As reported by Michael D'Onofrio at the Journal News, on Jan. 14th Entergy Nuclear, owner of the two-reactor Indian Point nuclear power plant on the Hudson River near New York City, filed a lawsuit against the State of New York Secretary of State, Cesar Perales, for rejecting a Coastal Zone certificate needed for the facility's 20-year license extension.
“Federal law is clear that only the federal government can regulate a nuclear power plant on safety issues,” Entergy spokesman Jerry Nappi said.
Entergy won a federal lawsuit against the State of Vermont on similar grounds concerning its Vermont Yankee reactor. In a case of winning the battle only to lose the war, despite winning in court, Entergy nonetheless announced Vermont Yankee's permanent closure just a couple weeks after that court ruling. However, now Entergy can cite that legal ruling as precedent in its current lawsuit against the State of New York.
What Entergy's spokesman neglected to mention, however, is that states do retain certain jurisdiction over nuclear power plant operations besides radiological safety (the exclusive jurisdiction of NRC). One such area is thermal and other ecological impacts on surface waters, a very relevant issue at Indian Point, which currently lacks cooling towers.
But Perales' position, as the article reports, is:
Perales, a member of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s cabinet, rejected Entergy’s request for a Coastal Zone certificate on Nov. 6 to use the Hudson River. In a letter to Entergy, Perales said for the past 40 years the plant has been "damaging the coastal resources of the Hudson River,” withdrawing billions of gallons of water a day, and killing at least a billion fish.
In addition, Perales cited the plant’s proximity to two active seismic faults, and the nation's most heavily populated area and its source of drinking water.
Indian Point Unit 2's 40-year initial operating license expired in Sept. 2013. Unit 3's license expired in Dec. 2015.
However, NRC's rules are so loose that Entergy's applications for the 20-year license extensions, many years ago now, allow both Indian Point reactors to continue operating on expired permits.
Entergy counts on such NRC complicity and collusion, as reflected in its spokesperson's estimate in the article that this situation could go on for a long time to come:
The nuclear power plant can continue to operate until the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission decides on its application — a process that will take several years, [Entergy's] Nappi said.
The article also chronicles multiple unplanned shutdowns at Indian Point in recent years. A spate of incidents in December 2015 prompted New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to order a state Department of Public Service review of the nuclear plant, due Feb. 15th.