NRC’s Update to Indian Point EIS Says Aquatic Impacts Are “Small”

An update to the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on Tuesday finds that possible impacts on aquatic life from the Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York still do not bar it from receiving a license renewal.

Entergy, owner of the twin 40-year-old reactors at the plant, has been pushing to secure a license renewal for Units 2 and 3 since 2007. Environmental groups and some New York State officials—including Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D)—have expressed concerns about the plant’s safety in relation to its proximity to New York City. One environmental group, Riverkeeper, has alleged that Indian Point violates the Clean Water Act and has devastating effects on the ecology of the Hudson River. "It leaks radioactive water, discharges heated water that damages river life, and its ineffective cooling water-intake screens do too little to stop the slaughter of more than a billion fish and other river organisms every year," the group says on its website.

But the NRC’s Tuesday update to the December 2010-issued FSEIS finds that there has been a significant decline in estimated entrainment (the drawing of small aquatic organisms through a cooling water intake structure into the cooling system of a power plant) losses under a revised analysis. It also concludes, citing studies completed by Entergy and submitted to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, that impacts from heat shock to aquatic resources in the lower Hudson River would be "small." As the NRC explains: "Small in this context means the environmental effects are not detectable or are so minor that they will neither destabilize nor noticeably alter any important attribute of the resource."

The update also finds the impact of the plant’s continued operation on shortnose sturgeon and the Atlantic sturgeon population in the vicinity of Indian Point would be "small."

The initial 40-year operating license for Indian Point Unit 2 is set to expire this September, while the initial license for Indian Point Unit 3 runs through Dec. 12, 2015. Entergy is convinced the reactors will be relicensed, even submitting in May a proposal to provide 1,375 MW of "competitively priced electricity" from Indian Point beginning in 2016, in response to a request for proposals by the New York Power Authority.

"We are pleased the NRC has concluded there are no environmental issues that would prevent license renewal, and accepted NYSDEC’s determination that our thermal impact on the river is small," Entergy spokesman Jerry Nappi told POWERnews on Thursday.

Sources: POWERnews, NRC, Riverkeeper, Entergy

—Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)