BUCHANAN, N.Y. - Con Edison and the New York Power Authority will begin developing a contingency plan to shut down in the event the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plants are not granted a 20-year license extension, according to an order from the New York state Public Service Commission. The agency regulates utilities and is carrying out parts of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Energy Highway Blueprint.
Opponents of the dual nuclear reactors have long called for such a contingency plan. The Natural Resource Defense Council partnered with Riverkeeper this fall to issue such a report. The pair of environmental groups said the plants could be replaced with additional transmission capacity, wind and solar energy.
The New York State Energy Planning Board had a similar finding in an August report, noting "replacement generating capacity and/or additional transmission" could mitigate large scale black-outs predicted to begin in 2016 if the plants' capacity is not replaced.
Industry lobbying groups, such as the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, of which Indian Point owner Entergy is a member, disagrees and contends Indian Point makes up a crucial link in the electricity grid.
Indian Point spokesperson Jerry Nappi said the contingency plan is sound planning from a regulatory perspective, and not a commentary on the likelihood of Indian Point's license renewal.
"The task force that directs the PSC to look at these contingencies really made no assumption about our probability of closure. It's really just a prudent measure to ensure that there's enough power to keep the grid reliable if we shut down, if we do not achieve license renewal," Nappi said. "We do feel confident that Indian Point will receive license renewal and safety operate for an additional 20 years."
"We've been waiting for a moment like this for a decade," said Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay. "We see this as a huge step in the right direction."
Gallay added that "you could close Indian Point through a combination of energy efficiency, renewables, and refurbishing old inefficient power plants and not need a single addition cubic foot of natural gas in the process."
Public affairs officers at the state Public Service Commission couldn't immediately comment on when the contingency plan might be complete.
Indian Point Units 2 and 3 licenses expire in 2013 and 2015, respectively, but can operate until license hearings are completed. Currently, a judiciary arm of the NRC, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, is hearing about a dozen appeals brought against the license renewal of Indian Point.
The same Public Service Commission report mentioned ways in which expanded natural gas use may be examined. The governor's Energy Highway Blueprint "calls for an examination of existing barriers to the expanded use of natural gas service by residential and businesses customers in the state and appropriate measures to reduce or eliminate potential barriers."