With Gov. Kathy Hochul signing into law a bill that prohibits the dumping of radioactive waste into the Hudson River, environmental groups and elected officials are turning their attention to the possible harmful effects of the toxic discharge that has occurred for the last 60 years.
In an Aug. 23 letter to Hochul and various state agencies, a group of more than 300 called on the state to lead an “environmentally sound waste management process” to address Holtec International’s wastewater procedures at the Indian Point nuclear power plants in northern Westchester.
The eyebrows of those who signed the letter were raised after a whistleblower at a Holtec-run plant in Massachusetts claimed in an Aug. 21 correspondence tritium contaminated wastewater there was being heated so it could evaporate and be released into the air.
“Breathing evaporated water is more harmful than drinking contaminated water,” Dr. Gordon Edwards, an international expert on nuclear energy and waste, said during an Aug. 23 Zoom press conference.
The discharge of treated effluent from nuclear plants is regulated by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Environmental Protection Agency.
Holtec, which was planning to dump one million gallons of wastewater this fall, has contended that practice is the best alternative for handling the discharge from the 240-acre site in Buchanan.
“Thankfully, we stopped the Hudson from being used as a radioactive sewer, now we need New York State to take the lead in ensuring proper monitoring and maintenance of all the tons of nuclear waste at Indian Point,” said attorney Susan Shapiro of LEAF of Hudson Valley. “Decommissioning is an experimental new field and unfortunately Holtec has very little, if any, experience decommissioning nuclear reactors, let alone Indian Point, which holds the nation’s largest inventory of commercial radioactive nuclear waste.”
“Governor Hochul signing the ban discharge bill is the first step,” said Suzannah Glidden of United for Clean Energy. “Now (we need) to learn how to safely store it onsite after we learn from state testing exactly what’s in the wastewater and the ecosystem.”
Anne Rabe, Environmental Policy Director for the New York Public Interest Research Group, said a state study should be compared to a recently discovered Department of Health 1958 baseline study that was done before Indian Point started that tested air, water, soil, fish, wildlife and cow’s milk within a 20-mile radius of the site.
“This is really serious and that’s why our first call is for a New York-led inspection,” she said.