Indian Point Debate: Battle Between Jobs and Safety

The public duked it out at Thursday night's long and heated forum surrounding the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's annual assessment of Indian Point.


Eleven thousand jobs created by a power plant. Eighteen million lives affected in the New York metro area by its demise. Those were the main numbers the protestors – of which there were many at Thursday night's – were throwing around.

The protestors were louder, or least more organized, than the pro-nuclear folks. They were also more colorful.

There were the Raging Grannies with their purposely frumpy clothes and song (a gimmick, admitted one, but anything to get the message heard).

Some Japanese people wore hazmat suits emblazoned with red nuclear symbols, a powerful reminder of the Fukushima disaster and the fact that Japan's gone fully non-nuclear since. As of two weeks ago, the country closed its last nuclear reactor.

staged a rally before the hearing in the back of the grand ballroom at the , with speakers ranging from Westchester Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (“Indian Point is an accident waiting to happen”) to Occupy Wall Streeters and a Columbia University seismologist. Riverkeeper had a few buses pick up some 70 folks from New York City, but many of the speakers said they lived within a few miles of the energy facility.

Their message again and again (and often chanted) was “shut it down, shut it down.” Their signs read Old and Dangerous or Unsafe, Unsecure, Fatal. They had buttons, pins, stickers, hats, yellow t-shirts.

Once the official forum began, public hearing fatigue can soon set in as the points made by speakers (two to three minutes each, though the rule was only sometimes enforced and other times caused friction) get repetitive and divisions become more divisive. There seemed no common ground between the anti- and the pro-, the safety-fearful and the economy-dedicated (their sign read “Save Union Jobs”).

Many speakers said this wasn't their first hearing; they'd been attending this annual assessment meeting for the last 10 years. Their frustration in feeling less heard and more misled through the years bubbled up into hissing, booing, and interrupting the pro-nuclear people.

County Legislator Michael Smith, who said he was personally supportive of the plant's license renewal but wanted to “raise the quality standards,” begged the hissers to give him the same courtesy he gave to them.

Despite the imbalance in noise-making, there were a fair amount of speakers on behalf of the plant. Marsha Gordon, President of Westchester Business Council, who praised the industry's importance in the region for keeping electricity costs down and people employed. Plant workers who said safety is their utmost priority. Mary Foster, Mayor of Peekskill, another person requesting a “cease and desist” on the rude reactions in the room, who supports the plant's operation but wants a better understanding of the emergency evacuation plan.

What emergency evacuation plan? Abinanti said there was no hope of evacuating the region if there were ever a meltdown. Just look at the traffic on the Tappan Zee Bridge tonight, he said. “You can't even get out of White Plains."

Abinanti compared and contrasted our outdated bridge with the plant. One of the reasons cited for a bridge rebuild is the threat of an earthquake, but this is not a threat to a nuclear power plant?, he asked.

"Lose the bridge, and some cars go in the water. Lose the plant, and you lose millions," Abinanti said. Continuing on the car theme, he said, Indian Point “is an old car whose time has come.”

For their part, the representatives of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission who oversee how plant owner Entergy is performing, at the front table facing the crowd sat grim-faced, taking notes, occasionally answering the questions posed to them, but mostly having to stomach a lot of animosity. “Public health and safety is mission one for us,” Regional Director Bill Dean said.

From the NRC press release:

At the conclusion of last year, as assessed by the NRC’s Reactor Oversight Process, there were no performance indicators for Indian Point Units 2 and 3 that were other than “Green” (very low risk) and no inspection findings that were “Greater than Green” (all findings were of very low safety significance). Therefore, for the rest of 2012, Indian Point Units 2 and 3 will receive the very detailed inspection regime used by the NRC for plants that are operating well.

Entergy officials remained in the hallway not the ballroom, fielding questions privately and explaining diagrams on poster board.

“Where is Entergy?” asked activist Mark Jacobs, one of the founders of Indian Point Safe Energy Coalation and a close neighbor to the facility. “Make a decision,” he urged the NRC, who got bashed that night from others as “whores of the industry” and cries of “you lie.”

“You will decide to relicense the plant,” Jacobs said. “We will stop it in the courts and in the streets. Then we'll shut it down.”


The annual assessment for Indian Point plant is available on the NRC web site here. Read more on Indian Point on the Peekskill-Cortlandt Patch.

JM May 18, 2012 at 11:48 AM
Sigh... yet again. If I had a market wage job (i.e. didn't need to work 80hr weeks to just eat rice) I'd create, own, and fund an objective committee effort to lead this project in a new direction. We lack leadership at every level of this discussion, both in Westchester and in Albany, and I'm not concluding Indian Point should or should not be closed for that isn't the point. What I do see, however, is that if it is closed 1) Tens of thousands of good jobs will vanish -- and worse yet never return to Westchester (IBM is the perfect example of that) and 2) Once again in our so-called great country of well-educated folks, we have missed an opportunity to reinvent and experiment for the future with Indian Point. It is easy and predictable to take sides, easier yet to paint placards and easiest of all to clap, sing and shout. No one wins with those moves. But you cannot say the same for what we do not yet know. If the right skills are brought to the table, alternatives and new solutions are hashed out then --in the end-- we may have satisfied opposing sides plus added even more jobs than I.P. supports now.
Teleman May 18, 2012 at 11:55 AM
The environmentalist wackos won't be happy until were using pedal power and walking to work.
Teleman May 18, 2012 at 11:58 AM
I am a longtime supporter of keeping the plant open. I do however think the period between re-licensing should be around 5 years- I welcome the scrutiny- Entergy is a private corporation and we all know how corporations cut corners to generate revenue.
Rev. Eileen May 18, 2012 at 02:08 PM
For the sake of boiling water--which is all this uranium atom splitting technology actually accomplishes--the nuclear industry has been raising cancer rates and mutating genes for 40 years, release after release, into the air, water, and soil. Now, when there are so many safe, effective, and affordable green energy alternatives available, the NRC is relicensing reactors beyond their designed life span and, despite Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and the ongoing triple meltdown and fuel pool crisis in Fukushima, putting new reactors online for construction. This is sane? But if you want to avert a Fukushima on the Hudson and protect the environment, you're considered a wacko? What a world!
scott patrick May 18, 2012 at 02:35 PM
I agree with Rev. Eileen. Something like Nuclear Energy has too many risk and inherent dangers. I think that most people know that it is unsafe and the risk of accidents and leaks make it a ticking time bomb. The Fukushima plant is still leaking radiation and not under control. Parents check playgrounds and their gardens with Geiger counters that read as hot spots of radiation. The will only get worse and may require the evacuation of millions of Japanese from the island. And while we are considering the dangers of radiation here in the US and Japan, may I also direct your attention to Iraq and Afghanistan. Due to Bush and Obama's permission, the US military has been using uranium 'dirty bomb' munitions. These munitions upon impact create a vapor like aerosol of radioactive dust. The wind blows this everywhere and in is now in the soil, the drinking water, and the crops. Our soldiers and the men, women and children of Iraq and Afghanistan are exposed to breathing in this dust. It can lodge in the lining of the lungs or easily pass through into the blood stream and spread throughout the body. These munitions did not have to be used. They are illegal and create what constitutes as a war crime against humanity. It could also be charged that it is treasonous to send our troops into a combat situation and use something that they can not be protected from. This dust can pass through the filter of a gas mask. Soldiers can pass the radioactive material to their spouses.
Teleman May 18, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Nonsense, go to the National Cancer Institute and read the studies- the facts aren't there on your "gene mutating". The Sun and fallout from nuclear weapons testing have mutated far more genes than nuclear power ever has. Are there problems with Nuke power- absolutley-but your statement that there are so many safe,effective and affordable alternatives available is just silly-the "alternatives" are no where close to being able to produce the amount of energy needed to meet demand. We can't do coal because that's too polluting, oil too polluting, natural gas- greenhouse emissions and the potential for massive explosions, fracking no good. So we're left with what?
Steve Cohen May 18, 2012 at 02:59 PM
We are left with an old and aging plant that can probably run safely for a number of year. Accent on "probably." A major nuclear accident (or attack; remember, 9/11 planes flew right over Indian Point on their way to WTC) in this densely populated would be the greatest disaster in this country's history. And this says nothing about the waste still sitting in casks in pools of water in highly vulnerable buildings. We have some time to figure out what to do about this aging facility but it can't continue to operate indefinitely past it's intended life. It is indeed, literally, a ticking time bomb. Nobody seems to have discussed third alternative: a update to the plant to modern nuclear standards. Is that not a possibility?
Remy Chevalier May 18, 2012 at 03:42 PM
We have a speed boat, underground shelter business, if anyone is interested?
John Taggart May 18, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Depleted uranium has been used in weapons since the early 90s at least. Where used by us in Yugoslavia throut cancer rates went up 800% shortly after. However that was directly ingested and chernobyl had no containment domes. I can see Indian Point from my home in winter and have no fear of it. It is found to be safe so thats that. The only way to shut down Indian Point is to replace it. Build a new plant and bring it on line as you shut down I.P. Coal plants discharge 100 times more radiation and like coal oil has to be shipped in and can be very messy. We do have alot of cheap natural gas right here in NY. thats a one time hookup delivered by pipeline. If you want Indian Point shut than you better start screaming for the replacement plant to be built first. Guess who wont allow natural gas to cross the Hudson, I see their busy stacking meetings here. The riverkeeper, in their rush to gain political power and total control of MY river by sticking their nose into every project on MY river. They actually take credit for stopping the Millennium project with junk science and chicken livered politicians. Riverkeeper stuck the people of Westchester with no alternative to leaky oil tanks in their yards, cancer causing benzine, dirty high maintence oli boilers, and yes the very plant they say they want to shut down Indian Point.
Remy Chevalier May 18, 2012 at 03:47 PM
"Riverkeeper stuck the people of Westchester with no alternative to leaky oil tanks in their yards, cancer causing benzine, dirty high maintence oli boilers..." Really? (It's benzene with an e btw.)
Covelo Gibbs May 18, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Decommissioning Indian Point nuclear power station will provide job security for a long time. Also, imagine how much conservation, and appropriate power will be needed to offset taking Indian Point off line. Wanting to keep Indian Point operating is near sighted, greedy and dangerous. Let's get together and do the right thing: shut down Indian Point.
Covelo Gibbs May 18, 2012 at 05:05 PM
http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/Job-life-decommissioning-Oldbury-nuclear-power/story-16086311-detail/story.html. "Job for life - decommissioning Oldbury nuclear power station"
Sunny Armer May 18, 2012 at 05:55 PM
It is possible that “tens of thousands of good jobs will vanish -- and worse yet never return to Westchester” if the plant is shut down. How many jobs will vanish and never return if the plant melts down? How many human beings will never be able to return to their homes?
JM May 18, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Sunny, why not have the next-gen solution in place that doesn't risk such a threat you describe? Do you not see what I'm asking? Why and/or how is it in this nation we so fear being innovators of science and technology -- thus, every time we face a challenge, such as I.P., the only solution is to walk away? No one wants to endanger our fellow citizens (i.e. that is the top-level goal everyone shares). So, from that we gather the smarts, that is the right brain power of next-gen energy, to work out a plan that meets that goal. From there other goals and challenges emerge, and each bullet point is handled accordingly. I'm simplifying of course due to space here, but I clearly see other solutions are possible than what is being discussed now.
Sunny Armer May 18, 2012 at 07:04 PM
From an official report: A 600-MW power line has been approved to be installed under the Hudson River from NJ to Manhattan under NYPA auspices. A plan for a 1,000 MW power line from Canada to NYC is making its way through financial and regulatory processes. There is local support for re-powering an old coal power plant in Stony Point. Replacing coal with natural gas.Power transmission systems are already there. The cost is much lower and installation faster) than and building a new plan and will provide many local non-nuclear jobs. The plant would be efficient, providing reasonably priced power with very low emissions. It would need no cooling from the Hudson, so no need to build cooling towers. Upstate wind generation capacity has been rapidly increasing, along with natural gas generation needed to support wind's varying output. Both power consumption and peak demand will be reduced by all buildings in NYC over 50,000 Square Feet (which covers most NYC commercial properties).
Teleman May 18, 2012 at 07:16 PM
So we're not necessarily meeting demand, we're reducing it. If Bama stays on course we won't need that much new energy production anyhow- businesses are closing and the economy flailing and people out of work reduces the need.
Teleman May 18, 2012 at 07:20 PM
As far as wind, you would need about 60,000 acres of land and 2400-2800 wind turbines to equal the 1000 mw of electricity of 1 nuclear reactor- and that is if the wind is blowing ALL THE TIME, which it doesn't so the number would be much higher than that. As far as solar, maybe about 5,000 acres of panels- and that's if its 24 hours of solid daylight everyday ( which for now, is not reality ).
John Taggart May 18, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Good points, but a few things. The Lovit plant in Stony Point has been totally raised, just the lines remain which is good. The new gas plant still would use Hudson water to cool it, the one behind my house does. And that is fine to, but the riverkeeper and others will say it will kill every thing in the Hudson, which is baseless of course. Finally we would need to run a line under the Hudson to the Indian Point site, connect to their lines before shutting down I.P. And you will get the same baseless argument. NYC politicians are not as weak minded as ours, ours will cave and Indian Point will stay
John Taggart May 18, 2012 at 09:19 PM
I think your right. We would have to clearcut and level Buchanan to lay out enough 35% effecient solar cells and huge storage batteries. Just to remind enviro. groups nothing grows under and around solar farms, more suited for a desert. How about water wheels in the Hudson, this was talked about years ago, totally green no carbon emitted. How do you think that would go over
alice slater May 19, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Verdant Electric is already doing tidal power under the East River in NYC and just got the environmental impact statement approved--unlike Indian Point it won't kill billions of fish and fish eggs every year as the Hudson is heated up to cool the lethal irradiated fuel tanks which incidentally, were mentioned as a possible target by Al Queda when they decided to only hit the World Trade Towers. Otherwise we would have had a Fukushima on the Hudson. CUNY did a study of NYC rooftops and figures the city could get 40% of peak electricity just from solar panels on roofs--no clear cutting. And there is a proposal to put windmills off the coast of Far Rockaway for power to NY, NJ, and Del. Because of the shallow rock shelf, they can build them far out, beyond the horizon so we wouldnt have to worry about the ocean view. Scientific American says the whole planet can be sustainable by 2030 with the political will. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-path-to-sustainable-energy-by-2030 And of course there would be lots of jobs and I assume we'd prioritze the workers at Indian Point for the first round of clean-up, decommissioning and green energy jobs, so they wouldn't have to keep turning out to support the death trap they are working in. It's like coal miners wanting to keep the mines going because of their jobs. We could have prosperity and take care of our workers and create more wealth than we could ever have with Indian Point. Alice Slater
Cinema Forum Fukushima May 20, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Please watch the archive footage of 45 voices at the NRC Hearing on our website if you missed the meeting. Cinema Forum Fukushima live streamed the event. http://cinemaforumfukushima.org and our Vimeo site. https://vimeo.com/42443504 Cinema Forum Fukushima
Teleman May 20, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Your dramatic, emotional language makes an awful lot of assumptions about a "fukushima on the hudson"- I would think there may be some slight differences between an impact from an aircraft and a magnitude 9.0 quake followed by a tsunami ( which won't happen on the Hudson river). When the technology becomes widely available and economically viable- I'm all for using it- but until then it's just stupid to start removing existing energy production. We may very well be able to utilize new technology for our energy in the short term- but is it wise to completely bankrupt ourselves to do so? Me thinks not.
John Taggart May 20, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Producing power with tides and water flow is to me very green. Here in the Hudson Valley I'm sure it will be protested like every thing else. I don't think the 90 degree (worst case) water discharge is as much as a problem as the fast intake. Fish wont stay where its that uncomfortable and the best place to fish in cold weather was just down stream. Indian point upgraded its nets in past years but has to fast a flow. I don't want my fish killed. Would a different fuel source need less cooling water? The water plant to be built in Haverstraw has a slow flow and the nets are .5 milimeters smaller than eggs or fry. A 747 will not damage the containment domes but of course would badly damage the plant. Not the death toll al queda wants. Every residence and business should have a solar array on the roof. Even a small one can power your central ac all day all summer. Next generation of more effecient cells are on the way. Houses in NY should be designed with one roof line facing south. My roof is wrong so I'm looking into a 12 panel dual axis system , mounts on a pole in the yard and moves with the sun. I just worry about solar farms in a vegetation rich area like NY, nothing grows under or around solar farms.
Sunny Armer May 20, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Thank you for recording this meeting! You have really captured the spirit as well as the content. I am one of two Raging Grannies who sang at the end. We are part of Raging Grannies WOWW in Westchester. We always come to the NRC and other Indian Point meetings and sing if we get a chance. We have other songs about nuclear power, too. Raging Grannies all over the US and Canada support environmental causes as well as peace and justice. http://raginggrannieswoww.org
Sunny Armer May 20, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Take a look at some ways to replace the power from Indian Point http://ossining.patch.com/blog_posts/putting-new-yorks-nuclear-power-in-perspective
Teleman May 20, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Thank you for interrupting and wasting the precious time of others who made the effort to come to the meeting. Hopefully now that you took another opportunity to plug yourselves, you'll go away
Nora Freeman May 21, 2012 at 11:58 PM
I could POSSIBLY be persuaded to support nuclear power if the plants were run by nuclear physicists who derived no profit from doing so. This is not because I think nuclear physicists have some sort of special magic, but rather because they would not have a financial stake in its operation. So they would consistently apply the highest safety standards. In that case it MIGHT be true that a reasonable level of safety would be maintained due to the fabled "multiple redundancies" built into the plants. We don't know because we have never tried it. Unfortunately, the plant is not run by nuclear physicists; it is instead run by businessmen who are responsible to private investors, whose only motive is profit. Thus we have an unknown number of exemptions and variances of the safety standards granted to Entergy by the NRC, an "evacuation plan" that is a mockery of the concept of evacuation planning, and an unconscionably low level of transparency on the part of the NRC, which is supposed to be working for the public.


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