The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a final supplement to its Environmental Impact Statement regarding New York’s Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. Included are plans to monitor two species, one in the Hudson River.
In August 2017, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries designated critical habitats for the endangered Atlantic sturgeon along the East Coast, including the New York Bight. This prompted NRC staff to consult with NOAA Fisheries regarding impacts of Indian Point’s operations on the Atlantic sturgeon. NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan says his agency, the National Marine Fisheries Service and Indian Point’s parent company Entergy met in October. The NRC requested that the NMFS grant a “not likely to adversely affect” determination and now, says Sheehan, the NMFS has done so.
“So this is the second and final Environmental Impact Statement supplement for Indian Point that we have issued. And we are working towards issuing a decision on the license renewal application itself sometime this year, later this year,” Sheehan says. “You may ask, well, why is that? They reached an agreement with the state to close down Indian Point 2 in 2020 and Indian Point 3 in 2021. Well, they still have to go through the NRC process of getting a license extension. Their initial license expired a number of years ago.”
In fact, Entergy’s initial relicensing process began in 2007. The agreement reached in January 2017 to close Indian Point says Entergy will submit a six-year license application to the NRC. Entergy, New York state, and other organizations would terminate litigation against one another, allowing the relicensing to move forward. NRC has approved Entergy’s monitoring plan.
“They came up with a plan that includes, among other things, checking the trash racks at the plant. In other words, when they’re taking in water from the Hudson River for cooling purposes, they filter out any kind of debris to make sure it’s not getting into their cooling systems. They need to check that for this Atlantic sturgeon,” Sheehan says. “They’re bringing in an environmental consultant who will perform monitoring for Atlantic sturgeon. They’ll use this tank-based monitoring system. They’ll do that during the crucial months — April, May, September, October.”
And Entergy will analyze data to measure any impacts. Entergy spokesman Jerry Nappi says intake modifications need to be made before the monitoring plan begins.
“So currently there’s engineers who are putting plans and modifications in place that’ll facilitate the sturgeon monitoring program,” says Nappi. “And that’ll start in the spring of 2019.”
John Lipscomb is patrol boat captain and vice president for advocacy for Riverkeeper, which is a party to the agreement to shut down the Buchanan-based plant. He says the National Marine Fisheries Service is too lax.
“National Marine Fisheries Service, which is charged, a federal agency, which is charged with protecting endangered species, like Atlantic sturgeon, has shown that it is unwilling to take action on behalf of Atlantic sturgeon in the Hudson,” says Lipscomb.
Lipscomb says sturgeon will continue to be impinged on intake screens and young sturgeon will be sucked through the cooling system. He says NMFS has not looked at cumulative impacts of various projects on the Hudson River, including the construction of the new Tappan Zee, or Mario Cuomo Bridge.
“A monitoring program is similar to what’s being done at the Tappan Zee. It’s meant to placate the public. The public will say, well, there’s a monitoring program. That means if there’s a problem, someone’s going to do something about it, right? But nothing ever happens,” Lipscomb says. “The monitoring program just monitors failure.”
An NMFS spokeswoman did not return a request for comment. Also mentioned in the NRC’s supplement to the Environmental Impact Statement is the northern long-eared bat, and Entergy’s plan to monitor the threatened species. Again, Sheehan.
“They had to develop a plan to make sure that there would be minimal impacts on this bat in the remaining time that the plant has left,” says Sheehan.
Meantime, the NRC has scheduled its annual public meeting on Indian Point’s safety performance for June 21 in Tarrytown from 7 to 9 p.m.