of Buchanan, the town of Cortlandt and the Hendrick Hudson schools are hopeful the property can be opened to redevelopment in the years after the decommissioning so they can begin recouping what’s expected to be millions of dollars in lost property tax revenue.

“We’re at Ground Zero here and we seem to be overlooked,” Buchanan Mayor Theresa Knickerbocker said.

The village was not a party to the shutdown agreement, which was negotiated with the state of New York and the Hudson River environmental group Riverkeeper in 2017.

And Knickerbocker is concerned the village will be stuck paying for damage to roads beyond the gates of Indian Point, which will be used to transport multi-ton pieces of steel and cement.

“Our goal is the safe restoration of the property, so we can re-use it,” Knickerbocker said. “Did anyone work with the local communities who are going to have the biggest impact?”

Buchanan is staking a claim to a $15 million community and environmental fund Entergy agreed to fund as part of the 2017 shutdown deal.

The $193 million Holtec will set aside for Pilgrim will cover cost increases, project delays and any newly-discovered contamination. Another $38.4 million will be put aside to cover the transportation of spent fuel as well as the cleanup of the site where it was stored.

Holtec will be paid out of some $1.3 billion that’s accumulated in Pilgrim’s decommissioning trust fund.

Holtec said it will cost $2.3 billion to decommission Indian Point, roughly the amount that has accumulated in trust funds for each of the plant’s three reactors.

Holtec purchased the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in New Jersey from Exelon last year. Holtec is trying to develop an interim storage facility for nuclear waste in New Mexico, where it hopes to send the spent fuel from facilities it buys.

In February, Westchester County Executive George Latimer praised James for her efforts to challenge Indian Point’s sale with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“All of Westchester County, from Cortlandt to Yonkers, stands to be greatly impacted by the Indian Point decommissioning process and this move by the Attorney General brings the resources and expertise of the state to this high-stakes proceeding,” Latimer said.

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