Elsewhere on the Nuclear Front — Indian Point

By December 14, 2006Energy

The Hill is a newspaper that concentrates on Congress, so it would be churlish to complain about coverage of a particular issue being too political. (And heck, we like politics!) Still, we’d like to follow up on a Dec. 13th front-page article about the fate of the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, N.Y., with one observation.

It’s an interesting piece, framing the debate about Entergy’s application to relicense the nuclear power plant as a matter of New York-flavored presidential politics, i.e. Hillary versus Rudy, Clinton versus Giuliani. Giuliani was on hand Nov. 22 in Yonkers when Entergy announced the license application. Clinton has called for an independent safety assessment of the plant, while N.Y. House Democrats have urged its closure for environmental and health reasons. The story quotes various members of Congress as well as Patrick Moore, the Greenpeace co-founder who now campaigns for nuclear power as an environmentally friendly energy source.

But manufacturers might well have ended this political take on Indian Point with one question: What about the energy the plant produces?

For an answer, let’s turn gratefully to a Dec. 5th op-ed in the New York Post by Matthew C. Cordaro, the former president of the Midwest Independent System Operator and director of the Center for Management Analysis at Long Island University:

  • Indian Point’s 2,000 megawatts (MW) supply 30 percent of New York City and the surrounding region’s electricity on a typical day, including much of the energy required by the mass-transit system run by Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
  • The plant has been a powerful economic engine, responsible for economic activity (including jobs, taxes, economic output and labor income, purchases, contributions to the local community, etc.) totaling $763.3 million a year for Westchester and surrounding counties.
  • Since nuclear power provides electricity without creating air pollution, Indian Point mitigates the release of 14 million tons a year of harmful emissions that would come from other sources of power, such as coal.
  • Nuclear plants are “base-load” sources of power: They run 24/7, reinforcing the reliability of the state’s power supply. This is particularly vital for commercial and industrial users: Reliable power is a must if they’re to plan on expanding business in New York.
  • Politics is fine, interesting, and we political junkies appreciate a good candidate-vs.-candidate story.

    But for manufacturers and the economy, energy comes first.

    Join the discussion One Comment

    • Phillip Musegaas says:

      A couple of points in response to the manufacturers comment..
      first, Giuliani was not only ‘on hand’ at the announcement, his security company is paid handsome sums by Entergy, the owner of Indian Point, to spread the PR message that the plant is invulnerable to terrorist attack- this despite a 2005 National Academies’ study that found the spent fuel pools at nuclear plants to be vulnerable to terrorists.

      second, Entergy does not supply 30% of NYC and the region’s electricity on a given day- here’s why. Entergy produces and sells 2,000 MW- NYC and Westchester County (the NYISO zone that uses IP’s power) has a demand ranging from app. 11-15,000 MW- at best, IP can only supply 11-18% of the power for this region. the 30% number is disseminated by Entergy, based on a few days in the spring and fall when non-baseload plants are shut down for maintenance, and most people are using neither heating or a/c-so the demand is very low. if IP were no longer in service, existing power producers would simply work out when they did maintenance to avoid affecting reliability.

      third, I agree that the plant puts money into the economy- revenues that new generation, repowering and expansion of renewables would also pump into the local economy, without the attendant risks. The NYS Comptroller issued a report on this subject in March 2005.

      fourth, nuclear power does not produce electricity without air pollution, despite the overwhelming PR campaign that states otherwise. and here’s why- nuclear power plants run on nuclear fuel rods, filled with uranium pellets. Uranium must be mined and processed into nuclear fuel- Uranium mining results in significant air and water pollution that is long lasting and a public health threat to the communities living near and working in the mines. Uranium processing requires significant fossil fuel, to power the processing plants that produce the fuel. Much as we’d like to believe otherwise, the actual production of electricity when a nuclear plant is operating is only part of the story-when the full life cycle of nuclear power is examined, it’s not the panacea we all hope for.

      I agree that energy is the key to this debate. I also think the risks of a radiological release and its consequences, and the conundrum of nuclear waste, must be addressed.