BUCHANAN, N.Y. – New environmental impact data of Indian Point Nuclear Power Plants’ effect on Hudson River aquatic organisms prompted the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to begin a supplemental environmental impact statement. The supplement is in addition to the impact statement already required for the two reactors’ license renewal proceedings.
The NRC cited three reasons for the supplemental statement; new data provided by Entergy regarding how many fish are killed or trapped against cooling water intakes, the thermal plume created by warm water ejected from the plant into the Hudson River and new developments with regard to endangered species.
“It’s not that uncommon for us to do a supplemental environmental impact statement, these reviews can take years,” said Neil Sheehan, spokesperson for the NRC about reviews for license renewal. “The listing of the Atlantic sturgeon is obviously a very new piece of information.”
In January, the National Marine Fisheries listed Hudson River Atlantic sturgeon populations as endangered.
Data provided by Entergy refers to “impingement” and “entrainment” of fish in the once-through cooling water intakes. “Impingment” refers to the trapping of fish against intake screens, “entrainment” refers to smaller fish that go through the intake’s traveling screens and are killed in the plants’ cooling systems, which use up to 2.5 billion gallons of river water per day.
Data regarding impingement and entrainment highlights a larger regulatory fight between Entergy and NYSDEC. If Indian Point Nuclear Power Plants are relicensed, NYSDEC wants the plants’ owners to install closed cycle cooling systems, in order to issue a water quality certificate required to use river water.
In a fact sheet created by NYSDEC, one of the major concerns stated was “the mortality of more than a billion fish from entrainment of various life stages of fishes through the plant and impingement of fishes on intake screens.”
Entergy, however, said the once through cooling system “does not have any demonstrable negative effect on representative Hudson River fish populations nor does it warrant further mitigation measures," according to the Generic Environmental Impact Statement for License Renewal compiled by the NRC.
Closed cycle cooling systems can use up to 98 percent less water, but Entergy objects, saying the systems would cost billions to install. A report prepared for Entergy by Enercon Services puts the price at about $1.19 billion, which includes costs for outages required during conversion of the two plants.