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Frequently Asked Questions

Facts About Indian Point and Nuclear Power

Indian Point is a 3-reactor nuclear power plant located on the Hudson River in the town of Buchannan, NY, 36 miles north of Midtown Manhattan, owned by Entergy Corporation. Reactor/Unit 1 was shut down on October 31st, 1974, and Reactor/Unit 2 was shut down on April 30, 2020. 

In January 2017, Entergy entered into an agreement with New York State and the environmental group,
Riverkeeper, for the planned shutdown of Indian Point (reactors 2 & 3). Unit 3 is scheduled to cease operations by April 30, 2021.
Generation of electricity from nuclear power is fundamentally similar to other kinds of traditional power generation like coal, natural gas, and oil. All of these power sources are referred to as “thermal” power sources.  Heat is generated to boil water or to make hot gases. The high pressure of the boiled water (steam) or gases is used to turn an electric turbine that generates electricity.

Oil, coal, or gas plants make heat by burning fossil fuels. Nuclear power uses a radioactive fuel to create a chain reaction that splits the nuclei of the fuel and generates heat.  The heat from that nuclear chain reaction, or fission (splitting of atoms), boils the water. 
Source: NIRS
  • The scale of potential damage from an accident at the nuclear plant is simply unfathomable. Indian Point is situated in an ecologically important area and a far more densely populated area than any nuclear reactor in the country. There are 20 million people within 50 miles of Indian Point, including virtually all of New York City. The emergency response plan in case of an accident is unrealistic and would have a disproportionate impact on people of color.
  • Pools at the plant that house the spent nuclear fuel have been leaking toxic, radioactive water into the ground since the 1990s, contaminating the local soil and the Hudson River.
  • Recurring emergency shutdowns have proven Indian Point unsafe. In 2016, it was discovered that 27% of the “baffle bolts” that hold the inner walls of the reactor core together were damaged in Unit 2, and a subsequent inspection of Unit 3 revealed 31% were damaged, contrary to Energy’s prediction. Most recently, problems with the “O-ring” seal between the reactor vessel and the reactor head have recurred for at least the eighth time leading to leakage of the corrosive coolant. It’s very clear that this is an aging reactor with multiple ongoing problems.
  • In August 2013, the New York State Comptroller’s office found that the plant is vulnerable to a potential terrorist attack.
  • Indian Point is not prepared for a major earthquake of magnitude 6.2 or above, which Columbia University believes is “quite possible” in the region.
  • The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission has repeatedly acted to protect the nuclear industry rather than vigorously and transparently enforce safety requirements. For example, in 2019, the NRC chose to make safety upgrades needed to address new and increased dangers from flooding and earthquakes optional, instead of required. Also, the NRC recently allowed Indian Point more time to improve cybersecurity even though attempts to hack nuclear power plants have already been in the news.
  • No solution has ever been developed for disposal of spent nuclear fuel, meaning that all spent fuel waste will remain onsite for the foreseeable future, posing the risks of radioactive release and interdicting large areas of the site for reuse. Newly spent fuel held in the spent fuel pool is especially dangerous, as an accident could cause an uncontrollable zirconium fire and radiological release which would devastate the region. Even fuel that has been transferred to dry cask storage poses an unacceptable risk until Entergy adopts Hardened on Site Storage, which requires thicker casks, larger spacing, and berms to protect the casks.
  • Indian Point’s antiquated once-through water cooling system kills over one billion fish and fish larvae each year. The system withdraws 2.42 billion gallons per day from the Hudson and heats it up to a deadly temperature before discharging–twice as much water as the City of New York uses each day. Fish are killed when they are impinged on filter screens, entrained through the cooling system, and scalded by hot water. Evidence indicates that over 40 years, such slaughter and habitat degradation have contributed to the decline of numerous important fish species in the river.
Source: Riverkeeper

New York is in the process of replacing Indian Point with energy efficiency and renewable energy. A recent analysis by Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE Healthy Energy) found that most of Indian Point’s unit 2 had already been replaced with renewables and efficiency since the 2017 closure agreement was signed. The analysis also showed that recent deployment, current development, and projected growth of renewable generation and energy efficiency will contribute nearly 45,000 GWh annually by 2025, almost three times the 16,000 GWh currently supplied by Indian Point. Finally, the PSE Health Energy analysis found that no new gas plants were or are needed in order to keep the lights on after Indian Point shuts down. (learn more by reading the full PSE Healthy Energy Analysis here)

When a nuclear plant is retired, the facility goes through a lengthy decommissioning process, removing it from service and reducing residual radioactivity of all materials except spent fuel to a level that is supposed to permit release of the property and termination of the operating license. There is a decommissioning fund that accumulated during the life of the plant that is held in trust by Entergy. For all three Indian Point units, the fund is currently around $2 billion. Entergy has warned that unless it is allowed to offload liabilities onto a third party, this is unlikely to be sufficient. Making the fund even less likely to be adequate, recently the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has allowed other reactor operators to raid the fund for spent fuel management and has reduced oversight in other ways. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission loosely oversees the process with lax regulations that allow the operator up to 60 years to complete decommissioning. Unfortunately, federal preemption means that States have limited authority over nuclear power plants and cannot regulate safety at all, despite lax supervision of decommissioning.

However, the State has authority to protect its own economic interests. Environmental organizations are urging the State to use this jurisdiction to ensure that the money set aside for decommissioning is actually used for that purpose, the groundwater under the site is properly cleaned up, and there is transparency about what is occurring. Entergy is proposing to sell Indian Point to Holtec after the plants close. Riverkeeper and other environmental organizations are opposed to transfer of the license away from Entergy to Holtec, a company with a dubious corporate history and little experience with decommissioning. Given Entergy’s track record, some advocates do not oppose a license transfer to a reputable company under reasonable terms. Riverkeeper and others also oppose use of the decommissioning fund for spent fuel management. However, the NRC has been largely impervious to external pressure, limiting the public’s ability to obtain effective federal oversight. We must create a coalition of states, municipalities, and public interest organizations to closely monitor the process to ensure Entergy lives up to its obligation to complete a safe, expeditious, and just decommissioning process protective of communities and the environment.

The state undertook a study regarding the reuse of the site, which is highly constrained by the presence of the spent fuel, the radiological contamination, and major gas pipelines that traverse parts of the property. Preliminary conclusions from the consultant point to battery storage as one plausible option for using a portion of the site during decommissioning.

No. Since 2012, New York has been preparing for the possibility that Indian Point would close. As a result of action taken through the Indian Point contingeneý planning process, extra transmission capacity has been built to address bottlenecks and bring more power into the downstate region. Additionally, energy efficiency has reduced annual demand on the electricity system by more than 10 million megawatt hours since 2012,. The New York Independent System Operation (NYISO) conducted a reliability study in 2017 to assess whether the upcoming closure of Indian Point would cause any reliability issues. The NYISO study found that even in the event that no new fossil fuel generation was built before Indian Point closes, the need for new resources would be relatively small. That gap has already been closed over the last three years by reduction in energy demand.

The NYISO issued a report in 2017 that studied the impact on electricity reliability when Indian Point’s two reactors close. The report studied two scenarios. One scenario assumed that new gas-fired generators would be built as planned. The other scenario assumed that no new generation facilities (including CPV and Cricket Valley gas plants) would be built. In the second scenario, the NYISO found that if the planned gas generation didn’t come online, there would be a need to make up 100 megawatts (MW) of electricity in 2021 and that the need would grow to about 600 MW by 2027. The NYISO said that in this scenario this gap “would need to be met by one or more types of solutions. including generation, transmission, energy efficiency, and demand response measures.” The good news is that in subsequent reports by NYISO, peak demand forecasts have already been reduced by 362 MW for 2021 and 737 MW for 2027 (3)  showing that the gap in the second scenario has already been addressed by a combination of energy efficiency and rooftop solar, and that there is no need for any new electricity generation facilities in downstate zones when Indian Point closes (even if the CPV were to close and construction of Cricket Valley were to be halted). 

1. NYISO Load and Capacity Data report 2019 

2. NYISO, Generator Deactivation Assessment – Indian Point Energy Center, December 2017 

3. NYISO Load and Capacity Data Reports 2017 and 2019

Yes. The construction of new gas plants is not a strategy for managing the intermittency of renewable energy. High penetrations of renewable energy can be integrated into the current grid with no changes needed; in fact the integration of renewable energy will drive down the use of many existing fossil fuel plants, eventually making them obsolete. Eventually, wind and solar energy will reach penetration levels high enough to necessitate strategies to manage their intermittency. These strategies may include storage (including pumped hydro storage and other non-battery options), demand response, complementary pairing of wind and solar, overproduction/curtailment of renewables, flexible use of the state’s existing fleet of hydroelectric facilities, and (temporarily) periodic use of existing flexible gas generators. 


5. NYISO Board of Directors’ Decision on Approval Of AC Transmission Public Policy Transmission Planning Report And Selection Of Public Policy Transmission Projects April 8, 2019

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