For Immediate Release: Thursday, January 26, 2023
Contact: Ellen Weininger, Grassroots Environmental Education Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
914-422-3141 (O) or 646-210-0200 (C)
Judy Allen, United for Clean Energy
845-528-6643 (H) or 914-382-1193 (C)
Health Experts Cry Foul Over Plans to Dump
Radioactive Wastewater into Hudson River
(Buchanan, NY) A panel of health experts today is raising public alarm as Holtec International, the owner conducting decommissioning operations at the Indian Point Nuclear facility, is seeking permission to discharge one million gallons of radioactive wastewater from the spent fuel cooling pools into the Hudson River just south of Peekskill, NY. The spent fuel pool has cooled thousands of highly radioactive fuel assemblies for more than 45 years and includes radionuclides such as tritium. There has been no prior disclosure of what pollutants or radioactive contaminants are in the wastewater or any public education on the environmental safety and public health risks associated with any potential discharges from the site.
The Indian Point nuclear facility has been the source of myriad environmental concerns for decades. The discharge of radioactive wastewater poses a serious threat to public health and the entire ecosystem as well to the economy of the region. The Hudson River is a tidal estuary, flowing in each direction, from New York Harbor to the Troy dam and is the primary drinking water source for more than 100,000 people in seven municipalities including the City of Poughkeepsie, Village of Rhinebeck and the Towns of Esopus, Hyde Park, Lloyd, Poughkeepsie and Rhinebeck and serves as the backup water supply for other communities along the river. It is also a popular destination for fishing, boating and other recreational and tourism activities.
A similar scenario is playing out in Massachusetts as local, state and federal officials, local organizations and government agencies voice strong objections to Holtec discharging radioactive wastewater from the Pilgrim nuclear facility into Cape Cod Bay as part of decommissioning operations there. Experts agree that releasing radioactive contaminated water into the bay will undoubtedly have a devastating environmental and economic impact all along the coastline. Scientific studies demonstrate that pollutants in the wastewater can have significant effects on human health. Exposure to radioactive contaminants is linked with cancer, miscarriages, genetic defects and other adverse health effects.
Deconstruction and open air demolition activities are ongoing at the Indian Point site despite the absence of dust mitigation protocols and tenting of structures to contain airborne contaminants. The nearby Buchanan Verplanck Elementary School, located less than 4000 feet from Indian Point, lacks air, water and soil monitoring. Although a school air monitoring study has been under consideration, a Request for Proposal for an air monitoring program was only recently issued. Still, hundreds of students were allowed to return to the school this past September. Parents still lack critical information regarding emergency planning and preparedness, monitoring and protections. A middle school in Piketon, Ohio was closed in 2019 due to radioactive contamination from a nuclear enrichment facility conducting open air demolition a little less than 2 miles away.
Dr. Helen Caldicott, acclaimed author, Nobel laureate and co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility says, “Physicists talk convincingly about ‘permissible doses’ of radiation. They consistently ignore internal emitters — radioactive elements from nuclear power plants that are ingested or inhaled into the body, giving very high doses to small volumes of cells. They focus instead on external radiation from sources outside the body. Doctors know that there is no such thing as a safe dose of radiation, and that harmful impacts are cumulative. Children are ten to twenty times more vulnerable to the deleterious effects of radiation than adults and little girls twice that of boys.”
Eric Epstein, Coordinator, EFMR Monitoring at Three Mile Island, says, “Independent radiation monitoring requires quality equipment, regularly calibrated, and located at scientifically based locations. The data needs to be analyzed and tracked to provide a constant, reliable, and trusted source of information.”
Diane Turco, Director of Cape Downwinders in Cape Cod, Massachusetts stated, “From California to Massachusetts to New York to Michigan to New Mexico, Indigenous and civil society groups are connecting in our efforts. Holtec has no right to dump radioactive wastewater into our waterways or radioactive waste into our communities.”
In September, Physicians for Social Responsibility – New York submitted a letter to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation regarding potential discharges of wastewater from the Indian Point site by Holtec and stated, “Exposure to toxic effluents including radionuclides poses a serious health and economic risk to communities up and down the Hudson River and can have negative impacts on real estate values. Quantification and characterization of these discharges are needed in order to properly assess impacts. Independent expert analysis regarding potential health and environmental impacts from these exposures is imperative. Indeed, under the Endangered Species Act, independent environmental expertise is required prior to the discharge of radioactive water.”
The Indian Point nuclear facility is located in Peekskill in Westchester County, about 25 miles north of New York City, the most densely populated region in the United States. Peekskill is an environmental justice community that has been disproportionately impacted by decades of heavily polluting industries and infrastructure. The site’s reactors were shut down in 2020 and 2021. Indian Point is also co-located on top of three large diameter, high pressure gas transmission pipelines and is the only nuclear facility in the U.S. with gas transmission pipelines. Decommissioning at the site involves hazardous infrastructure, vast amounts of radioactive waste and heavy deconstruction and excavation activities and equipment in or near the pipelines’ unmarked right-of-ways (ROWs), which could compromise pipeline integrity and result in a rupture with catastrophic consequences.
Other significant unresolved risks and issues remain including emergency preparedness, spent fuel storage and long-term site contamination. These issues will be addressed in upcoming expert forums planned as part of this series. The next forum will be held on Thursday, February 16, 2023 at 4pm.