A Joint Letter to the Community from School Superintendent Joseph Hochreiter, Cortlandt Town Supervisor Richard Becker, M.D., and Buchanan Mayor Theresa Knickerbocker
With local schools back in session, and with Indian Point’s decommissioning well underway, we write to provide the community with a status report. We know many have questions about the process, as well as serious concerns, and we want to provide everyone with a current update. This update is based on excerpts from a letter by Thomas Congdon, Chair of the Indian Point Decommissioning Oversight Board (DOB), who represents New York State.
A few key highlights:
- Holtec is well underway and is currently moving nuclear rods into long-term storage casks, maintained on site.
- Federal monitoring is the purview of the NRC.
- Independent local monitoring, demanded by the local community, is under the jurisdiction of the DOB, an entity created to provide oversight of the Indian Point decommissioning process by representatives of NYS, radiation and environmental experts, elected officials, local residents, Riverkeeper, and other interested parties.
In June 2021, a subgroup of DOB members was established to develop a better understanding of the potential environmental and health risks that decommissioning could present to the school community and assess best practices with respect to environmental monitoring.
At the second meeting of the DOB in October 2021, independent nuclear technical expert David Lochbaum gave a presentation that thoroughly explained the various environmental and radiological risks that may be present during decommissioning, concluding that while the likelihood of contaminants reaching the school was extremely low, there was merit in monitoring to provide assurance. Importantly, Mr. Lochbaum noted that an array of existing radiological monitors surrounding Indian Point will remain in operation until such time as all of the spent fuel is transferred to dry cask storage. Mr. Lochbaum has been involved in monitoring the decommissioning activities at other nuclear plants (including Maine, Yankee, Zion, Big Rock Point, Connecticut Yankee, Fort St. Vrain, Humboldt Bay, and San Onofre). Monitoring at IP will be identical or comparable to these other sites.
The working group agreed to develop recommendations for a monitoring program for the school and surrounding community. Such a program will be funded in whole or in part by a $500,000 grant made possible by the State’s legal settlement with Entergy, which is reserved for the school district for this purpose.
On January 21, 2022, Columbia University professor Jonathan Hollander proposed to the DOB that he and his graduate students study, design, and recommend what, where, and how to monitor this critical zone around the school and Village. Their report recommended the purchase of additional real-time particulate matter and volatile organic compound monitors at the school.
The working group will make timely recommendations to the school district so that it may have in place a monitoring program before heavy demolition occurs on the Indian Point site – for the purposes of this discussion, heavy demolition refers to the demolition of concrete buildings with thick walls, specifically the spent fuel pool buildings, turbine buildings, and domes.
The DOB confirmed with Holtec that heavy demolition is not scheduled during the upcoming school year, allowing time to design and place the required monitoring stations.
The working group also finds that an array of radiological monitors reflects a best practice for monitoring: real-time monitors surrounding the decommissioning activity – both in immediate proximity and in a perimeter at or near the fence line – which offers the most timely and beneficial information inputs to protect the site and the broader community.
In all circumstances, the demolition work must not generate dust that leaves the work site. The DOB on-site resident inspector will monitor this work and alert oversight entities and Holtec if there are issues of material migrating off site.
This is a very long process with many years to go. We are pleased and reassured that so many individuals and organizations are involved with oversight, to ensure that everything is done correctly, safely, and with appropriate monitoring. We will continue to provide regular updates to the community, and we will continue to attend every meeting of the DOB. We know that the community insists on oversight beyond the NRC. The DOB is designed to do just this. And we will verify that the most reliable and comprehensive monitoring systems are in place. Each meeting can be viewed in person, real time via ZOOM, as well as later via video recordings on our website. We will widely publicize these meetings.
We are all available to address any additional concerns.
Superintendent Joseph Hochreiter
Cortlandt Town Supervisor Richard Becker, M.D.
Buchanan Mayor Theresa Knickerbocker