By Carol Reif
Published June 4, 2023 at 1:50 PM
Last Updated June 4, 2023 at 1:50 PM
NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – North Salem officials are supporting efforts to keep radioactive wastewater from being discharged from the now-defunct Indian Point nuclear power plant into the Hudson River.
Holtec International, the company in charge of decommissioning the facility, faced major backlash from environmentalists and communities earlier this year after it announced plans to dump a million galloens of tritated water into the River.
The plant is located in the village of Buchanan, about 36 miles north of New York City.
An isotope of the element hydrogen, tritium emits beta radiation as it decays. It takes just over 12 years for it to break down to half of its original amount.
According to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, tritium can’t be removed from water because it has the same chemical composition.
While it and other regulatory agencies agree that any kind of radiation exposure poses health risks, the NRC notes that tritium occurs naturally in the environment and that nuclear power plants routinely and safely release dilute concentrations of “tritiated water.”
The plan has been paused, for now.
Those that support it claim that it’s the safest option available. Opponents worry that regulatory standards governing public health may be outdated.
On Tuesday, May 9, the Town Board unanimously passed a resolution opposing the discharge plan. It also urged state lawmakers to support legislation introduced by state Sen. Peter Harckham and state Assemblywoman Dana Levenberg that seeks to prohibit “the discharge of any radiological agent in the waters of the state.”
It would also set fines of $25,000 per day for the first violation, $50,000 per day for the second, and $150,000 per day thereafter.
The Town Board “strongly supports” substantially increasing fines so they have an actual “deterrent effect.” Otherwise, it said, they might just be considered “the cost of doing business.”
The resolution pointed out that the National Academy of Science has indicated that “there is no verifiable safe level of these isotopes when they are ingested or inhaled.”
It also noted that such contaminants pose the risk of getting into the food chain, that there are many people that depend on fish from the river as a food source, and that there are seven upriver communities, including Poughkeepsie, that get their drinking water from the Hudson.
The river is an estuary that flows two ways.
It is also a place where recreational activities take place and is “an economic resource that will be endangered by this reckless action,” the resolution read.
According to the state Constitution, “each person shall have a right to clean air and water and a healthful environment.”
Therefore, the resolution stated, the state is obligated to protect the environmental rights of all New Yorkers and dumping radioactive wastewater in the Hudson is “inconsistent” with those rights.
The town requested that all “relevant” offices and agencies, including the governor, the Department of State, the state Public Service Commission, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Indian Point Decommissioning Oversight Board, “take meaningful and enforceable action.”
In other words, the resolution declared, “actually do something about protecting the public safety and the environment instead of just issuing press releases.”
Councilwoman Katherine Daniels, saying she thought opposing the discharge plan made “sense,” noted that “the vast majority of towns along the Hudson” support fighting it.