US / New York State Regulators Approve Deal That Clears Way For Decommissioning Of Indian Point

By David Dalton
24 May 2021

Governor Andrew Cuomo says agreement includes ‘a robust suite of financial and administrative provisions’
New York State Regulators Approve Deal That Clears Way For Decommissioning Of Indian Point
The Indian Point nuclear power station in New York state. Photo courtesy Entergy.
New York state regulators have approved a deal that puts in place “robust” financial conditions and clears the way for decommissioning the Indian Point nuclear power plant north of New York City.

The state Public Service Commission approved the transfer of the plant from Entergy Corporation to Holtec International subsidiaries, according to governor Andrew Cuomo.

Decommissioning of the site along the Hudson River is projected to cost $2.3bn and to take at least 12 years.

Mr Cuomo said the proposal approved by the PSC addressed the state’s concerns that adequate funds are available to complete the project subject to state oversight. Under the agreement, Holtec is required to adhere to “a robust suite of financial and administrative provisions”.

These include maintaining a minimum balance of no less than $400m in the decommissioning trust fund for 10 years and maintaining a minimum balance of no less than $360m for costs related to waste management and radiological cleanup of the site.

The PSC also announced today the formation of a decommissioning oversight board. The board will include state and local elected officials representing the host community, union representatives, environmental and technical experts and state agencies.

The last of three nuclear power reactors at the site was permanently shut down earlier this month after a years-long battle over its fate and despite warnings that shuttering the plant could increase the state’s short-term reliance on fossil fuels and increase emissions.

There are three pressurised water reactor units at Indian Point. Indian Point-2 was permanently shut down in April 2020. Indian Point-1, a smaller PWR that began operation in 1962, was taken offline in 1974 because the emergency core cooling system did not meet regulatory requirements.

The shutdowns of Units 2 and 3 were the result of an agreement between Entergy, the facility’s operator, the state of New York, and environmental groups who had pressured officials to close the station. Entergy said one factor in the closure was sustained low current and projected wholesale energy prices that reduced revenues.

A recent study said economic results for US commercial nuclear power plants are expected to deteriorate beyond 2021 and it is unlikely that any but the lowest-cost nuclear units will cover their costs and be viable to remain in operation. The study, by Potomac Economics, said the country faces the prospect of well-running nuclear plants shutting down, right when they are needed the most in the fight against climate change.

Five plants have shut down since 2018. They are Indian Point-3, Indian Point-2, Three Mile Island-1, Pilgrim-1 and Oyster Creek. Eight plants are also scheduled for closure by 2025. They are Byron-1, Byron-2, Duane Arnold, Diablo Canyon-2, Diablo Canyon-2, Dresden-2, Dresden-3 and Palisades.

The Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute has said that given the urgency of the climate crisis, it is “unacceptable” to lose more clean energy.

NEI president and chief executive officer Maria Korsnick said state legislatures and federal policymakers have reached a consensus that a clean energy future is not possible without all carbon-free technologies working together.

The US nuclear energy industry has long warned about the premature closure of nuclear plants and called for electricity markets to be reformed to recognise the ability of traditional baseload generation with onsite fuel supplies – including nuclear power plants – to provide grid resiliency during extreme events like hurricanes or extreme winter weather.

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