New York opposes extending Indian Point license

Published 6 December 2007

Indian Point nuclear plants in Westchester County are surrounded by 20 million people within a 50-mile radius, more than any other reactor in the country; plants’ operator applied for a 20-year extension license, but the State of New York says plants pose too much risk and should be shut down

New York’s attorney general Andrew Cuomo said on Monday that the state had asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to deny an application to extend the license of the Indian Point nuclear reactors, citing “a long and troubling history of problems.” Cuomo claimed that the nuclear plant, in densely populated Westchester County, could not be defended from a terrorist attack and that the surrounding area could not be evacuated if a major accident occurred. The state filed a 313-page petition on behalf of Cuomo and Governor Eliot Spitzer. The New York Times’s John Sullivan and Matthew Wald write that opponents of the plant’s re-licensing recently directed their anger at the plant owner’s belated progress in meeting federal deadlines to install warning sirens around the plant, which is on the Hudson River in Buchanan. The state also contends that the application to extend the plant’s license for twenty more years, which was filed on 30 April by the plant’s owner, Entergy Nuclear, failed to account for pipes, cables, and fire-protection systems which have deteriorated at the nuclear reactors, which began operation in the mid-1970s.

Sullivan and Wald write that officials of the NRC could not recall a previous occasion when a state had tried to intervene in a license-extension proceeding to block the extension. New York State owned Indian Point 3 from 1975 until 2000. New Jersey has intervened in the relicensing of the Oyster Creek nuclear plant, and Vermont and Massachusetts both sought conditions on the license extension of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

The plant’s operator says the company had invested hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade equipment at the plant since it bought the two reactors. A company spokesman said that the company was prepared to prove to federal regulators that the equipment still worked properly.

Spitzer said that the plant should close as soon as an alternative source of power could be found. The two reactors have a combined capacity of 2,069 megawatts. A three-judge panel appointed by the NRC is expected to rule within the next several weeks whether New York State can intervene in the relicensing application and whether the issues it has raised should be considered. The NRC has granted about two dozen twenty-year extensions to nuclear plants around the country.

The license for the Indian Point 2 reactor expires in 2013, and Indian Point 3’s license ends in 2015. The licenses have been automatically extended until the commission issues its ruling. Indian Point 1 closed in 1974. The two nuclear reactors in Westchester County are surrounded by twenty million people within a fifty-mile radius, more than any other reactor in the country.