Trade group rebuts effort to shut NY nuke plants

Planet Ark
November 22, 2001

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Arguing that customer costs would increase, an electric trade association in New York opposed a recent effort by environmental groups and local elected officials to shut nuclear power plants due to security concerns, the group said in a statement this week.

The Independent Power Producers of New York Inc. (IPPNY), which represents electric generators and marketers in New York, said shutting the plants would “immediately increase the cost of electricity to consumers, cost thousands of jobs, and threaten the reliability of New York’s electric system.

“While we understand the issue of plant security is on the minds of everyone who lives and works near a nuclear power plant, prudent steps have been taken to ensure the security of nuclear facilities in New York,” IPPNY Executive Director Gavin Donohue said in response to a petition filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to close the Indian Point power plant indefinitely.

About two weeks ago, Riverkeeper, an environmental group that seeks to protect the Hudson River, filed a petition with the NRC calling on the federal nuclear watchdog to immediately shut the Indian Point facility pending a full review of the plant’s vulnerabilities and safety systems.

Indian Point’s two operating nuclear reactors are located on the Hudson River in Buchanan, N.Y., about 40 miles north of New York City.

The facility, owned by a unit of energy giant Entergy Corp. of New Orleans, provides about 10 percent of the city’s power supply.

The petition by Riverkeeper, which is represented by environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., stated that the events of Sept. 11, “clearly demonstrate that the plant’s status needs to be reexamined.”

Pointing out that 20 million people live within a 50-mile radius of Indian Point, Riverkeeper warned an attack on the facility could have devastating consequences, rendering much of the Hudson River Valley, including New York City, uninhabitable.

IPPNY RESPONSE

The environmental groups are, “taking advantage of recent national security concerns,” said IPPNY.

“The NRC already has strict security standards that must be met by nuclear facilities across the country and is currently reviewing those standards to determine if there is room for improvement.”

“Calling for plants to shut down is the sort of knee-jerk reaction that won’t help security and will certainly have a negative impact on electricity markets and the economy,” IPPNY’s Donohue said.

Officials at the NRC said they have a well established process for handling petitions and will form a panel to look at the Riverkeeper’s filing.

“We just got it, so we are not even close to giving them a response yet,” said Neil Sheehan, a spokesman at the NRC.

Utilities depend on nuclear power to maintain a reliable, inexpensive supply of electricity.

There are more than 80 nuclear facilities in the U.S.

In New York, nuclear power supplies about 20 percent of the electricity consumed.

“If nuclear plants are shut down, electricity prices will increase significantly,” said IPPNY’s Donohue.

“This campaign is nothing more than a self-serving attempt to take advantage of the tragedies of Sept. 11 to permanently shut down these facilities,” Donohue said.

CLINTON INVOLVEMENT

Earlier this week, New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke at Indian Point about a plan to improve the safety of the nation’s nuclear power plants.

Last week, Sens. Clinton and Assistant Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada announced plans for legislation that would station federal agents at nuclear power plants to guard against security threats. The NRC said the bill would also likely seek the expansion of the emergency planning zone from 10 miles to 50 miles.

The emergency planning zone is the area surrounding a nuclear plant where most of the emergency response drilling and radiation testing occurs.

Increasing the zone around Indian Point to 50 miles would be very costly since it would include New York City.

Senators Clinton and Reid said they intend to introduce the bill after the Thanksgiving recess.

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