Indian Point closure during pandemic is wrong, says climate group

20 April 2020

US-based Climate Coalition is urging New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to suspend the closure of the Indian Point nuclear power plant, due to take place later this month. Closing the plant now will add unnecessarily to New York City's vulnerability as state resources are stretched dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the group says.

Indian Point (Image: Entergy)

The coalition - a confederation of individuals, environmental groups, climate and clean energy advocates - is inviting supporters to sign an open letter to Cuomo, as well as a petition against the closure of the plant.

In the letter, the group thanks Cuomo for his leadership at "this very difficult time", describing the ongoing pandemic as the worst disaster in New York's recent history. "Your battle to procure ventilators and PPEs for hospitals will help save lives but there is something else important you can do to not worsen the impact of this already disastrous pandemic," it says. "You can exercise your executive power to suspend the closure of Indian Point."

Postponing the shutdown of Indian Point "and preventing a surge of new, toxic fossil fuel pollutants from spewing into the air while people are perishing from respiratory failure, is probably the most critical, preventative thing you can do to ease suffering and additional deaths," the letter says, citing studies finding air pollution to be linked to higher coronavirus death rates.

"Furthermore, closing Indian Point now adds unnecessarily to New York City’s vulnerability, just as state resources are stretched thin dealing with the pandemic," it says, adding that the closure could add grid fragility and unpredictability to the current crisis.

New York in 2016 approved a Clean Energy Standard explicitly recognising the zero-carbon contribution of the so-called upstate nuclear power plants - two units at Nine Mile Point and single units at RE Ginna and James A Fitzpatrick - as critical in enabling it to meet its climate change targets.

The two-unit Indian Point plant is in the south-east of the state, 24 miles (39 kilometres) from New York City, with an operable capacity of 2028 MWe. Its operator Entergy in 2017 agreed with the state of New York that Indian Point unit 2 would close by the end of April 2020, followed by unit 3 by the end of April 2021. The company at the time cited economic considerations coupled with political pressure as reasons for the plant's closure. The agreement included a provision that in the event of an emergency situation affecting electricity generation, the state may agree to allow the plant to continue operating for up to five more years.

Entergy in 2019 agreed to sell the Indian Point Energy Center to a subsidiary of Holtec International for accelerated decommissioning, following the shutdown of the final reactor at the site.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News