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NYS PSC Hearings On Indian Point License Transfer Draw Numerous Comments

Indian Point nuclear power plant, Buchanan, NY
WAMC, Allison Dunne
Indian Point nuclear power plant, Buchanan, NY

The New York state Public Service Commission held two virtual public hearings Tuesday on the proposed license transfer for the Indian Point nuclear power plant. The hearings are to help determine whether the PSC should exercise jurisdiction over the proposed transfer. The plant in Westchester County is slated to permanently shut down at the end of April.

More than 50 speakers delivered comments during the afternoon hearing, which ran about four hours. The speakers ranged from elected officials to union members to environmentalists to residents outside New York who have seen Holtec operate in their communities. In November, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the license transfer from Entergy Nuclear to Holtec International, as owner, and Holtec Decommissioning International, as decommissioning operator. Theresa Knickerbocker is mayor of the Village of Buchanan, home of Indian Point.

“So I just want it to be clear that we want this done safely, we want the property restored, and that’s, that’s the main point here,” says Buchanan.

Holtec has touted its ability to decommission the plant in 10 years, as opposed to the 50 or 60 years it would take if Entergy retained ownership. And Knickerbocker says under Entergy’s proposed SAFSTOR, under which a nuclear facility is maintained and monitored in a condition that allows the radioactivity to decay, and dismantling and decontamination delayed, is not right for her community.

“We have this is the choice, between a and b, at this point,” Buchanan says. “So obviously, I think the choice to transfer ownership to Holtec is a good one, but clearly we should know who we’re going to be doing business with.”

Others, like Hudson River Sloop Clearwater Environmental Director Manna Jo Greene, disagree that the choice is between Entergy and Holtec. She says there are two other decommissioning companies with more experience than Holtec.

“One is called EnergySolutions, and they decommissioned Zion [Nuclear Power Station, Illinois] and several other facilities very successfully, and they are still very much in business,” Greene says. “And Vermont Yankee was decommissioned by NorthStar, which is now in partnership with Orano and, again, they have vast experience.”

Jerry Kremer is chair of New York AREA or Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, whose members include Entergy.

“Holtec, we think, based on the work they’ve done at Oyster Creek [Nuclear Power Station, New Jersey], at Pilgrim Nuclear Power station [Massachusetts], and other areas, is more than capable of carrying out these responsibilities, if you will, to protect the community as well as getting the job done in a safe manner," Kremer says.

Rockland County resident and attorney Susan Hito-Shapiro:

“I strongly ask the PSC not to grant the subject petition, not to disclaim jurisdiction and not to authorize the transfer of Indian Point and the $2.1 billion decommissioning trust fund to Holtec,” says Hito-Shapiro. “It will cause irreparable harm to the public health and safety of New York state, its people, environment and our finances.”

Ann Fabrizio is deputy director at ArtsWestchester.

“The opponents of the sale have levelled baseless charges against Indian Point’s operators for decades. It’s been good for their fundraising and political maneuvering, but they are not experts, and they don’t have the knowledge or the judgment that the NRC has,” says Fabrizio. “Our choice is clear, between a site fully restored by Holtec by the early 2030s, or an industrial wasteland on the shores of the Hudson that will sit untouched for the next 60 years. Our communities deserve the timeliest and safest decommissioning, and Holtec is the only company that can do it.”

The senior vice president for Historic Hudson Valley also supports the license transfer to Holtec. Rose Gardner, from Eunice, New Mexico, is a staunch Holtec opponent.

“And we are so tired of people around the world trying to push their problems, their nuclear-related messes on us. So I suggest you find an alternative, get yourself cleaned up by a reputable organization that has the money to do it so that they don’t dip into the till, that money that’s supposed to be spent for something else,” Gardner says. “Be very careful with Holtec. I am a New Mexican. I’m a Mexican-American women. I’ve lived here all my life, and I have the right to demand that you be careful.”

The NRC is weighing a proposal from Holtec to build an interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel on New Mexico desert. Other Holtec opponents from New Mexico also delivered comments. Stephen Blades is member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 3.

“The Holtec team is offering employment to more than 300 current Indian Point employees. Holtec will honor all existing collective bargaining agreements. These employees are local residents who will be supporting Holtec’s prompt decommissioning plan,” says Blades. “It also means more local union jobs as well.”

Several other union members spoke in favor of the license transfer as did officials from a number of Westchester business organizations. New York state Attorney General Letitia James on January 22 filed a lawsuit against the NRC following the commission’s denial of the state’s petition for a public hearing on the decommissioning of Indian Point and to intervene in the license transfer. Channing Wister-Jones is New York assistant attorney general and spoke during the PSC’s public hearing on James’ behalf.

“The Office of the Attorney General supports prompt, thorough and safe decommissioning of Indian Point and final restoration of the site, like so many other speakers here today. However, my office is concerned that Entergy and Holtec’s petition to the Public Service Commission does not show that Holtec has what it takes financially or by way of decommissioning experience to successfully assume this immense responsibility,” says Wistar-Jones. “If Holtec proves not up to the task, then New York and its residents will be left holding the bag to complete decommissioning and site restoration.”

Those highly concerned with or opposed to Holtec cite the company’s new entry into the decommissioning business; the NRC’s approval for Holtec to divert more than $600 million in decommissioning activity money to management of the spent fuel casks; and more.

Indian Point Unit 2 permanently shut down in April 2020 and Unit 3 is slated to permanently shut down by April 30th this year. Indian Point Unit 1 was shut down in 1974. Any written comments should be submitted to the PSC by Friday.

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