These notes are a selection of the notes I took at the presentation — those having to do with information that needs to be disseminated as widely as possible to residents in the 50-mile radius of Indian Point (and actually, beyond). I'd be pleased to receive corrections and additions and will revise as needed.
Click here for bios of the speakers.
Paul Gallay, Executive Director, Riverkeeper
By the time Fukishima happened, Riverkeeper was already nine years into the fight. It decided to call for closing the plant immediately and have it stay closed unless it became re-licensed. In a no-relicense process, you’d have to move the spent fuel to another space and create a new energy future.
The plant needs re-branding: it is old, dangerous, and unnecessary.
Phillip Musegaas, Hudson River Program Director
1) Earthquake risk. Columbia U. seismologists have studied the history of earthquakes at Indian Point. They looked at the active fault zone and found that the a 7.0 grade quake at the Ramapo fault is possible. A second fault is the Peekskill-Stamford line, a mile away from IP. Peer reviewed research shows that both faults are active. A 5.0 magnitude quake in the NY area would be much stronger than in areas with a different geology. The very hard bedrock can cause ground acceleration (i.e., much stronger movement at ground level).
The NRC started its own study in the 1990s, and they reported last year that IP had the highest probability of a radiation leak during an earthquake than any reactor in the US. They’ve since tried to backtrack from this position. Entergy thinks it can withstand a 6.1 quake, but big deal. If power is lost, the reactor heats up. The plant cannot have an accident that where power can’t be restored in a few days.
2) On April 5, 2011, the NRC said there is no basis for expanding the 10-mile radius of the Emergency Planning Zone [discussed here]. Riverkeeper feels that even a 10-mile evacuation won’t work. Another study (2003) found the plan unworkable; Pataki did nothing.
At Fukishima, the NRC ordered Americans within a 50-mile radius to evacuate, and it won’t agree to that same radius at IP. But, they’re changing their story to fit the situation and don’t have good science to back it up. The NRC is an independent federal agency, with commissioners appointed by the president and serving 5-year terms. It consists of policy people, engineers, physicists and attorneys.
Fire exemption issue. The NRC has a whole set of requirements for plant operation, but has the power to relax the regulations and grant exemptions so a plant can keep operating. The NRC has been giving exemptions away like crazy: hundreds of them have been given to IP since it was created. Fire is one of the highest risks of causing a nuclear plant breakdown. Riverkeeper needs political pressure to change this exemption policy.
3) Spent fuel. The pools of spent fuel are densely packed: each has five times the radiation the reactors have. The pools are not under the domes but in light industrial buildings on the site. Entergy says they can store the fuel this way for another 60 years. He said 75% of the spent fuel from the pools should go into dry casks, but they’re only taking out 10% (the least hot) at the present time. If the cooling water is drained in any of these pools, the rods will melt, fuse together, and spew radiation (as in Fukishima). Dry casks are considerably less risky than keeping the rods in the pools.
Deborah Brancato, Staff Attorney
Litigation to shut the plant will take place at the federal and state level.
Entergy applied for a 20-year extension to operate IP #2 and #3 in 2007. Various groups protested the renewal, but many of their complaints were thrown out, including emergency preparedness, evacuation, waste storage, terrorism, and new seismic information. The court agreed to allow a review of environmental impact issues, and in 2008 the judge ruled on all the ensuing petitions. A total of 15 claims were admitted, which was a large number in relation to complaints in other re-licensing applications. Issues included:
— safety (corrosion of piping)These issues have still not been litigated. The NRC was allowed to do its own environmental impact statement, but Riverkeeper, Clearwater and the Attorney General’s office will mount their case against it sometime in the fall.
— aging (metal fatigue)
— radioactive leaks since the 1990s (2 plumes of contamination under the site: #1 had leaking spent fuels in the 90s and continued to be a problem through 2008, when Entergy tried to get rid of the problem by draining the pool into the river. In 2005 it was discovered #2 had been leaking for years. The NRC has a narrow way of evaluating leakage.
Two issues at the State level
The cooling system at IP uses 2.5 billion gallons of water every day, double what NYC uses in a day. Screens and heat are destroying fish and organisms. The state, which has to certify the plant and issue a permit, has demanded conversion to a closed loop system, which would recycle the water used to cool the system and prevent the environmental damage. Entergy has been fighting this.
The other state case was triggered by the federal re-licensing case. For a facility to be re-licensed, it would have to comply with the clean water quality standard. The State has denied this certification and is not wavering. Entergy has due process rights. If the State continues to deny certification, Entergy can continue to appeal a long time, but Riverkeeper would keep fighting that.
Q & As:
Some of the discussion in the remainder of the meeting revolved around what has to be done to exert pressure to close the plant. The following points were also made:
There’s a federal process that has never given the public its due. The NRC is dismissive: good taxpayers are getting the back of its hand.
The lesson of Fukishima: “It can happen here.” We have 3-4 months until the re-licensing hearings get going in earnest, and we need to increase the number of people who are mad as hell.
Someone suggested we need a vision of how we can do without this plant, to which one of the speakers responded that in the short run we can reduce capacity 10-14% like in California. Also, a 2009 study showed that if you shut it down, you’d change the blackout risk from 1 day over 10 years to 1-1/2 days over the same period.
Risk vs. Dread: The risk is frightening enough. We don’t have terrify people. In a catastrophic accident, there would be 55,000 deaths in the first few months.
No kind of insurance that covers a nuclear accident.
No plan nationwide for storing spent fuel.
Not known whether the spent fuel pools are still leaching into the Hudson.
Riverkeeper has launched a petition to Obama to commission an independent safety assessment. It has the support of the NRDC, and is also working with Senators Schumer and Gillebrand.
Entergy has done dog-and-pony shows for visitors to the plant. On one occasion, a spokesperson offered a visit, but it was revoked. We need more debates: Entergy must come and debate.
Someone suggested engaging in a dialogue with the unions. One of the speakers said there is enormous employment when plants are decommissioned.
No track record on old plants. No ongoing transparency. We need independent auditing on a continual basis. Riverkeeper lawyers are looking at the issues of corrosion, embrittlement, etc.
Entergy is legally required to decommission this plant and shut it down safely. There's a fund (from revenues) to decommission.
There was much concern that it's got to this dead-end, no-solution stage. Someone asked if the NRC is reality-proof. So far nobody can get on this commission who is not connected with the industry. But now with Fukishima, we have a new situation, so Riverkeeper believes we can get more objectivity from the NRC, but we're nowhere near it. NRC is salaried by the nuclear industry. The culture of complicity in Japan between regulators and the industry is also happening here.
Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson, the NRDC, and Clearwater are very much in sync. A nuclear engineer is now working for Riverkeeper.
Gov. Brown instituted a massive retrofit for lighting in California [JW: was it down by Brown or Schwarzenegger?]
Once said by Margaret Meade: "Never underestimate the power of a small group of people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has."