Responding to the June 8 federal appeals court victory by Riverkeeper and our allies, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted unanimously this week to hold off on deciding whether to relicense Indian Point for 20 more years until it addresses the risks of storing highly radioactive spent fuel at Indian Point and other nuclear power plants across the country.
The NRC relicensing hearings, slated to start in October, were already historic because of the number of legal challenges and the active opposition by the State of New York. There are currently about 15 separate legal and factual challenges that will be raised by Riverkeeper and our allies in arguing that the two active Indian Point nuclear reactors should be shut down after their original 40-year licenses expire in 2013 and 2015.
Riverkeeper and our allies now have a new way to champion public concern about the safety risks of storing nearly 2,000 tons of toxic nuclear waste at Indian Point.
Before this ruling, arguments for closing the plant were restricted to basic nuclear safety issues related to corrosion and leaking of aging plant systems, and a very narrow set of environmental impacts such as the radioactive water leaks from spent fuel pools into the Hudson River. While the federal court ruling and this decision by the NRC will allow nuclear waste issues into this debate, the NRC continues to exclude all issues related to evacuation planning, risk of terrorism and earthquake hazard from the relicensing review.
The precedent-setting decision is also expected to affect relicensing at other nuclear power plants around the country. Riverkeeper, New York State and Hudson River Sloop Clearwater filed a new joint contention challenging waste storage at Indian Point in July in the wake of the federal court ruling. The Commission’s ruling was in response to this contention, as well as a group petition to the Commission filed by intervenors challenging other license renewals across the country.
In nearly 40 years of operation, the Indian Point nuclear power plant’s reactors have produced more than 1,500 tons of radioactive waste, which is stored, unfortified, in pools on the banks of the Hudson River in Westchester County, about 35 miles from Midtown Manhattan. If Entergy is granted a license to operate for another 20 years, another 1,000 tons of radioactive waste will be produced.
Since at least August 2005, radioactive toxins such as tritium and strontium-90 have leaked from the spent fuel pools at Indian Point into the groundwater and the Hudson River.
Release Date: 8/8/2012