Join us at the public meeting
July 22nd at Colonial Terrace, 119 Oregon Rd. Cortlandt Manor, NY
Two sessions at 2 PM and 7 PM
Synopsis: Forced outages are the two times during the year when the fish are spawning and the reactors at Indian Point would have to close down. There are three separate scenarios of different lengths that are being proposed. All of this would end up being litigated. DEC is being required to consider this option because it could achieve close to the same results as the Best Technology Available (BTA) which is closed cycle cooling. This is an important public meeting because it will be transcribed and will become part of the draft Environmental Impact Study which will be released eventually for more public comments. Neither DEC nor Entergy wants this method of protecting aquatic organisms. The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board which will rule on renewing the license for Indian Point required it.
The position of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition is that forced outages are operational not technological solutions to the problem of fish kills. Outages would be attached to a permit that would have to be renewed every five years. It is easy to see many different ways that they could disappear. IPSEC supports the BTA which is closed cycle cooling, permanent structures which would last as long as the plant operates and incidentally create a lot of good paying construction jobs.
Summary of Conference call with DEC, July 11, 2014
What follows is an edited report of the meeting from the notes of several of us on the call. Special thanks to Sally who set us up on Titanpad. It is a complex topic and talking with DEC staff was illuminating. I strongly encourage anyone who plans to attend the July 22 meeting to read through to the bottom. The meeting is being held because the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board directed DEC and Entergy to hold a public meeting on the topic of forced outages.
It is not an appropriate place to bring Close Indian Point Now rhetoric. Rather, all comments should be on the relative merits of forced outages only. DEC is concerned with the Hudson River and fish. It is up to us to be concerned about Indian Point – people, pets, plants and property.
-Marilyn Elie, Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition
Q: Why are forced outages being considered? Would forced outages apply to both Unit 2 and 3 or could one unit have closed cycle cooling and the other forced outages? Wouldn’t it make sense to immediately go to forced outages while closed cycle cooling is being built at both reactors?
A: The 2003 Draft DEC permit makes it clear that staff thinks the Best Technology Available (BTA) is closed-cycle cooling. The science says that closed-cycle cooling is the BTA to minimize impingement and entrainment of fish. The Clean Water Act requires them to act accordingly. Outages are not a technology, they are an operational effort. However, the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) demands that reasonable alternatives to mitigate impacts be considered. The cost cannot be wholly disproportionate to the environmental benefit. It is legally prudent for DEC to present all available choices to the final decision maker. Closed-cycle cooling presents its own problems, such as blasting at a site that contains radioactive material in the groundwater, icing, fogging, impact on energy reliability, and cost. Staff spoke of the complexity of this case and how DEC has tried over the years to contain it. The record is huge, complex, and just keeps growing. The issues conference after the public meeting, open only to parties who have standing, will determine if anything else has to be considered. Chances are that it will reveal more issues, resulting in an even more expanded record. Scientists in the DEC have been diligently working on this permit for 11 years. This is a significant part of their professional careers and it has not been easy work, to say the least. What they want is for this very complex hearing proceeding to be over. After experiencing the Albany hearings for just one day, I can certainly understand the sentiment! DEC cannot order Indian Point to go to forced outages while cooling towers are being discussed or built. Nothing will happen until after a decision is rendered by the final decision- maker.
Q: Who is the final decision-maker?
A: Normally it would be the DEC Commissioner. However, the current DEC Commissioner has recused himself from this decision and Lou Alexander is now the appointed fact-finder. He is the Assistant Commissioner for Hearings and Mediation. The final document, after all hearings are complete, will end up on his desk. It is to be expected that his review time will be lengthy because of the amount of material included. He will receive all options and make the final decision for DEC. My understanding is that the decision will then be appealed to a court of law by one of the parties, no matter what the decision is.
Q: Is there an anticipated time schedule for a final decision?
A: No. It is not possible to present an accurate time schedule while so many things are still pending.
Q: The dates and duration of the forced outages will have to be litigated. How is it possible to accurately determine the financial impact on Entergy and whether forced outages are as effective as closed-cycle cooling without knowing the exact time and duration of the outages?
A: Three different lengths of outages have been proposed that would come close to the results achieved with Best Technology Available to varying degrees. The chart in the DEC fact sheet outlines them in detail. Lengths of outages being considered are 42, 62, and 92 days. The longest period, 92 days, would cover the summer, when rates are the highest and could cut revenue in half, while having an effectiveness of 98% on impingement and entrainment of fish. It would also put an end to the myth that Indian Point is vital for electricity to the Westchester/NYC grid. Also to be considered by DEC: how to replace the electricity during outages. It is not clear who would do this study or how much weight it would give to conservation, efficiency, or renewables. This is something that needs to be clarified at the hearing. Normally DEC would not tackle something like this. It is not their area of expertise. All proposals will go to the decision-maker after the work of the administrative law judges is completed. Entergy’s ability to receive capacity payments has not been calculated into the formula. If they are closed, then they cannot enter the capacity market and that will cost them a lot of money. It is to be expected that Entergy will raise this issue in litigation.
Q: What makes the outages permanent?
A: The outages become part of the SPEDES permit that is renewed every 5 years. Considering the prior history of earlier outages, there will be safeguards. However, it is possible that new information can be considered as it unfolds. In the future, this might include the warming of the River due to climate change, changes in migration times of the fish,or other events. It is not clear how much a future “pro-business” (read pro-nuclear), administration would have to say in this matter. It would be essential to diligently monitor the process for the duration of the license, and one can only wonder how much leverage activists and environmental groups would have years from now if a change were proposed.
History of Outages Unbeknownst to most of us, Indian Point has used outages in the past as part of the Hudson River Settlement Agreement that was reached during the ’80’s. The reactors were “voluntarily” closed for a time when the fish were spawning. Entergy did pay money into this fund that was set up as part of the Agreement. Other power plants were also involved. At some point, the time used for refueling outages were counted toward the outages to protect the fish. Eventually a “bank” of days was established which power plants could draw on to cover days when they should have actually been closed to mitigate damage to spawning fish. At some point the requirement for outages went away altogether, probably around 1994. Does anyone else remember anything from this time concerning outages? I certainly don’t. Dates need to be checked and some research done in order to find out more details. Indian Point was owned by Con Ed then and Unit 2 had been closed for a very long period around this time and there was a lot of controversy about bringing it back on line. At this point Entergy is paying $1.5 million dollars annually for a company, Normandeau Associates, to sample fish. This is something we need to know more about. Which fish are sampled? When are the sampled and at what location? What are they sampled for?
Q: Are forced outages being considered primarily as a way to avoid moving the Algonquin pipeline?
Q: What effect would the proposed expansion of the pipeline have on any plans for closed-cycle cooling?
A: This is not clear. There is room for closed-cycle cooling at both units and DEC will not speculate about what could happen in the future.
Q: What will happen with the public testimony after the public meeting on July 22?
A: The meeting will be transcribed and all spoken comments will become part of the draft EIS, as will all written comments which have already been submitted. Comments from the meeting will be treated the same as written comments and will be reviewed by staff and the final decision-maker. Once the entire draft EIS is compiled, it will again be open for public comment. The timeline for this has not been determined.
Q: What about the Water Quality Certificate hearings?
A: The hearings for the Water Quality Certificate and the SPEDES permit have been combined in the interest of time and expense.
Q: What about thermal pollution?
A: This issue was settled in 2011 when DEC allowed Entergy a mixing zone for thermal discharge of 75 acres. This was the result of staff review. There was a public notice and lengthy public comments were received at the time. It is not clear if high-burn-up fuel was taken into account when establishing the thermal mixing zone. High-burn-up fuel would raise the temperature and change the calculations. Riverkeeper has kept the thermal issue open, and there will be an adjudicatory hearing for participants when it goes out as a supplemental EIS. When the supplemental EIS is released there will be another chance for the public to weigh in on this matter.
Q: What is the best way to stay informed about issues and forthcoming DEC meetings?
A: Read the Environmental Notice Bulletin Board that comes out every week and is posted on the DEC website. There is a link to Indian Point documents, and rulings for both SPEDES and WQC.
Many thanks to the DEC staff who took an hour out of their busy Friday afternoon schedule and talked with us. The entire process is much clearer as a result of this conversation and we are in a much better position to communicate to our members what is needed. Many thanks to those who called in to tackle this complex topic. I think we all learned a lot. Pass it on!