Indian Point Nuclear Plant Should Be Closed, Report Says

A report released Monday says southern New York State's Indian Point Energy Center should be closed, despite pressure to keep it open.

The Indian Point Energy Center is located along the banks of the Hudson River in Westchester County, less than 40 miles north of New York City.

The report, commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Riverkeeper, suggests that the plant can and should be closed, in favor of readily available alternative energy options, according to a press release.

The report, from consulting firm Synapse Energy Economics, claims that shuttering the nearly 40-year-old plant when its current license expires in 2015 would not mean a need for greater capacity in the region's electric grid until 2020.

In the aftermath of the disaster in Japan, closing Indian Point is important for safety reasons, according to the NRDC. The nuclear power plant is located within a mile of a seismic fault, and is located within the largest metropolitan area in the U.S.

An Associated Press investigation after August's East Coast earthquake found that the earthquake risk to many of America's nuclear plants is much higher than previously estimated.

Even though the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) believes the nuclear plant is safe to operate for another 20 years, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has expressed his belief that alternatives to Indian Point can be found.

The NRC found that Indian Point "doesn’t have adequate protection against earthquakes," making it one of "the most vulnerable [nuclear power plants] to a seismic disaster in the entire nation," according to an NRDC blog post by Frances Beinecke.

The NRDC report claims that the region's energy needs could be met, or exceeded, through wind and solar energy and by increasing the efficiency of existing natural gas plants. They noted, however, that they do not support new natural gas plants until efficiency is improved.

The NRDC suggests that if half of the currently proposed renewable projects are built by 2020, they would provide 580 megawatts of electricity. Combining this with a 1.5 percent reduction in electricity consumption each year, totaling 1,550 megawatts of efficiency measures for the area surrounding New York City, would effectively replace Indian Point's 2,000 megawatt capacity.

Additionally, building several currently-proposed electric transmission lines from upstate New York and New Jersey would further satisfy future energy demands.

A report obtained by The New York Times in July said that closing Indian Point may not be so easy. This report estimates that closing the nuclear plant would increase reliance on fossil fuels in the region, adding five to 10 percent more emissions from carbon and nitrogen oxides to the air around New York City and increasing energy costs in the region by $1.5 billion annually.

Closing Indian Point in 2015 could also mean decreased electric grid reliability and increased power outages for New York City, according to some experts.

Earlier this month, Indian Point operator Entergy hired former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to promote the plant's safety in television and newspaper advertisements. Referring to the Giuliani ad campaign, an Entergy spokesman told The New York Times, "Our goal is to reassure people about the safety of Indian Point."