ALBANY- A bill that would prevent the dumping of radioactive water in the Hudson River unanimously passed the Senate, however, failed to come for a vote in the Assembly.

The bill, sponsored by State Senator Peter Harckham (D, Peekskill) prohibits the discharge of radioactive water into the Hudson River.  The bill is in response to an effort by Holtec International Decommissioning, the company overseeing the dismantling of the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, to discharge radioactive wastewater into the Hudson River.

Under current law, Holtec’s plan to discharge diluted radioactive wastewater is permitted.  According to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), “the controlled releases of effluent at nuclear power plants, within specified regulatory limits designed to ensure protection of the public health and safety and the environment, is an activity that occurs throughout the operation and decommissioning of a facility.”  The NRC would monitor Holtec’s discharge to ensure it was conducted within legal parameters.

Absent of the proposed New York law, the current authority and responsibility to regulate the effluent from these activities is split between two federal agencies, with the NRC regulating radioactive materials under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulating pollutants under the Clean Water Act.

One of the problems associated with the decommissioning of a nuclear power plant like Indian Point is that there are limited options when it comes to managing radioactive wastewater.  There are only four options:  moving the water to another location for disposal, evaporating the water into the atmosphere, storing the waste onsite long-term, or conditioning the waste and discharging it into the Hudson River.  It is unclear which option Holtec would pursue if the bill were to become law.

The bill was strongly supported by several environmental groups, including Riverkeeper and the Sierra Club.

Note- an earlier version of the story indicated that the bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Dana Levenberg (D, Ossining) passed in the Assembly.  The bill has yet to pass in the Assembly as it did not come for a vote.  Advocates are calling for a vote on the bill during a special session of the Assembly.