Entergy Sues New York for New Attempt to Shut Down Indian Point Nuclear

Entergy has asked a federal court to invalidate a November 6 New York state (NYS) objection to a certification needed for the 20-year license extension of its Indian Point nuclear facilities by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The state’s Department of State (DOS) claimed in its decision that Entergy’s twin nuclear reactors, which supply nearly 25% of New York City’s power, do not comply with enforceable policies of the New York State Coastal Management Program, citing that as the basis for objecting to Entergy’s consistency certification needed for the crucial license extension.

Specifically, the DOS said that the reactors, which began operation between 1974 and 1976, “have been damaging the coastal resources of the Hudson River estuary” for over 40 years. “As the State’s largest industrial water user, Indian Point Units 2 and 3 together withdraw up to 2.5 billion gallons of water every day from the Hudson River through its cooling water intake structures.

“In the process of extracting such a large volume of water from this biologically important estuary, at least a billion fish, juvenile fish, fish eggs, fish larvae, and other organisms are sucked into the plant’s intake pipes or against its screens and are killed each year,” it says.

But on January 19, Entergy called the state’s objection “unlawful,” telling the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York that while states have the right to participate in the federal regulatory process, “well-established” federal law precludes the state from using “presumed nuclear safety issues as a basis for decision making in a state regulatory review.” That includes a 2013 ruling related to Entergy’s Vermont Yankee facility, the company said.

“Indian Point currently operates in a manner that is fully protective of the Hudson River and in compliance with state and federal law. Its continued operation is consistent with the NYS Coastal Management Program,” the company said in a statement to POWER on January 19.

“Entergy has submitted thousands of pages of information to NYSDOS demonstrating that the facility’s continued operation is consistent with the NYS coastal management program. $75 million spent on studies of the Hudson River’s ecosystem over the past 30 years demonstrate Indian Point has no harmful impact on adult fish populations in the river.”

The company noted in its complaint that the state has repeatedly attempted to block continued operation of the facilities because it believes that Indian Point “poses a nuclear safety risk to the surrounding population.” It countered: “NYSDOS’s assertion is incorrect: In fact, Indian Point is carefully operated and comprehensively regulated by the NRC.”

It also underscored the state’s differing treatment of three upstate nuclear plants—including Entergy’s own FitzPatrick plant, which it has decided to permanently close owing to “deteriorating economics.” It pointed out that as recently as December 2, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared that “elimination of Upstate nuclear facilities, operating under valid federal licenses, would eviscerate the emission reductions achieved through the State’s renewable energy programs, diminish fuel diversity, increase price volatility, and financially harm host communities.”

“Aside from the coastal management objection, the latest example of the state’s attempts to encroach on the federal government’s nuclear safety management of Indian Point is an investigation of the plant, launched last month by the New York Department of Public Service.  Entergy has written a letter to the New York State Public Service Commission objecting to that probe in part because it pre-empts federal regulation,” the company told POWER.

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)