Home Contributors Westchester Victoria Leung: Riverkeeper opposes using Holtec to decommission Indian Point

Victoria Leung: Riverkeeper opposes using Holtec to decommission Indian Point

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Entering 2020, Riverkeeper remains dedicated to protecting the Hudson River and the

Victoria Leung Riverkeeper Holtec Indian Point
Leung

health and safety of the surrounding communities. We are building on our decades of advocacy around Indian Point to ensure that the decommissioning of this dangerous and antiquated facility is completed with the best interests of the local communities and environment in mind. Riverkeeper supports the prompt completion of the decommissioning of Indian Point, however, not at the expense of our safety.

Now that advances in technology provide for safer, cheaper, and cleaner energy alternatives, nuclear power is no longer needed and communities should no longer have to bear the risk of living near these volatile, and dangerous sites. While Indian Point made economic contributions to the Hudson Valley and New York, it is time to embrace the new opportunities at the site.

This is why we’ve been fighting to stop Entergy from transferring Indian Point’s ownership – and the $2 billion decommissioning trust fund  – to Holtec, a company with a scandalous corporate past, little experience in decommissioning nuclear power plants and dubious experience in their core business, spent fuel management. Holtec’s culture of prioritizing its own profits over the law throws into doubt its willingness to decommission the site properly and prudently manage $2 billion of the public’s funds.

Holtec was caught bribing workers at the Tennessee Valley Authority, suspended from contracting with TVA and then lied about its corrupt past to get tax breaks from New Jersey. In addition, Holtec partnered with SNC-Lavalin, a company embroiled in a bribery scandal in Canada. Holtec has also repeatedly failed to fulfill its promises of job creation, and already faces criticism from unions at Oyster Creek (a plant acquired only 6 months ago) for using nonunion labor. 

Holtec has never decommissioned a nuclear facility before, and its entire nuclear “fleet” was acquired less than a year ago. Decommissioning is far more complex than just spent fuel management, especially at Indian Point, a site with known radioactive groundwater contamination. Even in its area of “expertise” Holtec’s spent fuel management system at San Onofre nuclear power plant in California is proven to have serious design flaws, and Holtec has a history of risk-taking with spent nuclear fuel canisters, brought to light by whistleblower actions.

Holtec’s illegal and unethical business practices in combination with its lack of experience in nuclear plant decommissioning places an unacceptable risk on the nearby communities who will reside next to this dangerous and volatile site for generations.

Riverkeeper is not alone in our skepticism of Holtec, over 1,300 individuals have signed on to our demand that Gov. Cuomo stop Holtec from taking over and that Entergy select a qualified company to take on the arduous tasks of decommissioning, site cleanup and management of spent radioactive fuel, while keeping 20 million New Yorkers safe. To support the concerns of our members and the community, we are preparing to challenge the license transfer to Holtec in both state and federal proceedings.

Meanwhile, those most impacted by the activities at Indian Point must have the ability to be fully informed and provide input on the process. We’re pushing for the establishment of community advisory boards on both the state and federal level to give community members a real voice regarding site clean up, use of the decommissioning fund, and the eventual site reuse. We urge state and federal regulators that any such board must be independent from industry and have real power and access to experts to ensure that the license holder is completing the process correctly.

Riverkeeper is fully vested in a quick and safe decommissioning of Indian Point once it closes. We’re demanding that Entergy select a qualified and reputable company – with a long track record of experience – for this critical undertaking. We are also counting on Gov. Cuomo to assert the state’s jurisdiction to supervise the license transfer, reject Holtec and ensure that there is robust and transparent oversight of the decommissioning process. New York must do everything in its power to ensure that the reactor site is decommissioned in a safe, effective, and prompt manner.

Victoria Leung is the associate staff attorney at Riverkeeper, a 53-year-old nonprofit with a mission to protect the environmental, recreational and commercial integrity of the Hudson River and its tributaries, and to safeguard the drinking water of more than 9 million New Yorkers. She can be reached at vleung@riverkeeper.org.

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