The owner of the Indian Point nuclear power plant, the prospective owner and several stakeholders, including New York state, have reached an agreement regarding the decommissioning of the Westchester County-based plant. This comes as the plant permanently shuts down by the end of the month.
The joint proposal has been submitted to the New York state Public Service Commission for approval and is available for public comment. The provisional agreement was negotiated by New York state, current Indian Point owner Entergy, Holtec International, Westchester County, the local school district and local governments, Riverkeeper and the Public Utility Law Project. If approved by the PSC, the agreement would transfer ownership of the nuclear power facility to Holtec, which would be responsible for the decommissioning and remediation of the facility and site. Richard Webster is legal program director for Riverkeeper.
“Obviously, we didn’t get everything we wanted but, we feel like we have definitely, by far, the best deal in the nation on decommissioning,” says Webster.
One point of contention has been the decommissioning trust fund and concerns over whether there would be enough money there.
“The key thing is that Holtec had proposed to take around $600 million of the $2.1 billion trust fund and use that for spent fuel management. They then have the ability to get some of that back from the Department of Energy,” Webster says. “And what we’ve agreed is that they will put at least half of that money, and up to all of that money, back into the trust fund when they recover it. So in other words, we basically made sure that $600 million doesn’t just disappear into Holtec’s coffers before the job is done.”
The agreement contains several other financial requirements. Governor Andrew Cuomo, speaking Wednesday on a press call ahead of Thursday’s announcement, mentioned the upcoming permanent shutdown of the plant.
“Closing Indian Point was, at one time, one of the main progressive causes in this state,” Cuomo says. “It’s not being against nuclear power. We have nuclear power plants in this state. It’s that Indian Point is the nuclear power plant that is located to the most densely populated area on the globe.”
The January 2017 announcement that Indian Point would permanently shut down in by 2021 sent local leaders into a tailspin about tax revenues. Joseph Hochreiter is superintendent of the Hendrick Hudson School District. Back then, he was concerned about losing 30 percent of the district’s revenue but feels more at ease with this agreement.
“It gives, gives those municipalities and the school district some breathing room financially. It gives us a little more in terms of a PILOT agreement that we would have had if Indian Point or Entergy continued to operate the plant even though it’s not generating power,” Hochreiter says. “And it’s a sign of good faith that Holtec is interested in working together with all of us.”
PILOT stands for payment in lieu of taxes.
“I think the agreement among all of the parties totaled $7.5 million, so the village receives a bit, the town and the county,” says Hochreiter.
Hochreiter says there is a year of breathing room during which Hendrick Hudson will see $4 million from Holtec.
“What we were aiming to achieve — and when I say we, that includes our friends from the village and the town — was, we were aiming to achieve a known quantity for a known period of time so we could begin building at least another year out of our financial projections,” Hochreiter says. “So it gives us stability Even one year of stability is better than the alternative, and the alternative would have been we’d been fighting and arguing over how much that property should be worth if it were on the tax rolls.”
A Holtec spokesman pointed to a statement from the company president saying Holtec is pleased to have found common ground and reached consensus with the state, and the interested parties, on a Joint Petition that supports the prompt, safe, and efficient decommissioning of Indian Point.
An Entergy spokesman also pointed to a statement from the company’s chairman and CEO saying he is pleased to have reached a comprehensive and equitable agreement relative to the prompt decommissioning of Indian Point with the many stakeholders who were involved in the process. Again, Riverkeeper’s Webster:
“I think the important thing is that this gets the cleanup moving quickly with it’s going to state standards rather than federal standards, which are weaker,” Webster says. “And it has very tight supervision by the state.”
If the agreement is adopted, the parties who have sued the Nuclear Regulatory Commission over the license transfer will drop their suits — state Attorney General Letitia James, Riverkeeper, the Town of Cortlandt, and the Hendrick Hudson School District. An NRC spokesman says the Commission has no comment on the proposed settlement agreement, and will review it.
As of April 15, Unit 3’s power level was at 82 percent en route to the permanent shutdown. Indian Point Unit 2 permanently shut down in April 2020. Indian Point Unit 1 was shut down in 1974. Governor Cuomo says trying to shut down Indian Point has been on his agenda for more than two decades, because of safety and the plant’s proximity to New York City.
“And it has been a very long road. I took it up as attorney general with Entergy. We went back and forth, back and forth but, the day has finally come,” says Cuomo. “And people in downstate New York will be the safer for it. That is inarguable.”
The PSC is slated to vote on the proposal May 13th.