The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) feels the expansion of the Spectra/Enbridge AIM pipeline that runs in close vicinity to the Indian Point nuclear power plants in Buchanan poses no safety threat to the facility.
In a September 10 letter to State Assemblywoman Sandy Galef (D/Ossining), which arrived three days after state and local elected officials and community leaders stood outside the fences surrounding the nuclear plants in the Village of Buchanan and demanded FERC respond to questions asked in July about the potential dangers associated with the pipeline, FERC Chairman Kevin McIntyre stated the Commission was satisfied with answers provided by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and an independent analysis.
“Based on these analyses, the Commission (FERC) found that the AIM Project will not result in increased safety impacts at the Indian Point facility,” McIntyre stated.
Four members of the State Assembly penned a letter to McIntyre on July 24 following the June 22 release of a long-awaited Risk Analysis Report on the pipeline and requested answers no later than August 31.
Multiple state agencies also requested FERC take additional action after determining FERC made many assumptions based on information provided by Entergy, owners of Indian Point, and Spectra Energy, the original builders of the 42-inch Algonquin pipeline project.
Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi, who has often cited that FERC approved the pipeline project in May 2014 before a risk assessment was completed, has pointed out the pipeline is situated next to where spent nuclear fuel rods will be placed in dry cask storage once Indian Point shuts down in 2021.
She continued to blast FERC last Thursday during a joint meeting of the Cortlandt Community Unity Indian Point Task Force and the New York State Indian Point Closure Task Force at Cortlandt Town Hall.
“To me, it was absurd,” Puglisi remarked of FERC’s approval of the project. “It was not common sense. It was really mindboggling that FERC would allow that prematurely without getting the report.”
Mike Twomey, vice president of Wholesale External Affairs for Entergy, owners of the plants, noted at the meeting last week that Entergy requested the pipeline be relocated 1,000 feet from critical equipment at Indian Point and insisted it be buried deeper in the ground.
“We did not express an opinion on this pipeline. Entergy did an assessment of the plant in the event there was a rupture of the pipeline,” Twomey said. “We continue to believe the plant would withstand any event of the pipeline.”
Indian Point Licenses Renewed
Meanwhile, the two operating units at Indian Point, Unit 2 and Unit 3, received their renewed operating licenses last week from the NRC, ending more than 11 years of regulatory review. Entergy had applied for the licenses in April 2007.
“The issuance of these renewed licenses is the culmination of thousands of hours of work by hundreds of nuclear professionals at Indian Point and across our nuclear fleet and company,” said Chris Bakken, Entergy’s chief nuclear officer. “Indian Point is one of the most reliable electricity generating plants in New York State, and it repeatedly has been determined to be safely and securely operated. I congratulate our outstanding employees on achieving this milestone.”
The receipt of the renewed operating licenses does not change the schedule for the retirement of the Indian Point units in accordance with a 2017 settlement agreement between Entergy and New York State. Under the settlement agreement, Unit 2 will shut down by April 30, 2020 and Unit 3 by April 30, 2021. Entergy cited sustained, lower wholesale power prices as the main factor in its decision to enter into the settlement agreement and shut down the Indian Point units.
Twomey, responding to a question from State Senator Terrence Murphy (R/Yorktown), maintained the settlement agreement “probably accelerated the end of the relicensing process,” but contended Entergy “would have eventually succeeded in getting license renewal.”
“The NRC is satisfied with the safety of the plant. They have to evaluate that every day,” he said.
The renewed federal licenses permit Unit 2 to operate until April 30, 2024 and Unit 3 to operate until April 30, 2025. The decision to seek renewed licenses that terminate in that timeframe was agreed to by all parties to the 2017 settlement agreement and is intended to allow for limited, continued operations of one or both units – if agreed to by both New York State and Entergy – in the event of unexpected and severe disruptions of the regional electric grid. Entergy does not have any expectation that either unit will run beyond its scheduled shutdown in 2020 and 2021. In February 2017, Entergy filed with the NRC a Notification of Permanent Cessation of Power Operations certifying that it has decided to permanently cease power operations by those dates.
Entergy concluded the final refueling and maintenance outage at Unit 2 in April of this year, investing tens of millions of dollars to ensure continued safety and reliability. Entergy will conduct the final refueling and maintenance outage at Unit 3 in the spring of 2019.