By Marilyn Elie
We can all breathe a sigh of relief next spring when the last working reactor at Indian Point powers down. Twenty million people in the 50-mile radius of the 40-year-old nuclear generator can sleep more soundly and future generations will thank us for no longer producing high-level radioactive waste that will bedevil the country and our community for years to come.
Not Clean or Carbon Free
Anything that is manufactured has a carbon footprint. Nuclear power is low carbon, not carbon free. When calculating the true carbon footprint of any fuel, you must look at the entire fuel cycle from cradle to grave or for nuclear power from mining uranium to disposing of the high-level radioactive waste.
Sustainable energy is the goal. The best definition of that is from Harlem Brundtland, a former Norwegian Prime Minister who stated that “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Decommissioning and Holtec
What is next for Indian Point? Decommissioning! This means cleaning up the property in a prompt, safe manner and returning it to a greenfield that can be safely reused. Rapid decommissioning could take from 12 to 15 years but must be done securely.
The AIM gas pipeline that runs next to the spent fuel building presents one important obstacle to this massive deconstruction process. The threat of a possible rupture and explosion engulfing the spent fuel pool must be taken into account. For more information on this, visit www.senrg.org.
It is important to note that the Nuclear Regulator Commission (NRC) does not have authority over the complete process. They will only supervise anything that is radioactive. Holtec is the company that is in line to do the decommissioning, and therein lies yet another problem. It is a big international corporation based in New Jersey and their unsavory business reputation follows them from New Jersey. The company was embroiled in a well-documented bribery conviction, with representatives later lying about it under oath while seeking a $260 million tax break from the state of New Jersey.
Holtec’s Canadian partner, SNC-Lavalin, has been previously barred for a decade from World Bank contracts for similar malfeasance. Despite the fact that Holtec is lobbying hard in Congress for centralized interim storage in New Mexico, the irradiated fuel rods will remain on site for an indefinite period of time as current law requires.
Entergy estimates that when all of the fuel rods are in dry casks, they will take up the area of about two football fields. Moving this high-level radioactive waste to contaminate another community that does not want it is undemocratic at best and some would say immoral.
New York is poised to make great strides in decarbonizing the economy of our state through the recently passed Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. New York now has laws in place and will soon have maps of the carbon footprints of our communities so that we can work to reduce them. People in different regions of our state are meeting now and figuring out how to meet the high goals set by this law.
You will be hearing more about this as these groups reach out to others in their communities. Hopefully many New Yorkers will look for an opportunity to participate. Fossil fuels and uranium must remain in the ground in order to avoid ever worst aspects of climate change. Things must change. We cannot continue on our regular path using uranium and fossil fuels if we are to hand over a livable planet to future generations.
To hear the voices of people from other reactor communities as well as that of New York experts on the problems and solutions we are all facing at Indian Point, see the 2020 Virtual Regional Decommissioning Forum: Forum video on YouTube at https://youtu.be/cLOvoABmVJAr or visit the Clearwater website for the Fall 2020 Virtual Indian Point Decommissioning Forum: ttps://www.clearwater.org/ea/fall-2020-regional-nuclear-decommissioning-forum/.
Marilyn Elie is a co-founder of Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition and has tracked events at Indian Point over the past 25 years.