The Nuclear Retreat
We coined the term, "Nuclear Retreat" here at Beyond Nuclear to counter the nuclear industry's preposterous "nuclear renaissance" propaganda campaign. You've probably seen "Nuclear Retreat" picked up elsewhere and no wonder - the alleged nuclear revival so far looks more like a lot of running away. On this page we will keep tabs on every latest nuclear retreat as more and more proposed new nuclear programs are canceled.
A landmark deal finalized between NY Governor Andrew Cuomo and Entergy Nuclear Operations Inc. to close the Indian Point nuclear power station by 2020 and 2021 is making tons of headlines for good reason. The negotiated closure of the aging two-unit nuclear power station just 25 miles from New York City is the light at the end of the tunnel for a potential radiological disaster that could trap millions of people under its cloud. It also brings to closure a marathon of ten-year legal battle costing state taxpayers and ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars in lawyer fees for a controversial federal 20-year relicensing and the even longer ongoing violation of the Clean Water Act where the nukes’ cooling water system has been sucking the life out of the Hudson River and then polluting it with billions of gallons of super-hot water discharge. All good, but on the other hand, Governor Cuomo just orchestrated a scandalous $8 billion bailout for four dangerous and otherwise uneconomic atomic power plants in upstate New York that indentures his constituents to skyrocketing electric rates and sets up a potential Fukushima disaster on the Great Lakes.
On the one hand, shutting down Indian Point units 2 & 3 is long overdue. Unit 1 closed in 1974. Many are not losing sight of “sooner is better.” The phase-out approach provides Entergy with an uncontested 6-year operating license renewal from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and not the 20-year license extension it originally applied for in 2007. Given an energy emergency, the State and Entergy can agree to extend operations in 2-year increments to 2024 and 2025 but not beyond. Indian Point workers get retraining and relocation into other energy facilities in the state. The State will step up its own safety oversight in the interim. Thousands of tons of nuclear waste in high-density storage underwater will get moved to more secure onsite “dry cask” storage.
On the other hand, Governor Cuomo’s atomic shellout faulter for Nine Mile Point 1 & 2, FitzPatrick and Ginna nuclear power stations forces New York residents to pay a staggering increase in electricity rates for aging nuclear power plants otherwise no longer economical to operate. Given that Governor Cuomo’s main concerns for closing Indian Point justifiably focus on the saving the Hudson River and protecting the safety of the metropolitan residents of New York City, bailing out these four reactors (three being Fukushima-style reactors) for continued operation raises some troubling questions of the State’s unequal protection under the law for its upstate New York residents and the equally precious water resources of the Great Lakes.
At the center of his argument for these particular nuclear power plants cashing in on the state’s “Zero Emission Credit” subsidies, the Governor contends that the closure and replacement of the upstate atomic reactors would mean more fossil fuel emissions that add three million tons of greenhouse gases and a public health cost of $1.4 billion. In fact, Governor Cuomo has to actually ignore the global trend that renewable energy from solar and wind is already outpacing fossil fuels in new generating capacity. Most recently, a November 2016 Stanford University and German Aerospace Center joint study even focused on “Alternative Renewable Energy Scenarios for New York” to replace these very same nuclear power stations with renewable energy. The study examined six scenarios; two nuclear and four renewable energy options. Scenario 1 modeled the subsidization of FitzPatrick, Nine Mile Point and Ginna with Zero Emissions Credits to keep them operating till 2050. Scenario 2 subsidizes the nuclear power stations to operate till 2028 then replacing them with wind and solar. Scenarios 3 through 6 shutdown the nuclear power plants as soon as possible and replace by varying combinations of renewable energy (onshore wind, utility-grade and rooftop solar). To quote the study’s conclusion, “In sum, in all cases, examined, subsidizing the three upstate nuclear reactors to stay open increases both CO2 and costs relative to the renewable scenarios.” In fact, the study concluded that keeping the nuclear power plants open increases the cost of electricity by billions of dollars and significant greater carbon emissions than switching to a mix of renewable energy.
Indeed, as reported in Crain’s New York Business, if Cuomo was to instead close the upstate reactors as soon as possible right along with Indian Point and replace them with a mix of wind and solar power, he could save New Yorkers $6.5 billion in dirty, dangerous electricity bills over 12 years and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
While Governor Cuomo deserves much of the credit for successfully negotiating the early closure of Indian Point, he is squandering that political capital at great expense and risk by propping up the rest of New York’s failing nuclear energy industry.
...Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for the governor, cautioned that nothing had been finalized.
“There is no agreement — Governor Cuomo has been working on a possible agreement for 15 years and until it’s done, it’s not done,” he said. “Close only counts for horseshoes, not for nuclear plants.”
(As reported by Westchester Magazine, "We should find out the fate of our next-door neighbor soon; Cuomo is scheduled to deliver the third of six regional State of the State speeches in Westchester on Tuesday.")
And the NY Times article added:
The agreement also provides for flexibility if the state cannot find a replacement for Indian Point’s energy: The deadlines in 2020 and 2021 can be pushed to 2024 and 2025 if both the state and Entergy agree.
Even three to four (let alone seven to eight) more years of operations at Indian Point 2 & 3 is very risky. Consider the report, commissioned by Riverkeeper, Inc., and written by Dr. Ed Lyman of UCS on the third anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, entitled "Chernobyl on the Hudson? The Health and Economic Impacts of a Terrorist Attack at the Indian Point Nuclear Plant." Using government computer models, Dr. Lyman calculated that "depending on the weather conditions, an attack could result in as many as 44,000 near-term deaths from acute radiation syndrome or as many as 518,000 long-term deaths from cancer among individuals within 50 miles of the plant." Dr. Lyman estimated property damages could range from $1 to 2 trillion (yes, with a T!), and that "Millions of people would require permanent relocation."
Of course, a "mere accident," as due to age-related degradation (there have been a large number of breakdowns at the four decade old reactors), or a natural disaster, could also unleash such a radioactive catastrophe. A U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission report listed Indian Point as the most vulnerable nuclear power plant in the U.S. to an earthquake. Fault lines were discovered very near Indian Point in recent years.
Also, each year of operations at Indian Point kills a billion fish and other aquatic life in the Hudson River, due to the reactors' once-through cooling system. And annually, around 40 tons of additional high-level radioactive waste is generated there. Indian Point's irradiated nuclear fuel pools have been leaking, into the soil, groundwater, and Hudson River, for years, even decades.
“If we can shut down Indian Point under an agreement that enhances public safety and kick-starts investment into safer and more reliable renewable energy sources, that will be a major victory for the millions of New Yorkers who live in the region,” he said.
The Daily News also quoted [f]ormer Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a longtime proponent of closing the plant, [who] said: "It's about damn time. The plant isn't safe, it isn't economical and it's falling apart."
The Palisades nuclear power plant in Covert, MI, will close in October 2018, its owner, Entergy, has announced. The notorious reactor has been beset by critical safety issues for decades, long neglected, ignored, or given a pass by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In July, nearly two dozen security workers at Palisades were placed on paid leave after inconsistencies in fire inspection records were found. Despite constant opposition from Beyond Nuclear and others, the NRC has consistently refused to close the plant, even though the Palisades reactor vessel has become brittle after decades of use. More details on this page, and comments from Beyind Nuclear, to come as the news unfolds. Read more.