Despite having four years advanced notice of its planned departure, local elected officials and union leaders gathered Friday a short distance from the gates outside the Indian Point nuclear power plant in the Village of Buchanan to lament its official closing.
After nearly 60 years generating approximately 25% of electricity consumed annually in the lower Hudson Valley and New York City, the last remaining nuclear reactor in operation, Unit 3, powered off at approximately 11 p.m. Friday.
Unit 3 shut down on a high note, setting a world record of 753 days of continuous days of being in service.
“Today is a dark day for the Village of Buchanan and Union 1-2,” declared James Shillitto, president of UVUA Local 1-2 union, at Lent’s Cove where 1,000 plastic hard hats were hung on a fence to symbolize the number of workers who were employed at Indian Point.
“The reality is today is a dark day,” Cortlandt Councilman James Creighton reiterated.
Located on the former 240-acre site of an amusement park in Buchanan, Unit 1 first went into service in 1962. Unit 2 took over from 1974 to 2020, while Unit 3 has been operating since 1976.
In 2017, Entergy, owners of the plant, New York State and Riverkeeper stunned local officials when they announced the two operating nuclear reactors at Indian Point would close. In November 2019, Entergy and Holtec filed an application for license transfer with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). In January 2020, the NRC announced that it was considering approval of an application by Entergy to transfer the Indian Point license — and the facility’s trust funds to pay for decommissioning — to Holtec to implement the facility’s decommissioning. The NRC approved the sale last November.
A few weeks ago, it was announced a provisional agreement had been reached between the State of New York, environmental organizations, government agencies, Entergy, Holtec International and other interested parties for the swift and safe cleanup of the site.
The comprehensive settlement is now being sent to the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC), which is slated to vote on the proposal on May 13.
“Indian Point’s enduring legacy will be the thousands of men and women who operated the plant safely, reliably, and securely, while helping to power New York City and the lower Hudson Valley for nearly 60 years,” stated Chris Bakken, Chief Nuclear Officer for Entergy, which purchased Unit 3 in 2000. “We owe those who serve now, along with those who came before them, a lot of gratitude.”
Thomas Carey, president of the AFL-CIO Westchester Putnam Central Labor Body, which represents steamfitters and plumbers, said his grandfather and father helped build Unit 1.
“What Entergy has done for this community is immeasurable,” Carey said. “Entergy has been the safest place I have ever worked in my entire life. I can’t say enough what this utility has done.”
Herschel Spector, a federal regulator who was responsible for licensing Unit 3 in the 1970s, maintained Indian Point was never a threat to the community.
“Indian Point was special. It was a very big plant for its day in a high population zone. The plant was overbuilt, thank God. The plant is safe. It always has been,” he said. “They produced electricity that was clean.”
Indian Point was the largest employer in Buchanan and Cortlandt. In a few years, Buchanan stands to lose 46% ($4 million) of its operating budget, while the Hendrick Hudson School District will lose $24 million annually (33% of its budget). Others affected are: Cortlandt ($800,000), Westchester County ($1 million), Hendrick Hudson Free Library ($394,110, 28% of its budget) and the Verplanck Fire District ($372,703, 64% of its budget).
“It’s the end of an era, unfortunately,” said Buchanan Mayor Theresa Knickerbocker. “Entergy was a great neighbor. It’s a huge loss for our community. These plants had a lot more life in them.”
Holtec, which has maintained it can complete the decommissioning of the plant in about 15 years, has agreed to provide job opportunities for more than 300 of Entergy’s current employees at Indian Point and honor the collective bargaining agreements that apply to all the workers at the facility.
“It’s a sad day for people at the plant, but it’s a day to reflect,” said Jerry Nappi, a spokesman for Entergy. “It’s bittersweet that it’s shutting down.”
“Some have said this is like a funeral,” said Cortlandt Councilwoman Debbie Carter, who also is employed by Entergy. “The employees at Entergy are a family. We’ve gone through a lot together. Everything happens for a reason.”
Cortlandt Councilman Dr. Richard Becker, who is running for supervisor in November, said he was taking an optimistic view.
“I think the future is very bright,” he said. “It’s a new beginning. Everyone here is committed to reinventing Cortlandt and Buchanan. This property will be redeveloped one day. Facing adversity and coming out stronger is what it’s all about.”