Indian Point Energy Center
|Indian Point Energy Center|
Entergy's Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC) seen from across the Hudson River.
|Location||Buchanan, New York|
Unit 2: August 1, 1974
Unit 3: August 30, 1976
|Nuclear power station|
Unit 2: 1,020 MW
Unit 3: 1,025 MW
Unit 2: 8,842 GWh
Unit 3: 7,797 GWh
Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC) is a three-unit nuclear power plant station located in Buchanan, New York just south of Peekskill. It sits on the east bank of the Hudson River, 38 miles north of New York City. The plant generates over 2,000 megawatts of electrical power, comprising as much as 30 percent of the electricity used in New York City and Westchester county.
The plant is owned and operated by Entergy Nuclear Northeast, a subsidiary of Entergy Corporation, and includes two operating Westinghouse pressurized water reactors – designated "Indian Point 2" and "Indian Point 3" – which Entergy bought from Consolidated Edison and the New York Power Authority respectively. The facility also contains the permanently shut-down Indian Point Unit 1 reactor. Total combined employment at the Buchanan plant and the White Plains offices is over 1,600.
There is a debate between Entergy and various opponents over whether the two Indian Point reactors should continue to operate beyond September 2013 and December 2015, when their respective initial forty-year operating licenses are scheduled to expire. Entergy has applied for license extensions and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is moving toward granting a twenty-year extension for each reactor. Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo, however, wants them shut down at the end of their current license periods. As of midnight on September 28, 2013, Unit 2 has entered its "Period of Extended Operation" (PEO) until the NRC makes a final determination on its license renewal application.
Indian Point 1, built by Consolidated Edison, was the first of three reactors at this location. It was a 275-megawatt pressurized water reactor which was issued an operating license on March 26, 1962 and began operations on September 16, 1962. The first core at the Indian Point power station used a thorium-based fuel, but did not live up to expectations. The plant was operated with uranium oxide fuel for the remainder of its life.
The Unit 1 reactor was shut down on October 31, 1974 because the emergency core cooling system did not meet regulatory requirements. All spent fuel was removed from the reactor vessel by January 1976. The licensee, Entergy, plans to decommission Unit 1 when Unit 2 is decommissioned.
The two additional reactors, Indian Point 2 and 3, were built in 1974 and 1976 respectively. Unit 2 generates up to 1,025 MW while Unit 3 generates up to 1,040 MW. The reactors at Indian Point are protected by containment domes made of steel-reinforced concrete that is four- to six-feet thick.
Nuclear capacity in New York State
Indian Point Units 2 and 3 are two of six operating nuclear energy sources in New York state. New York is one of the five largest states in terms of nuclear capacity and generation, accounting for approximately 5% of the national totals. Nuclear power is less than 13% of New York’s electric capacity, but it produces nearly 30% of the State’s electricity. Although many States with similarly sized nuclear industries are net electricity exporters, New York has historically been an electricity importer due to its high consumption.
An April 2004 report by the Nuclear Energy Institute found that “the total economic impact of the Indian Point plant on Westchester, Orange, Rockland, Putnam and Dutchess counties for 2002 was $763.3 million. Indian Point’s total impact on New York State’s economy for the same period was $811.7 million and $1.5 billion for the U.S. economy.
“The economic activity generated by Indian Point create(d) another 1,200 jobs in the five-county region. Given the combination of employees at the plant and secondary jobs created by Indian Point’s economic activity, the plant is responsible for 2,500 jobs in Westchester, Orange, Rockland, Putnam and Dutchess counties.”
According to The New York Times, the Indian Point plant “has encountered a string of accidents and mishaps since its beginnings, and has appeared on the federal list of the nation’s worst nuclear power plants”. A 2003 report commissioned by then Governor George Pataki concluded that the "current radiological response system and capabilities are not adequate to...protect the people from an unacceptable dose of radiation in the event of a release from Indian Point". On March 10, 2009 the Indian Point Power Plant was awarded the fifth consecutive top safety rating for annual operations by the Federal regulators. According to the Hudson Valley Journal News, the plant had shown substantial improvement in its safety culture in the previous two years.
- In 1973, five months after Indian Point 2 opened, the plant was shut down when engineers discovered buckling in the steel liner of the concrete dome in which the nuclear reactor is housed.
- On October 17, 1980, 100,000 gallons of Hudson River water leaked into the Indian Point 2 containment building from the fan cooling unit, undetected by a safety device designed to detect hot water. The flooding, covering the first 9 feet of the reactor vessel, was discovered when technicians entered the building. Two pumps which should have removed the water were found to be inoperative. NRC proposed a $2,100,000 fine for the incident.
- There was intense scrutiny of the Indian Point plant between 1993 and 1997, when it was on the Federal list of the nation's worst nuclear power plants.
- In February 2000, the most serious incident at the plant occurred, when a small radioactive leak from a steam generator tube forced the plant to close for 11 months.
- In 2001, a series of leaks sprung up in non-nuclear parts of the plant.
- In 2005, Entergy workers while digging discovered a small leak in a spent fuel pool. Water containing tritium and strontium-90 was leaking through a crack in the pool building "and then finding its way into the nearby Hudson River." Workers were able to keep the fuel rods "safely covered" despite the leak. On March 22, 2006 The New York Times also reported finding radioactive nickel-63 and strontium in groundwater on site.
- In 2007, a transformer at Unit 3 caught fire, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission raised its level of inspections, because the plant had experienced many unplanned shutdowns. According to The New York Times, Indian Point "has a history of transformer problems".
- On April 23, 2007, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission fined the owner of the Indian Point nuclear plant $130,000 for failing to meet a deadline for a new emergency siren plan. The 150 sirens at the plant are meant to alert residents within 10 miles to a plant emergency. Since 2008, a Rockland County based private company has taken over responsibility for the infrastructure used to trigger and maintain the ATI siren system. The sirens, once plagued with failures, have functioned nearly flawlessly ever since.
- On January 7, 2010, NRC inspectors reported that an estimated 600,000 gallons of mildly radioactive steam was intentionally vented to the atmosphere after an automatic shutdown of Unit 2. After the vent, one of the vent valves unintentionally remained slightly open for two days. The levels of tritium in the steam were within the allowable safety limits defined in NRC standards.
- On November 7, 2010, an explosion occurred in the main transformer for Indian Point 2, spilling oil into the Hudson River. Entergy later agreed to pay a $1.2 million penalty for the transformer explosion.
During the September 11 attacks, American Airlines Flight 11 flew near the Indian Point Energy Center en route to the World Trade Center. Mohamed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers/plotters, had considered nuclear facilities for targeting in a terrorist attack. Entergy says it is prepared for a terrorist attack, and asserts that a large airliner crash into the containment building would not cause reactor damage. Following 9/11 the NRC required operators of nuclear facilities in the U.S. to examine the effects of terrorist events and provide planned responses. In September 2006, the Indian Point Security Department successfully completed mock assault exercises required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. However, according to environmental group Riverkeeper, these NRC exercises are inadequate because they do not envision a sufficiently large group of attackers.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation states that the spent fuel pools at Indian Point are "exposed and unsecured" and therefore "vulnerable to attack". According to The New York Times, fuel stored in dry casks is "less vulnerable to terrorist attack than fuel in the storage pools".
Indian Point stores used fuel rods in two spent fuel pools at the facility. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Indian Point spent fuel pools, which contain more nuclear material than the reactors, "have no containment structure". While the spent fuel pools at Indian Point are not stored under a containment dome like the reactor, they are contained within a 40-foot-deep pool and submerged under 27 feet of water. The spent fuel pools at Indian Point are made of concrete walls that are four to six feet wide with a half-inch thick stainless steel inner liner. According to Jonathan Alter, the pools are located in bedrock, not above-ground as at many other plants including the Japanese ones.
Indian Point began "dry casking" spent fuel rods in 2008, a "safer alternative", according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Some rods have already been moved to casks from the spent fuel pools, which will be kept "nearly full of spent fuel, leaving enough space to allow emptying the reactor completely should that become necessary." Dry cask storage systems are designed to resist floods, tornadoes, projectiles, temperature extremes, and other unusual scenarios. NRC requires the spent fuel to be cooled and stored in the spent fuel pool for at least five years before being transferred to dry casks.
In 2008, researchers from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory located a previously unknown active seismic zone running from Stamford, Connecticut, to the Hudson Valley town of Peekskill, New York – the intersection of the Stamford-Peekskill line with the well-known Ramapo Fault – which passes less than a mile north of the Indian Point nuclear power plant. The Ramapo Fault is the longest fault in the Northeast, but scientists dispute how active this roughly 200 million-year-old fault really is. Many earthquakes in the state’s surprisingly varied seismic history are believed to have occurred on or near it. Visible at ground level, the fault line likely extends as deep as nine miles below the surface.
According to a company spokesman, Indian Point was built to withstand an earthquake of 6.1 on the Richter scale. Entergy executives have also noted "that Indian Point had been designed to withstand an earthquake much stronger than any on record in the region, though not one as powerful as the quake that rocked Japan."
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's estimate of the risk each year of an earthquake intense enough to cause core damage to the reactor at Indian Point was Reactor 2: 1 in 30,303; Reactor 3: 1 in 10,000, according to an NRC study published in August 2010. Msnbc.com reported based on the NRC data that "Indian Point nuclear reactor No. 3 has the highest risk of earthquake damage in the country, according to new NRC risk estimates provided to msnbc.com." According to the report, the reason is that plants in known earthquake zones like California were designed to be more quake-resistant than those in less affected areas like New York. The NRC did not dispute the numbers but responded in a release that "The NRC results to date should not be interpreted as definitive estimates of seismic risk," because the NRC does not rank plants by seismic risk.
In July 2013, Entergy engineers reassessed the risk of seismic damage to Unit 3 and submitted their findings in a report to the NRC. It was found that risk leading to reactor core damage is 1 in 106,000 reactor years using U.S. Geological Survey data; and 1 in 141,000 reactor years using Electric Power Research Institute data. Unit 3's previous owner, the New York Power Authority, had conducted a more limited analysis in the 1990s than Unit 2's previous owner, Con Edison, leading to the impression that Unit 3 had fewer seismic protections than Unit 2. Neither submission of data from the previous owners was incorrect.
IPEC Units 2 and 3 both operated at 100% full power before, during, and after the Virginia earthquake on August 23, 2011. A thorough inspection of both units by plant personnel immediately following this event verified no significant damage occurred at either unit.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission defines two emergency planning zones around nuclear power plants: a plume exposure pathway zone with a radius of 10 miles (16 km), concerned primarily with exposure to, and inhalation of, airborne radioactive contamination, and an ingestion pathway zone of about 50 miles (80 km), concerned primarily with ingestion of food and liquid contaminated by radioactivity.
According to an analysis of U.S. Census data for msnbc.com, the 2010 U.S. population within 10 miles (16 km) of Indian Point was 272,539, an increase of 17.6 percent during the previous ten years. The 2010 U.S. population within 50 miles (80 km) was 17,220,895, an increase of 5.1 percent since 2000. Cities within 50 miles include New York (41 miles to city center); Bridgeport, Conn. (40 miles); Newark, N.J. (39 miles); and Stamford, Conn. (24 miles).
In the wake of the 2011 Fukushima incident in Japan, the State Department recommended that any Americans in Japan stay beyond fifty miles from the area. Columnist Peter Applebome, writing in The New York Times, noted that such an area around Indian Point would include "almost all of New York City except for Staten Island; almost all of Nassau County and much of Suffolk; all of Bergen County, N.J.; all of Fairfield, Conn." He quotes Purdue University professor Daniel Aldrich as saying "Many scholars have already argued that any evacuation plans shouldn't be called plans, but rather "fantasy documents"".
The current 10-mile plume-exposure pathway Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) is one of two EPZs intended to facilitate a strategy for protective action during an emergency and comply with NRC regulations. “The exact size and shape of each EPZ is a result of detailed planning which includes consideration of the specific conditions at each site, unique geographical features of the area, and demographic information. This preplanned strategy for an EPZ provides a substantial basis to support activity beyond the planning zone in the extremely unlikely event it would be needed.”
In an interview, Entergy executives said they doubt that the evacuation zone would be expanded to reach as far as New York City.
On May 2, 2007, the NRC announced that the "License Renewal Application for Indian Point Nuclear Plant is available for Public Inspection". This initiated Entergy's effort to extend the operating licenses of each unit by 20 years. The original federal license for Unit Two expired on September 28, 2013; Unit Three's license is due to expire in December 2015. Because the owner submitted license renewal applications at least five years prior to the original expiration date, the units are allowed to continue operation past this date while the NRC decides to renew the licenses or not.
On September 23, 2007, Friends United for Sustainable Energy (FUSE) filed legal papers with the NRC opposing the relicensing of the Indian Point 2 reactor. The group contends that the NRC improperly held Indian Point to less stringent design requirements. The NRC responds that the newer requirements were put in place after the plant was complete.
On December 1, 2007, Westchester County Executive Andrew J. Spano, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, and New York Governor Eliot Spitzer called a press conference with the participation of environmental advocacy groups Clearwater and Riverkeeper to announce their united opposition to the re-licensing of the Indian Point nuclear power plants. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Office of the Attorney General requested a hearing as part of the process put forth by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In September 2007 The New York Times reported on the rigorous legal opposition Entergy faces in its request for a 20-year licensing extension for Indian Point Nuclear Reactor 2.
A water quality certificate is a prerequisite for a twenty-year renewal by the NRC. On 3 April 2010, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ruled that Indian Point violates the federal Clean Water Act, because "the power plant’s water-intake system kills nearly a billion aquatic organisms a year, including the shortnose sturgeon, an endangered species." The state is demanding Entergy construct new closed-cycle cooling towers, at a cost of over $1B, a decision that will effectively close the plant for nearly a year. Regulators denied Entergy's request to install fish screens that they said would improve fish mortality more than new cooling towers. The plant’s troubled history has long concerned anti-nuclear groups and environmentalists, who have tried to close the reactor, which is in a more densely populated area than any of the 66 other nuclear plant sites in the US. Opposition to the plant increased after the September 2001 terror attacks, when one of the hijacked jets flew close to the plant on its way to the World Trade Center. Public worries also increased after the 2011 Japanese Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and after a report highlighting the Indian Point plant’s proximity to the Ramapo Fault.
Advocates of recertifying Indian Point include former New York City mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph W. Giuliani. Bloomberg says that "Indian Point is critical to the city's economic viability". According to New York Independent System Operator spokesman Ken Klapp: "Without Indian Point, system voltages would also degrade, limiting the ability to transfer power from upstate New York resources through the Hudson Valley to New York City." Giuliani, hired by Entergy to promote the plants, agrees: “When you compare the risk to what it brings back, 25 percent of the electricity, it seems to me the idea of closing it would be a catastrophe for New York City,” he said.
As the current governor, Andrew Cuomo continues to call for closure of Indian Point. In late June 2011, a Cuomo advisor in a meeting with Entergy executives informed them for the first time directly of the Governor's intention to close the plant, while the legislature approved a bill to streamline the process of siting replacement plants.
Nuclear energy industry figures and analysts responded to Cuomo's initiative by questioning whether replacement electrical plants could be certified and built rapidly enough to replace Indian Point, given New York state's "cumbersome regulation process", and also noted that replacement power from out of state sources will be hard to obtain because "New York has weak ties to generation capacity in other states." They said that possible consequences of closure will be a sharp increase in the cost of electricity for downstate users and even "rotating black-outs".
Several members of the House of Representatives representing districts near the plant have also opposed recertification, including Democrats Nita Lowey, Maurice Hinchey, and Eliot Engel and then Republican member Sue Kelly.
- American Nuclear Society
- Anti-nuclear movement in the United States
- Brittle Power
- Consolidated Edison
- Entergy Corporation
- Environmentalist movement
- Nuclear accidents in the United States
- Nuclear and radiation accidents
- Nuclear Energy Institute
- Nuclear Information and Resource Service
- Nuclear safety in the U.S.
- Union of Concerned Scientists
- Vulnerability of nuclear plants to attack
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- Matthew L. Wald, "News Analysis: If Indian Point Closes, Plenty of Challenges", 'The New York Times', July 14, 2011, p. A21.
- "Lowey Urges FEMA To Reject Recertification of Indian Point Evacuation Plans" However all these claims are not founded in facts, and Indian Point will continue to operate for many more years.01/27/06 http://lowey.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=18&parentid=17§iontree=17,18&itemid=246
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- NRC: Indian Point Unit 2
- NRC: Indian Point Unit 3
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- Indian Point 1 (drawing)