NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced that the aging Indian Point nuclear power plant is slated to close by April 2021.
According to a release from the governor on Monday, Entergy Corp., which runs the plant, will shut down Indian Point Unit 2 by April 2020 and Indian Point Unit 3 by April 2021 — completely ending operations at the site. Unit 1 of the plant was shut down in October 1974 because officials say it did not meet regulatory requirements.
“New York City sits 30 minutes from a ticking time bomb,” Cuomo said.
New York State will also perform regular safety inspections of the plant leading up to its closure and make any replacements needed to help maintain the building’s structural integrity during that period of time.
Cuomo says the closure comes almost 14 years earlier than federal regulations required.
“This administration has been aggressively pursuing and incentivizing the development of clean, reliable energy, and the state is fully prepared to replace the power generated by the plant at a negligible cost to ratepayers,” Cuomo said in a statement Monday.
It will take some time, however, to ramp up other energy sources to take the place of Indian Point, according to Entergy President Bill Mohl.
“Clearly right now they don’t have the ability to replace the 2000 megawatts,” he told The Associated Press. “Obviously they’re going to need to add a substantial amount of capacity.”
According to the release, Indian Point currently produces 2,000 megawatts of power. Officials have stated planning efforts ahead of the shutdown should have “little to no impact,” on electricity costs for residents, with around 1,000 megawatts of power to be compensated through renewable hydropower, along with additional implementation of other generators.
The agreement also states Entergy will supply a $15 million fund to help foster wildlife preservation efforts in the state.
The plant’s two reactors went online in 1974 and 1976. Mohl said increasing operational costs combined with low natural gas prices have cut into revenues, and that Entergy was facing a hard choice on the plant even before negotiations with the state began.
“This decision was truly based on economics,” he said. “We were going to have to make a decision regardless of the settlement with the state.”
Indian Point has been subject to a series of radiation leaks, fires and unplanned outages.
In October 2016, undetermined amount of oil spilled into a drainage canal leading to the Hudson River, creating an oil sheen and cleanup efforts.
In March 2016, hundreds of faulty bolts were discovered at the Indian Point power plant, causing the facility to shut down. Entergy Corp., which runs the facility in Westchester County, said more than 2,000 bolts had been inspected when the Indian Point 2 reactor was shut down and that some of the bolts on the reactor’s inner liner were missing at the time of the discovery.
As CBS2’s Lou Young reported, Cuomo blocked Entergy from securing a new 20 year lease to operate on the Hudson River bank in Buchanan.
Plant owners said they were setting an exit date, because falling energy rates have undercut their business model.
“Essentially, the plant is no longer viable,” Entergy President, Bill Mohl said. “The decision was ours, an dours alone, and due to economics. New York State did not shut down Indian Point.”
In February 2016 , Cuomo called for an investigation after an apparent overflow at the plant spilled highly radioactive water into an underground monitoring well. Nuclear regulators said the public wasn’t at risk.
In a report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the company said that automatic reactor shutdown on Dec. 14 was apparently from bird feces that caused an electric arc between wires on a feeder line at a transmission tower.
That outage in turn came just days after control rods lost power at the Indian Point 2 reactor, forcing it to shut down for three days. Following that incident, opponents of the plant said Indian Point should close for good, pointing to a handful of other mishaps last year, including a transformer fire and water pump problem.
Losing the 2,000-megawatt plant will leave giant property tax holes in Westchester County, and surrounding communities. The local school will also lose a third fo its income.
“Shock, absolute shock,” Hendrick Hudson School District, Superintendent, John Hochretter said.
The Cortlandt Town Supervisor didn’t care for the surprise.
“I’m annoyed, they haven’t in good faith talked about the negotiations,” Linda Puglisi said.
The mayor of Peekskill wondered why the governor didn’t give anyone a heads up.
“He remembers my birthday, he remembers Christmas, but we never got a notification on an issue as significant as this,” Frank Catalina said.
Critics claim the governor hounded Entergy into making the decision with lawsuits and license challenges.
Environmentalists suggest it wasn’t a matter of if the plant would close, but when.
“The plant had to be shut down at some point. I don’t think we should be surprised,” Todd Ommen, Pace University Law School said.
With four years to find replacement sources, the governor’s office said short term contracts with Canada for hydroelectric power, and a myriad of renewable sources like wind farms can make up the difference.
He estimated the cost of the shutdown at $3 per month, per customer. Critics predict it will be much higher.
Cuomo is planning to visit six regions this week delivering speeches across the state. Cuomo delivered a speech in New York City on Monday, before heading up to Buffalo.
Other speeches are planned in Westchester and on Long Island.
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