New York Times
January 6, 2017
By Vivian Yee and Patrick McGeehan
The Indian Point nuclear plant will shut down by April 2021 under an agreement New York State reached this week with Entergy, the utility company that owns the facility in Westchester County, according to a person with direct knowledge of the deal.
Under the terms of the agreement, one of the two nuclear reactors at Indian Point will permanently cease operations by April 2020, while the other must be closed by April 2021. The shutdown has long been a priority for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who — though supportive of upstate nuclear plants — has
repeatedly called for shutting down Indian Point, which he says poses too great a risk to New York City, less than 30 miles to the south.
“Why you would allow Indian Point to continue to operate defies common sense, planning and basic sanity,” Mr. Cuomo told reporters in June.
Despite the political opposition to Indian Point, which is perched on the edge of the Hudson River in Buchanan, N.Y., the plant is an important supplier of inexpensive power to the metropolitan area. It has the capacity to generate more than 2,000 megawatts, or about one-fourth of the power consumed in New York City and Westchester County. The prospects for replacing that power are so far unclear, but potential options include hydropower from Quebec and power from wind farms already operating across New York, according to the person.
State officials believe the Entergy agreement will help convince renewable energy providers that the state is serious about looking for new sources of energy, the person said. But without a viable replacement source, ratepayers in New York City could be burdened with higher energy prices for years.
Entergy has agreed to make repairs and safety upgrades, including transferring spent fuel to what the state says is a safer storage system. The company will also allow safety inspections starting this year, bowing to longtime demands from the Cuomo administration; the office of the state attorney general,
Eric T. Schneiderman; and Riverkeeper, the environmental nonprofit group, all of which participated in the deal.
In exchange, the state and Riverkeeper will drop safety and environmental claims against Indian Point they had previously filed with federal regulatory agencies.
Entergy, which is based in New Orleans, has been seeking a 20-year renewal of its license from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission since 2007. But New York State officials have challenged that renewal on several fronts and have refused to grant permits that they say the plant needs to continue operating.
Jerry Nappi, a spokesman for Entergy in Westchester County, declined to comment.
Negotiations between the company and the Cuomo administration began in early December, according to the person with direct knowledge of the deal.
The attorney general’s office and Entergy have each signed off on the agreement, but the governor’s office has indicated to the other parties that it will wait until Monday to sign it, the person said. The deal has shifted several times during negotiations, but the person said that, all that remained was the governor’s office’s signature.
Nonetheless, Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for the governor, cautioned that nothing had been finalized.
“There is no agreement — Governor Cuomo has been working on a possible agreement for 15 years and until it’s done, it’s not done,” he said. “Close only counts for horseshoes, not for nuclear plants.”
Mr. Schneiderman’s office
has opposed Entergy’s relicensing bid in the courts, arguing that the plant poses safety and environmental hazards to the surrounding area; the agreement calls for Mr. Schneiderman to drop that challenge.
Under the agreement with the state, Entergy has committed to applying for a six-year license renewal. The agreement may help clear the way for approval. The reactors’ licenses expired in 2013 and 2015.
The agreement would also require Entergy to establish a new emergency operations center in the Dutchess County town of Fishkill, as well as to create a $15 million fund to finance projects related to environmental protection and other community benefits. The company will be obligated to consult regularly with Riverkeeper and other local groups.
The agreement also provides for flexibility if the state cannot find a replacement for Indian Point’s energy: The deadlines in 2020 and 2021 can be pushed to 2024 and 2025 if both the state and Entergy agree.
The agreement is reminiscent of one arranged by Mr. Cuomo’s father, Gov. Mario Cuomo, in 1989. Mario Cuomo negotiated a decommissioning of the Shoreham nuclear power plant on Long Island, which was never put into service. Its owner, the Long Island Lighting Company, sold the plant to the state for $1, but Long Island ratepayers were paying higher bills for years.