After a high-profile leak of radioactive material into groundwater last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that the Indian Point nuclear power plant near New York City will close by April of 2021. Cuomo said Monday:
“For 15 years, I have been deeply concerned by the continuing safety violations at Indian Point, especially given its location in the largest and most densely populated metropolitan region in the country. I am proud to have secured this agreement with Entergy to responsibly close the facility 14 years ahead of schedule, to protect the safety of all New Yorkers.”
Just in the years since 2012, the plant has seen 40 “safety events,” “operational events,” and plant shutdowns. These events have called into question the stability and safety of operations at the plant. In one 2015 incident, excrement from a “large bird” led to an arc between power lines and a transmission tower. In April of last year, Entergy, the operator of the plant, said that it had found damaged and even missing bolts in one of the plant’s reactors.
One safety assessment published by The Guardian last year found that proposed natural gas pipelines on Indian Point property posed more potential damage than was accounted for by the assessment. Part of the assessment was even drawn by hand.
Environmental groups in the area have long pushed to have the plant closed, while the plant’s 1000 employees want it to remain open.
Entergy CEO Leo Denault said in a statement on the closure that Entergy was “committed to treating our employees fairly and will help those interested in other opportunities to relocate within the Entergy system.”
One long-time advocate for closing the plant, Paul Gallay, from activist group Riverkeeper, said to the Guardian:
“Given the scope of the risk Indian Point poses, this is an essential step to a safer and more secure New York.”
Gallay said the cleanup process could finally begin with the closing of the plant.
“The very first priority is to get the spent fuel out of the overpacked storage pools where it’s resided for the whole 45-year length of the operation of the facility. This agreement requires that and must be followed by prompt and full radiological decommissioning.”
He said he was pleased that the “necessary cleanup work can begin in earnest”.