While it’s years away, the Indian Point nuclear power plant will close, and there will be huge ramifications, including here in Dutchess County.
New Orleans-based Entergy, the plant’s owner, faced many regulatory hurdles and lawsuits if it continued a permit renewal process. Earlier this year, citing “deteriorating economics,” Entergy said it would shutter the facility in Buchanan.
Numerous environmental groups and public officials, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, have repeatedly called for the plant’s shutdown for sound reasons. They include a hopelessly inadequate evacuation plan, given the plant’s close proximity to New York City, especially in the age of terrorism. They also involve repeated leaks of radioactive water found in the soil adjacent to a pool that holds spent fuel rods.
The plant has posed a danger to both people and the environment, particularly the Hudson River.
Yet, there is no getting around the complicated matters that have to be addressed before and after the plant shuts down by 2021. Recently, state officials joined with local representatives and veterans of the nuclear power debate to discuss what should happen next. The enlightening forum took place at the Desmond Fish Library in Garrison and was sponsored by The Journal News/lohud.com and Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. Poughkeepsie Journal Editorial Board members attended as well.
The site employs about 1,000 full-time workers, and people might be shocked to learn that more than 400 of them live in Dutchess County. Mario Musolino, executive deputy commissioner of the state Department of Labor, didn’t underestimate the challenges. But he also put this transition in context:
–these workers will have time to line up other jobs, something that doesn’t occur when people are laid off with little or no notice.
–many are highly trained utility, security or trade workers.
–the Labor Department intends to develop individual plans to help them find other work.
–Entergy will have to keep workers on during the decommissioning of the plant, which will take at least five to 10 years if not longer.
–Nearly 40 percent of Indian Point’s employees may be eligible for retirement by 2021, though they might not want to pursue that option.
The plant’s closure also will have a deep impact on the communities in and around Buchanan, including schools, as about $32 million in annual tax revenue is expected to be lost. Then there is the long-term question of what to do with the spent fuel rods, something the federal government has failed miserably to address on a nationwide basis for decades. Cement dry casks will house these rods on site in the interim, and officials will explore redevelopment options for at least part of the 240-acre property.
The Journal News/lohud.com and Clearwater are planning another forum for the spring when replacing Indian Point’s energy will be addressed, something the Poughkeepsie Journal touched on in an editorial Wednesday about the Cricket Valley Energy project in Dover. You can also go online to this editorial at www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/opinion to watch extensive videos about the recent forum and hear what the speakers had to say.
Unquestionably, getting the Indian Point plant owners to reconsider pursuing permit renewals took considerable efforts by environmental groups and others, with the governor providing a decisive blow. But that doesn’t negate the challenges that lie ahead. The region has time to prepare for the day when the plant shuts down, but, given how vastly complicated these issues are, it should embrace all the time it can get.
By the Poughkeepsie Journal Editorial Board