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Planned Indian Point Sale Sparks Questions From Task Force Members

WAMC, Allison Dunne

The Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York is a year away from permanently closing one of its two operating reactors. After the plant shuts down, it will be sold.

The sixth meeting of the Indian Point Closure Task Force was held about a week after Indian Point’s parent company Entergy announced it would sell the plant after shutting down. Entergy agreed to a post-shutdown sale of the Buchanan-based plant to a subsidiary of Holtec International. An April 25 meeting of the Task Force included information from Entergy officials about the sale. Task force member Sandy Galef, whose state Assembly district includes Indian Point, is eager to learn more from Holtec but believes the proposed sale makes sense and felt the meeting overall was positive.

“Holtec, who will take it over and be the decommissioning company seems to be committing to getting it done faster, not waiting. Entergy said it could be up to 60 years; that would not be a good plan. And so that they could get it done quicker, which would mean they’d be able to use the property sooner for other economic opportunities,” says Galef. “There are a couple pieces of property there right now that could be used, and whether Holtec will let them spin those properties off, I don’t know whether they will or they won’t.”

In a statement announcing the intended sale, Holtec’s president said the company would complete decommissioning decades sooner than Entergy, potentially releasing the site considerably earlier for redevelopment, which could benefit the local economy. Democratic state Senator Pete Harckham’s 40th District contains Indian Point.

“The real questions need to be answered by Holtec, and Entergy said that they thought Holtec would be willing to come to the next meeting to address those questions,” Harckham says. “I have concerns about the jobs; there are 1,200 jobs there. So I have legislation to protect those jobs saying that Holtec would need to go to the existing workers first and pay them what they’re being paid now once those union contracts expire.”

Harckham introduced his bill about a week ago. Holtec’s president, also in the statement, says the company will hire Entergy’s employees at Indian Point who are employed at the site at the time of the transaction and identified by Entergy as being required for that phase of decommissioning. Assemblywoman Galef also has concerns for Indian Point employees.

“There was somebody there from the Labor Department, and they’re still working on trying to reformat people’s jobs into other solar industry or some other industry or maybe working for Con Ed or the New York Power Authority,” says Galef. “So there’s work going on with that with training and getting resumes out and so on.”

Harckham has additional concerns.

“I’m concerned about this being done safely and responsibly, as many of the community members are. And I’m also concerned about the state cessation fund to make these communities whole as the tax payments from Entergy are gradually reduced,” Harckham says. “So there are a lot of moving parts. I think everyone right now is working in good faith, but there are a lot of questions that we need to answer together.”

Democratic Westchester County Legislator Catherine Borgia sits on the task force.

“We want to make sure that the necessary environmental and economic impacts of closing plants are considered for the very long term because we’re going to house in our community the spent fuel rods for a very, very, very long time,” Borgia says. “And we want to make sure that the custodial responsibility for those are very well understood among all the players because we don’t think it’s fair for people who live in the vicinity of a decommissioned power plant should have to worry that they’re not being properly monitored, that their safety is not being properly monitored.”

Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan:

“They want to do to the prompt decommissioning, which would call for dismantling the structures in the near term, radiologically cleaning up the site, and then they would have to manage the spent fuel for, until such point as the federal government is able to take the fuel from the property,” Sheehan says. “And so we have not yet received a license transfer application from Holtec and Entergy. And so, we’ll wait to see that.”

Holtec is interested in purchasing a number of nuclear power plants, including Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Massachusetts and Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in New Jersey. And the NRC has to approve the license transfer application. Sheehan says that opens the opportunity for anybody to request a public hearing.

“We tell companies that are interested in these kind of license transfers to expect it to take up to about a year,” says Sheehan. “It really depends on the quality of the submission, the number of questions we have and whether or not a hearing is granted.”

Meantime, Assemblywoman Galef says shared services are being discussed for the impacted village.

“Buchanan is obviously thinking about what they could maybe shed and have the Town of Cortlandt take over or the county take over,” Galef says.

Again, state Senator Harckham:

“This was my first meeting, and we wanted to get our feet wet,” says Harckham. “What I would like to see is more work done in between the task force meetings, perhaps as working groups.”

Indian Point Unit 2 and Unit 3 are scheduled to shut down by April 30, 2020 and April 30, 2021, respectively. Indian Point Unit 1 was shut down in 1974.

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