EnvironmentThe Northern Westchester Examiner

Holtec Defends Plans to Discharge Toxic Wastewater into River

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Holtec International representatives last week defended its widely criticized plans to release 45,000 gallons of radioactive wastewater from Indian Point’s spent fuel rods into the Hudson River.

During an Indian Point Decommissioning Oversight Board meeting April 27 at Cortlandt Town Hall, Richard Burroni, Site Vice President for Holtec, maintained “all nuclear power plants discharge treated effluent containing low levels of radiological effluent,” which is regulated by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Environmental Protection Agency.

He also stressed the practice of dumping the wastewater into the river from Indian Point has been occurring for the last 60 years and is the best alternative for handling the discharge at the 240-acre site in Buchanan.

“Discharging to the river poses the least public risk,” Burroni said. “I understand the perception.”

On April 13, Holtec, which is decommissioning the shuttered plants in the Village of Buchanan, notified the Indian Point Decommissioning Oversight Board that it would not be going forward with the planned discharge in May as it had indicated earlier this month following public outcry.

Last week, Burroni said batch releases of the wastewater were now planned for September 2023 and June 2024. He also explained Holtec’s previous earlier timeline and stressed the gallons of wastewater represented less than one percent of what the NRC allows.

“We were just trying to get a head start on cleaning the spent fuel pool,” Burroni said.

Tom Congdon, chairman of the Decommissioning Oversight Board, and David Lochbaum, former director of the Nuclear Safety Project for the Union of Concerned Scientists who has defended Holtec’s release plans, sided with Burroni.

“We’re talking about a very small concentration,” Congdon said.

“Discharging to the river is the safest way to deal with the tritium,” Lochbaum said.

However, many others disagreed. Prior to the meeting, environmental groups rallied outside Town Hall opposing Holtec’s course of action, while an estimated 500,000 people have signed a petition calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to intervene.

Inside, state Senator Pete Harckham remained skeptical, saying, “It’s a mystery to people what goes on behind the fence (that surrounds Indian Point). I’m still not there on the discharge.”

State Assemblywoman Dana Levenberg said there were still many unanswered questions about the potential impacts of radiation in the wastewater.

“Arguments like ‘we’ve been doing this for years’ and ‘we are all exposed to lots of radiation’ are offensive to people who have lost loved ones to cancer, or are dealing with children with genetic abnormalities, for example. Ideally, we should be trying to eliminate exposure whenever possible and seeking alternatives to exposing people to unnecessary radiation,” she said.

“I was not reassured by some of Holtec’s responses, particularly with regard to the timing of any potential discharges. They still appear to be more protective of their bottom line and their ‘efficiencies’ than the community’s wishes,” Levenberg added. “Based on the timeline they presented, there is no reason to rush to discharge without first allowing state agencies to further address the unanswered questions.”


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