Environment N.Y. Says Indian Point Threatens Water

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From left to right, Eric Whalen of Environment New York and Philip Musegaas of Riverkeeper Photo Credit: Jessica Glenza
Eric Whalen of Environment New York Photo Credit: Jessica Glenza

BUCHANAN, N.Y. – A new report released by Environment New York contends that Indian Point Nuclear Power Plants are a threat to the drinking water of 11.3 million people in the New York metro area.  Still, officials for the power plants said a radioactive substance that has been leaked into the ground poses no threat to drinking water and has “no public health consequence.”

A 50-mile affected radius was calculated using the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Ingestion Pathway Emergency Planning Zone, where, “its primary concern is the ingestion of food and liquid that is contaminated by radioactivity.”

“The danger of nuclear power is too close to home,” said Eric Whalen, field organizer with Environment New York, an environmental advocacy organization.  “Here in New York State, the drinking water for nearly 10 million people is too close to an active nuclear power plant.  An accident like the one in Fukushima, Japan or a radioactive leak could spew cancer-causing radioactive waste into the drinking water of millions of New Yorkers.”

According to the report, titled “Too Close to Home: Nuclear Power and the Threat to Drinking Water,” both groundwater and drinking sources could be in danger from Indian Point Nuclear Power Plants.  Officials from Entergy, which runs the nuclear power plants, said after a “hairline” crack was discovered in Unit 2’s spent fuel pool in 2005, new ground water monitoring machinery was put in place. 

In mid-January, reactor Unit 2 was shutdown to repair a coolant pump, but the leak did not have contact with the outside environment, Indian Point officials said.

The report also cites investigative reporting by the Associated Press, which details how roughly 75 percent of U.S. nuclear power plants have had tritium, a radioactive substance, leak from corroded, buried pipes. Most of those leaks are located on plants sites, none have been known to reach public water supplies, the report says.

“On the issue of tritium, we have experienced tritium in groundwater on site,” said Jerry Nappi, spokesperson for Indian Point Nuclear Power Plants. “We have groundwater monitoring wells on site that are tested on a quarterly basis. On top of that, numerous state and federal government agencies have studied this issue and determined that there’s no public health consequence from that tritium,” he said.

Indian Point officials said if the plant’s 2,000 megawatts of power were to be replaced, they would have to be replaced with “base load power.” In other words, base load power comes from a source that works constantly, while other power sources handle “peak” demand, like natural gas “peaker” plants.

Nevertheless, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo and environmental organizations contend that Indian Point can be replaced by new transmission lines and energy alternatives.

“‘The Too Close to Home’ report highlights the profound risk posed by Indian Point to the drinking water for 9 million New Yorkers, and is only the latest evidence showing why this plant should be shut down," said Phillip Musegaas, Hudson River Program Director for Riverkeeper.

Musegaas said a recent study commissioned by Riverkeeper and Natural Resources Defense Council  “conclusively proves that Indian Point's power can be replaced after the reactors are retired in 2015.  If we don't need the power, why take the risk?”

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