New York City’s nuclear power plant to shut down over safety fears
Indian Point Energy Centre, a 40-year-old nuclear power plant that provides around 25 per cent of the power used by New York City, will be shut by 2021 because of safety concerns.
Entergy Corporation, the company that runs the plant, has been fighting for nearly a decade to renew the plant’s licences, but has finally agreed to shut the reactors.
New York now has to find an alternative power source to make up for the deficit when Indian Point comes offline.
“I am proud to have secured this agreement with Entergy to close the facility 14 years ahead of schedule to protect the safety of all New Yorkers,” said New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo said Indian Point had been plagued by numerous safety and operational problems, including faulty bolts, and various leaks and fires.
The densely populated surrounding region lacks viable evacuation routes in the event of a disaster, said Cuomo, and the plant was once cited as the most vulnerable to earthquakes in the country.
Of the plant’s two operating reactors, first licensed to operate in 1973 and 1975, Unit 2 will close as early as April 2020 and Unit 3 in April 2021.
New York has been developing contingency plans for years to replace the power supplied by Indian Point, which is located in Buchanan, along the Hudson River about 72 kilometres north of midtown Manhattan.
The plant has an output capacity of 2,069MW, enough to meet 25 per cent of the power used by New York City and adjacent Westchester County.
Cuomo said replacement power would be in place that adds “no new carbon emissions” and would have “negligible cost impact to ratepayers.”
A couple of carbon-free projects that could replace some of the power generated at Indian Point are the Champlain Hudson Power Express project being developed by Transmission Developers, and an offshore wind farm being developed by a unit of Norwegian oil company Statoil ASA in the Atlantic Ocean, off Jones Beach.
The $2.2bn (£1.8bn) Champlain Hudson project can transmit up to 1,000MW of wind and hydropower produced both in upstate New York and Canada and deliver it to the New York metro area, while Statoil is looking to build a 400-600MW wind farm off Long Island.
A few natural gas-fired projects that are not carbon-free are also being considered to help replace some of Indian Point’s lost capacity.
The shutdown comes as New Orleans-based Entergy has been pulling back from its merchant nuclear business over the past few years to concentrate on its regulated utilities in the US South. Indian Point was the only unregulated nuclear plant it had tried to keep.
“The shutdown will complete Entergy’s exit from its merchant power business because of sustained low wholesale energy prices,” Entergy said in a statement.
“Record low gas prices, due primarily to supply from the Marcellus Shale formation, have driven down power prices,” said Bill Mohl, president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities.
Entergy has been trying to renew the federal licences for the two Indian Point reactors since 2007. Those licences expired in 2013 and 2015, but the units can continue to operate so long as the renewal process is ongoing.
The UK finally approved the construction of the £18bn Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in September last year after years of delays.