Climate Change

US / New York State ‘Using More Fossil Fuels’ After Indian Point-2 Closure

By David Dalton
8 February 2021

Lobby group warns situation will worsen with planned Unit 3 closure
New York State ‘Using More Fossil Fuels’ After Indian Point-2 Closure
The Indian Point nuclear station in New York State. Image courtesy Creative Commons.
Despite 2,753 GWh of reduced energy demand during the Covid-19 pandemic, New York state generated significantly more electricity, 5,068 GWh, from fossil fuels in 2020 than in 2019 because of lost nuclear power, according to the Climate Action lobby group.

The group, which supports the use of commercial nuclear power in the state, said that due to this greater fossil fuel consumption, the closure of Indian Point-2 in April 2020 will result in the annual production of about four million tonnes of avoidable carbon dioxide emissions, a figure that will double if Indian Point-3 closes as planned in 2021.

Moreover, with a capacity factor of 91%, Indian Point generates reliable baseload electricity. This means that shutting down Unit 2 created a very large, immediate, and continuous gap in real energy generation which had to be filled. That gap has been filled with fossil fuels, primarily methane – also known as natural gas.

Climate Action said wind and solar in New York were responsible for about 6,600 GWh of electricity in 2019. However, Indian Point generated 16,695 GWh. This means that from a climate standpoint, shutting down just half of Indian Point wiped out more carbon-free electricity than is annually produced by every wind turbine and solar panel in the state.

Shuttering Indian Point exacerbates poor air quality as more fossil fuels are burned in giant new gas-fired power plants within the lower Hudson Valley, the group said. It also harms “environmental justice communities” – those most at risk from environmental harm – which suffer from old, polluting oil and gas plants that will remain in operation longer, and that may need to run more, within the densely-populated New York City metropolitan area.

There are three pressurised water reactor units at Indian Point. Indian Point-1 and -2 have been permanently shut down, while Indian Point-3 is scheduled for closure by 30 April 2021.

The shutdowns are 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.

In June 2020, the pro-nuclear non-profit group Generation Atomic said the closure of Indian Point-2 erased more carbon-free electricity from the grid than is generated annually by all of the wind and solar power deployed statewide over the past 20 years.

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