The Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, located near Buchanan, New York, is a source of much controversy and conflict for people in the Hudson Valley. This power plant is now due to be relicensed for twenty years. Opponents of the plant are hoping that the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission will deny the plant relicensing.
There have been a number of issues surrounding the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant for a number of years, and a wide variety of people and governmental agencies.
The Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant is owned by Entergy Corp., a large New Orleans-based corporation that specializes in electrical power. It owns more than 40 power plants of all varieties: natural gas, nuclear, oil, and hydroelectric power. According to Marilyn Eile of the Westchester Citizens Awareness Network, Entergy owns four nuclear power plants in New York State, in addition to plants in other states. One of its other plants is Vermont Yankee, a 38-year-old plant that has seen numerous leaks of radioactive tritium and other problems. In 2007 and 2008, a cooling tower collapsed. On February 24th, Vermont's State Senate voted to order the plant to be closed.
People who live near the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant are hoping for the same result.
Recently, Entergy Corp. has suffered some setbacks. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation denied Entergy's application for a water quality permit for Indian Point. The DEC's criticism of Indian Point was that it was destroying too much marine life.
Marilyn explained the process to create nuclear energy. She said that the process, in simple terms, can be described as "splitting atoms to boil water." It is not especially efficient. Only thirty percent of the energy generated can actually be used. The hot water that gets dumped into the river after the process is over causes havoc to fish. "It's a four to five degree difference in temperature but it can kill fish," Marilyn said.
In addition to hot water, tritium has been leaking from spent fuel rods. Marilyn explained that the amount of leakage has been small so that this is not a big issue. "Not for me but for them, it's OK."
The presence of a nuclear power plant near a highly populated area, which includes metropolitan New York, is a concern both for Marilyn and for Lawrence, another activist who focuses on issues related to nuclear power.
Although it is a federal requirement to have an evacuation plan that would encompass a 50-mile radius of the plant, "it's a joke. This is expensive historical and cultural real estate. It's irreplaceable. There is no evacuation. You'd have a parking lot on major roads," Marilyn said.
Lawrence commented that the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant is "a beast at our backs. It discharges its poison into the blood of the region... the river. The river becomes poison. We live in fear. Catastrophe is our metaphor.... but you (the walkers) remind me that this is not a given destiny. We can change it."