Local elected officials and residents last week grilled a representative from the company selected to decommission the Indian Point nuclear power plants in Buchanan after the facility shuts down next year.
Joe Delmar, senior director of Government Affairs and Communications at Holtec International, appeared at a meeting of the Indian Point Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel at Buchanan Village Hall last Wednesday and received an earful of complaints and criticism.
“I just don’t have a trust factor with you yet,” State Assemblywoman Sandy Galef (D/Ossining) asserted. “You have a lot of convincing of this community that you are a good company and should be welcomed here. There has been a lot of negatives about Holtec.”
In November, Entergy Corporation, current owners of the plants, and Holtec International, through their affiliates, announced they had jointly filed a License Transfer Application with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, requesting approval for the transfer of the NRC licenses for Indian Point to Holtec after the last unit permanently shuts down by April 30, 2021.
Holtec plans to initiate decommissioning at Indian Point, following regulatory approvals and transaction close, as much as 40 years sooner than if Entergy continued to own the units.
“You have Holtec’s commitment that we will be a good neighbor during the decommissioning process,” Delmar said, noting there is currently $2.1 billion in a trust fund dedicated to completing decommissioning activities, which are estimated to cost $2.3 billion.
However, Riverkeeper, the environmental advocacy group that was involved in the negotiations that led to the decision to close the Indian Point nuclear power plants, is publicly opposing Holtec and has launched a petition urging Entergy and Governor Andrew Cuomo to put the brakes on the proposed transfer.
“Holtec has never decommissioned a nuclear facility before, and its entire nuclear “fleet” was acquired less than a year ago. Decommissioning is far more complex than just spent fuel management, especially at Indian Point, a site with known radioactive groundwater contamination,” Riverkeeper stated. “Even in its area of ‘expertise’ Holtec’s spent fuel management system at San Onofre nuclear power plant is proven to have serious design flaws, and Holtec has a history of risk-taking with spent nuclear fuel canisters, brought to light by whistleblower actions. We’re only asking that Entergy select a qualified company to take on this arduous tasks of decommissioning, site cleanup and management of spent radioactive fuel, while keeping 20 million New Yorkers safe.”
In January 2017, Entergy, which purchased the Indian Point plants more than 16 years ago, announced, to the complete surprise of local leaders, its plan for the early and orderly shutdown of Indian Point by April 30, 2021 as part of a settlement with New York State and Riverkeeper.
Holtec officials have stated its plan for decommissioning will result in the release for re-use of portions of the site in the 2030s, with the exception of the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation – the area where spent nuclear fuel is safely stored in dry casks until the U.S. Department of Energy transfers the spent fuel offsite. As part of its plan, Holtec expects to move all of the Indian Point spent nuclear fuel into dry casks within about three years following facility shutdown in 2021.
Holtec has a pending application with the NRC for a Consolidated Interim Storage Facility in New Mexico, which could eventually store spent nuclear fuel from Indian Point and other U.S. nuclear power plants.
Delmar said Holtec’s dry cask storage technology is used at 118 nuclear plants worldwide, adding Holtec is regulated in 13 countries.
Since Unit 1 at Indian Point closed in the 1970s, all 160 spent fuel rods have remained in dry cask storage on a portion of the 200-acre site in Buchanan.
Commenting on a Post Shutdown Decommissioning Activity Report that was submitted by Holtec on December 19, Ossining resident Henry Kelly contended Holtec fails to address the dangers associated with decommissioning.
“Safety and contingency plans are just glossed over,” Kelly said. “The emphasis is on Holtec, not on the safety of the community.”
Delmar said Holtec will honor the tax pilot agreement Entergy has with Cortlandt that expires in 2024 and will utilize more than 300 current Indian Point employees, including existing security officers, as well as local labor, during the decommissioning.
A New York State Task Force meeting on Indian Point is scheduled for Thursday, January 30 at 7 p.m. at Cortlandt Town Hall.
By Rick Pezzullo