Entergy: State-Proposed Forced Nuclear Outages at Indian Point are Unnecessary

Forced outages at Entergy’s two Indian Point nuclear units proposed by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to protect fish are “unnecessary” and a “terrible idea,” a company official testified at a public hearing on Tuesday. 

The DEC has proposed Entergy shutter the two units for at least 42 outage days every summer to protect fish until closed-cycle cooling—the agency’s preferred best technology available alternative—is operational. The DEC says fish protective outages of 42 days or more are historically required at Indian Point’s 1-GW Unit 2 and 1-GW Unit 3 between May 15 and Aug. 15 each year under the 1981 Hudson River Settlement Agreement.

According to the DEC, protective outages are an “effective method” for reducing and minimizing impingement mortality and entrainment of fish of all life stages. It has proposed to require permanent, simultaneous outages at both Indian Point units annually for 42, 62, or 92 days—or to require Entergy to employ a combination of a cooling tower at one unit and permanent outages at the other unit. The DEC isn’t expected to reach a final decision until late 2015 or early 2016.

But at a public hearing on July 22, Vice President of License Renewal for Entergy Nuclear Operations Fred Dacimo told regulators that forced outages are not grounded in science.

“Forcing Indian Point to shut down every summer—which is not even a technology at all—poses serious consequences to human health and safety, the New York economy, and the local environment while failing to guarantee any measurable benefit to an already healthy fish population,” he said.

Dacimo said unnecessary forced summertime outages could result in more pollution resulting from the need to replace Indian Point’s power with fossil fuels.

“All of these impacts might be worth considering if outages at Indian Point were actually necessary to protect fish eggs and larvae, but they are not,” Dacimo said. “Even if there were a need, Entergy has already proposed Wedgewire screens—a technology that has none of the negative impacts discussed, and reduces the entrainment and impingement of fish eggs and larvae more that most of [DEC] Staff’s outage proposals do.”

Entergy is currently seeking a 20-year license renewal for Indian Point, but the plant’s continued operations have been strongly opposed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and backed by environmental advocacy groups Clearwater and Riverkeeper, which claim the plant is susceptible to terrorist attacks and widespread contamination in the event of natural disaster. Several New York City leaders have meanwhile called for continued operations at Indian Point, saying the reactors are critical to the city’s economic viability.

According to Entergy, Indian Point provides about 25% of the power used in New York City and Westchester County.

The DEC issues State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, but the DEC’s staff’s decision is separate from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s ongoing review process.

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

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