The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held a public meeting in Tarrytown last week to receive comments on a decommissioning report for the closed Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan.
Holtec, which only took over ownership of the facility in late May, submitted a Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report on December 19, 2019, but the NRC only began a formal review of the plan two months ago.
The report details Holtec’s immediate dismantlement approach and anticipated completion of the process within approximately 15 years.
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. Unit 3 permanently closed on April 20, 2021, while Unit 2 was shut down in April 2020. Unit 1 was removed from service in the 1970s.
In 2017, Entergy, 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 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.
Bruce Watson, chief of the Reactor Decommissioning Branch of the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, told the audience of about 50 onlookers at the Sleepy Hollow Hotel and Conference Center on July 29 there was currently $2.4 billion in a decommissioning trust fund that Holtec could tap into.
“Holtec can use the site for whatever purpose after decommissioning ends, except for where the dry cask storage is located,” Watson said.
Watson also maintained the thin-walled cannisters used to store the spent nuclear fuel rods on the property were designed to withstand the impact of an airplane crash.
Manna Jo Greene, an Ulster County legislator and Environmental Director for Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, questioned why thicker cannisters that are used in Europe were not being planned by Holtec and suggested indoor storage be explored.
Cortlandt Councilman James Creighton urged the NRC not to allow Holtec to scale back on security protocols.
“We only have one shot to get this right,” Creighton said. “Security has to be permanent. We have to plan and be prepared for every scenario. You have to assure that no corner is cut.”
Several other elected officials, including Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi and state Senator Pete Harckham, addressed the NRC at a government-to-government session earlier in the day.
Puglisi suggested a 24-hour hotline be established to allow local officials, oversight boards and residents to file complaints about decommissioning activities. She also criticized the NRC for not scheduling a public forum before Holtec was chosen.
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).
Holtec 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.
Residents have until October 22 to submit comments to the NRC about the decommissioning plan.