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Feds renew operating license for Indian Point; plans still call for 2021 shutdown

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Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan. Photo by Bob Rozycki.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Committee approved an extension of Indian Point Energy Center’s operating license, giving both nuclear reactors on the Buchanan site federal permission to run through the plant’s expected 2021 shutdown – and longer if necessary.

The Sept. 17 approval ends a contentious 11-year federal review in which the plant’s owner and operator, Entergy Corp., originally sought a 20-year license. Through a settlement with New York State and Riverkeeper – both opponents to the re-licensing – in 2017, Entergy agreed to shut down both reactors by 2021 and seek a shortened license through 2024 for its Unit 2 reactor and 2025 for its Unit 3 reactor.

Entergy said in a new statement that it still plans to shut down both reactors by 2021. The additional years allowed under the license are in case of an emergency, such as war or terrorism, that state officials decide require the plant to remain open.

Officials with the company said at the time of the settlement that the plant’s shutdown was primarily motivated by financial factors. Lower wholesale energy prices, driven by the increasing availability of natural gas, made the plant’s high operating costs unsustainable. But the company also acknowledged that the costs of the re-licensing and its related litigation factored into the decision as well.

In the company’s new press statement, Entergy officials praised the license renewal while also reiterating the expected shutdown schedule: 2020 for Unit 2 and 2021 for Unit 3. Unit 2 was refueled earlier this year for the final time, and Unit 3 will have its final refueling in spring 2019, the company said.

“The issuance of these renewed licenses is the culmination of thousands of hours of work by hundreds of nuclear professionals at Indian Point and across our nuclear fleet and company,” said Chris Bakken, Entergy’s chief nuclear officer. “Indian Point is one of the most reliable electricity generating plants in New York State, and it repeatedly has been determined to be safely and securely operated.”
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