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Advocates Host Forum On Indian Point Decommissioning

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

Local officials and environmental advocates are expressing concern over the future of the decommissioning of the Indian Point nuclear power facility in Westchester County.

Last week, state officials celebrated a sale agreement of Indian Point from parent company Entergy to Holtec International, the entity tasked with decommissioning the site.

Indian Point ceased operations at the end of April.

The sale agreement was brokered by New York State Attorney General Tish James, who said last week the agreement with Holtec “certifies we can move forward with a decommissioning process that is safe, responsible, thorough, and exceeds stringent federal standards.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo in a statement called the agreement brokered after years of negotiations “a win for the health and safety of New Yorkers, and the protection of our environment.”

Along with the agreement, the Attorney General, environmental organization Riverkeeper, and the Town of Cortlandt and neighboring Hendrick Hudson School District were to withdraw a lawsuit against the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission regarding the decommissioning process.

Wednesday night, environmental non-profit Clearwater held a virtual forum for environmental advocates, local officials, and members of the public to express their concerns and hopes for the decommissioning process.

Manna Jo Greene, an Ulster County legislator and Environmental Action Director at Clearwater, takes issue with the rapid-style decommissioning that is being pursued by Holtec, referred to as DECON.

She cited potential risks for workers and impacts from contaminated sediment and dust.

“So there’s potential contamination to the community at large, and there could be higher cleanup costs. But given how rushed the cleanup that Holtec is planning, that may not be the case. Their whole idea is quick and dirty and keep what’s left in the decommissioning fund.”

Under the sale agreement approved by the New York State Public Service Commission, Holtec proposes to “complete the vast majority of the decommissioning at Indian Point (except for the ISFSI) and secure partial Site Release by the end of 2036, and potentially as early as 2033.”

The agreement also states Holtec’s DECON plan would “accelerate release and reuse, restoring the property tax base for local communities, driving industry, encouraging new investment and innovation as the State implements its Green New Deal, and creating jobs in ways that would otherwise be unavailable.”

Greene said Clearwater prefers a decommissioning plan that would take longer – up to 20 years – but would take into account “all of the protections that would be put into place.”

Under the agreement, the New York State Department of Public Service will be tasked with putting into place an oversight board for the decommissioning.

Vanessa Agudello, a Peekskill city council member, doubts the effectiveness of an oversight board unless it includes representation from the most impacted – including Black and brown community members in the localities surrounding Indian Point. She says the public was “sidelined and ignored” in the Indian Point transfer process.

“Even calls for public hearings to NRC were also ignored. So it’s for these reasons and many others that it gives me very little hope for what an oversight board can truly accomplish if it’s not given the serious teeth it needs to truly have real oversight, and if it’s not truly representative of the people who have the most at stake, so that environmental justice communities like ours don’t get shortchanged,” said Agudelo.

Another concern brought up Wednesday relates to the Danskammer gas-fired power plant in Newburgh, north of Indian Point.

Advocates worry that the closing of Indian Point will encourage the “re-firing” of the plant.

Amber Grant is a councilperson in the City of Beacon, across the river from the Danskammer plant.

“Many proponents of Danskammer point to the closure of Indian Point and cite an inaccurate need to replace the energy coming from that plant. So not only is it the wrong solution to turn to fossil fuels but we are being asked to bear a greater burden by subjecting these environmental justice communities from hosting these polluting plants,” said Grant.

Following presentations from stakeholders, participants broke into smaller groups to continue the conversation around Indian Point.

Clearwater says it plants to host more community forums throughout the summer.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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