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Closing the aged, dangerous Indian Point nuclear plants will spur green energy

Suffolk Closeup
Closing the aged, dangerous Indian Point nuclear plants will spur green energy

As State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. declared about the agreement to close the Indian Point nuclear power plants less than 50 miles from western Suffolk and between 60 and 100 miles from the East End—as the crow flies and radioactivity spreads—“it is a huge step forward in protecting the health and safety of all New Yorkers.”

New York City is even closer to the two long accident-plagued nuclear plants—they’re 30 miles north of Times Square.

They’re 70 miles from Riverhead, says the “Distance Between Cities” website.

These aged problem-plagued nuclear plants have constituted a huge danger for the most densely populated area of the United States.

“This closure will put New York State on the fast track to expanding its renewable energy portfolio,” Thiele of Sag Harbor said. “By shifting our focus to green, renewable energy, we can grow our economy, create jobs, and safeguard the health and safety of residents and state’s natural resources for generations to come.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo has long been calling for the plants to be shut down, and in announcing the agreement on January 9 called the two-reactor Indian Point facility a “ticking time bomb.” Under the agreement, Indian Point 2 will close by April 2020 and Indian Point 3 by April 2021.

For decades, environmentalists and safe-energy organizations have been highly active in working to shut down the plants. Riverkeeper has been deeply involved and its president, Paul Gallay, along with top New York State officials led by the governor, signed the agreement with the nuclear plants’ owner, New Orleans-based Entergy.

Gallay after the signing described Indian Point as the “biggest existential threat to the region.” These are very strong words but were confirmed years ago by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in an analysis of the impacts of a meltdown with breach of containment (a “China Syndrome” accident) at every nuclear power plant in the U.S.

The 1982 report, “Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences” or CRAC2 (it’s available on-line), considers “peak early fatalities,” “peak early injuries,” “peak cancer deaths” and “scaled cost billions in 1980 dollars.”

Image: Natural Resources Defense Council

For Indian Point 2, the analysis, done at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories, projects: peak early fatalities — 46,000; peak early injuries — 141,000, peak cancer deaths — 13,000, scaled cost in billions — $274 billion (which in today’s dollars would be $1 trillion).

For Indian Point 3, it calculates: peak early fatalities— 50,000, peak early injuries— 167,000, peak cancer deaths— 14,000, scaled cost in billions— $314 billion And the report in determining “scaled cost” includes “lost wages, relocation expenses, decontamination costs, lost property” and a portion of the U.S. rendered uninhabitable for centuries because of radioactivity.

And these aren’t just numbers;they represent people’s lives being lost, their being injured and left with cancer, and part of the planet ruined.

Said Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., vice chairman of Riverkeeper: “The agreement marks a milestone in America’s historic transition from a dirty, dangerous energy system to clean, safe, wholesome, local and patriotic power supply.” Son of the late U.S attorney general, he is the co-director of the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic at Pace Law School.

New York State and the environmental and safe-energy groups won, in part, on Indian Point by using a similar tactic as we on Long Island used to prevent the Shoreham nuclear power plant from going into commercial operation and the Long Island Lighting Company from building seven to eleven nuclear plants here. The strategy involved getting around federal “pre-emptions” on nuclear power.
The promoters of nuclear power arranged in the 1950s for a supportive federal government to have “pre-emption” over states and localities on most nuclear plant issues. On Long Island, a strategy of grassroots activists with support of Long Island officials and Andrew Cuomo’s father, then-Governor Mario Cuomo, was using the state’s power of eminent domain. The Long Island Power Act was enacted in 1985 giving the state the authority, if LILCO persisted with Shoreham and its other nuclear plant projects, to seize its assets and eliminate it. There was no federal “pre-emption” preventing that. And LILCO gave up.

On Indian Point, grassroots activists and the state zeroed in on denying Entergy the State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit that allowed the plants to discharge 2.5 billion gallons of water a day into the Hudson. This “once-through” cooling system has been killing massive amounts of fish and radioactive poisons have been released into the river. There was no federal “pre-emption” preventing this SPDES strategy. Another big factor causing Entergy to give up: competitive power now being less expensive then nuclear including renewable energy with safe solar and wind power foremost and offshore wind playing a huge role.

There are post-agreement complaints by some about replacing the electricity Indian Point generated. That’s baloney. There are alternatives. We can easily have energy we can live with.

Karl Grossman is a veteran investigative reporter and columnist, the winner of numerous awards for his work and a member of the L.I. Journalism Hall of Fame. He is a professor of journalism at SUNY/College at Old Westbury and the author of six books. Grossman and his wife Janet live in Sag Harbor.

Suffolk Closeup is a syndicated opinion column on issues of concern to Suffolk County residents.