Home Energy Indian Point owner to federal court: have state back off

Indian Point owner to federal court: have state back off

Entergy Corp. has asked a federal court in Albany to order a top New York state official to withdraw his department’s objection to the relicensing of two nuclear reactors at the Indian Point Energy Center because the plant’s operation is not consistent with the state’s coastal management program.

The state’s objection prevents the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission from renewing operating licenses for Indian Point’s nuclear reactors, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state agencies want shut down because of potential health and safety risks from airborne radiation and radioactive groundwater leaks that they claim the Buchanan plant’s continued operation poses to some 17 million residents within 50 miles of the plant site. The NRC license renewals would extend the nuclear reactors’ operating lives for 20 years.

Entergy officials contend the objection brought by New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales  in November is founded on nuclear safety concerns and so intrudes on the NRC’s exclusive regulatory authority in that area.

In a lawsuit filed on Jan. 14 in U.S. Northern District of New York Court, Entergy petitioned a federal judge to rule that federal law preempts the state’s objection and to issue a permanent injunction requiring Perales to withdraw the objection.

The Entergy lawsuit is part of an ongoing legal battle between the nuclear plant operator and state officials as to whether Entergy’s Indian Point operation is exempt from review under the state Coastal Management Program and federal Coastal Zone Management Act. A state Supreme Court judge in late 2013 ruled that Entergy’s license renewal application was not exempt from review for its consistency with coastal management policies. That lower court ruling, however, was reversed one year later by a state Appellate Division judge in favor of Entergy. The state has appealed that decision to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, which has yet to issue a ruling.

In a letter last November to an Entergy executive explaining the state’s objection, Perales said that Indian Point’s nuclear facilities “have been damaging the coastal resources of the Hudson River estuary” for more than 40 years. Indian Point draws up to 2.5 billion gallons of water daily from the Hudson River through its cooling water intake system, a process that each year kills at least one billion fish, juvenile fish, fish eggs and larvae and other organisms, Perales said.

Perales also noted that the core of one of Indian Point’s two operating nuclear reactors could be damaged by an earthquake in what is an active seismic zone and “would potentially expose millions of people to harmful levels of radiation.”

Leaks of radioactive liquids and airborne radiation could contaminate New York City’s drinking water supply stored in the nearby New Croton Reservoir, Perales claimed.  And radioactive releases from a severe accident at the nuclear plant “have the potential to destabilize the real estate market, infrastructure, and the economy in New York City and surrounding municipalities,” Perales said.

“Indian Point’s location and operations are incompatible uses in New York’s coastal area,” the secretary of state concluded. Relicensing the reactors “without substantial modification of the facilities will continue the environmental harms to the estuary and increase the threats to the public.”

Attorneys for Entergy in its lawsuit argued that the state’s objection “repeatedly relies on nuclear safety concerns” and the claim that Indian Point harms aquatic species in the Hudson “is merely a pretext” for those other concerns.

Entergy attorneys in the court complaint claimed that nuclear safety concerns “cannot as a matter of law serve as a basis for state regulatory action against a nuclear power plant.” The federal government is solely responsible for nuclear safety regulation, they said, citing legal case precedents.

In a statement to the Business Journal, Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman in Cuomo’s office, said, “We don’t comment on pending litigation but are confident the state’s actions will be upheld.”




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