Two citizen environmental groups claim a new report shows thatposes a threat drinking water for more 11 million people, but Indian Point says there is little basis for their claims.
Riverkeeper and Environment New York claim that a new Environment New York study shows that if a catastrophe like melt down occurred in New York “radiation exposure could contaminate our drinking water and increase the risk of cancer and other illnesses.” During an afternoon press conference on Tuesday, the Hudson River Program Director of Riverkeeper, Phillip Musegass, and a field organizer from Environment New York, Eric Whalen, summarized the report, “Too Close to Home: Nuclear Power and the Threat to Drinking Water,” and said Indian Point puts 11 million New Yorkers’ drinking water at risk and that the nuclear energy plant should not be relicensed.
Indian Point spokesman Jerry Nappi and New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance refute these claims, stating that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has found IPEC to be safe, and that it is virtually impossible for a Fukushima level catastrophe to hit the Hudson Valley. Nappi said there is no proof that there are radiological risks associated with contaminated water.
“They make comparisons with Fukushima and what happened over there so you have to start with how these plants are designed,” Nappi said. to withstand twice as much flooding as the worst flooding this area has ever seen and 100 times greater than the worst earthquake we have ever experienced.”
Nappi said there was evidence that the Fukushima area had experienced worse tsunamis than the one that caused last year’s meltdown. Nappi also said that even in the case of the Three Mile Island accident, when a third of the plant’s fuel melted down, there were no radiological consequences.
“Indian point is designed to keep radioactivity inside the containment zone,” he said, adding that Indian Point was designed with extra precaution because of its location.
The environmental groups look at Fukushima as a warning. “Fukushima shows us the risks are real and the consequences (of an accident at Indian Point) could be catastrophic and worse than what we saw in Japan,” Riverkeeper’s Musegass, said at the press conference. Musegrass and Whalen highlighted other findings in claiming: Indian Point threatens more than twice as many people than any other nuclear facility in the country (because of the threat to drinking water); that Unit 2 own because of a pump that was leaking radioactive coolant, that local bodies of water used to help cool nuclear reactors are at risk of contamination and that as nuclear facilities get older leaks are more common. The report Whalen summarized states that IPEC should not be relicensed, for ground water to be monitored in the mean time, and for the facility to be replaced with an alternative energy source.
In response to Riverkeepers’ claims, Nappi said that there was no release of radioactivity when the pump seal failed on Jan. 10, (Unit 2 was shut down on that day and the reactor was returned to service on Jan. 19); and there is no proof that local bodies of water are at risk of contamination. In response to whether or not leaks are more likely as plants age, Nappi said that the seal pump that recently failed was only installed a few years ago and that many parts of the reactors are regularly replaced and are not aging. Regarding ground water tests, Indian Point has ground water monitoring wells on site that serve essentially as an early warning system to show if a pip was leaking anything into the ground water, Nappi said.
The New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (which will hold a forum with Riverkeeper at Columbia University on March 1) agrees with Nappi that the plant is safe, despite Riverkeeper’s claims that it’s age makes it more vulnerable to accidents. AREA says that “Indian Point is getting even safer as lessons about best practices are learned and applied through the nuclear power industry. Indian Point also makes the region cleaner and safer by helping ensure a reliable grid, through clean power production.”
During this afternoon’s press conference Musegass said that the new study includes information about a wide-range of alternative energy sources that could replace Indian Point in five to ten years. A Riverkeeper document states that “The current surplus of electricity capacity in downstate New York and the availability of imported power means that if Indian Point is not relicensed and shuts down in 2015, and no other actions are taken, there will be no impacts on reliability of electricity supply in the region until 2020, providing ample time to plan for and put in place the energy alternatives.”
Indian Point Units 2 and 3 are up for re-licensing in 2013 and 2015, respectively. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the plant's equipment can operate safely for next 20 years, Nappi said. The relicensing process will reach a point where contentions are heard by a separate branch of the NRC in the form of public hearings, to be held sometime this spring.
Keep up with the latest on Indian Point public hearings, protests, relicensing process and information on Patch.