New York Attorney General Letitia James wants the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to listen to thestate’s concerns with the pending deal to sell Indian Point to Holtec International in New Jersey.
New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday called the deal to sell the Indian Point nuclear power plant “very risky” and urged federal safety regulators to consider the state’s concerns before moving ahead.
James filed a petition to intervene in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s hearings on Entergy’s plan to transfer ownership of the 60-year-old power plant to a subsidiary of Holtec International when Indian Point shuts down next year.
“Putting the decommissioning of Indian Point in the hands of a company with no experience and uncertain financial resources is very risky,” James said Wednesday. “I am committed to ensuring that New York is granted full participation in this application proceeding and all other decision-making related to Indian Point’s decommissioning.”
Among James’ concerns is a $200 million shortfall in trust fund money that will be used to decommission or dismantle the plant’s three reactors.
The funds currently hold $2.1 billion, but Holtec says the decommissioning effort, estimated to take 12 to 15 years, will cost $2.3 billion.
“Because the license transfer application does not show that adequate decommissioning funding will be available at the time of permanent shutdown,it does not comply with applicable NRC rules and may not be approvedas submitted,” the petition states.
In a statement, Holtec spokesman Joe Delmar said the company welcomed input from the state and others in the approval process.
“We look forward to an opportunity to further discuss with local officials and others Holtec’s plan for the safe, efficient and prompt decommissioning of Indian Point, which can be completed decades sooner than if Entergy performed the work,” Delmar said.
Holtec, based in Camden, New Jersey, has been a presence in the nuclear power industry for decades, mostly in the manufacture of the steel and cement canisters used to store spent fuel.
In recent years Holtec joined a handful of companies created to decommission the growing number of nuclear power plants that have announced plans to shut down. The company promises to cut decades off a job Entergy said would likely take decades.
“Holtec and its team have decades of experience safely decommissioning nuclear power plants and managing high level radioactive material at locations in the U.S. and other countries,” Delmar added. “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has previously determined that Holtec has the financial and technical qualifications to perform decommissioning safely, and has approved license transactions at other U.S. nuclear power plants.”
Skeptics have voiced their concern that decommissioning companies could jeopardize safety in the haste to get the job done, siphoning away trust fund money while sticking ratepayers with the tab for cost overruns.
Holtec’s plan calls for removing spent fuel assemblies from reactors and storing them in canisters on the Buchanan site until the federal government designates a permanent repository for storing the nation’s nuclear waste.
Holtec has asked the NRC to allow it an exemption that will allow the company to use approximately $632 million of the trust fund to manage spent fuel on the site.
Its decommissioning proposal said most of the plant’s large parts will be removed by truck and rail and delivered to sites that take in low-level radioactive waste. But, it says it is considering moving some of the parts by barge down the Hudson River — a plan opposed by environmental groups.
The first of Indian Point’s two working reactors is slated to be shut down in April.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer praised James’ action.
“Thanks to Attorney General James for having the backs of Westchester residents by making sure Holtec has a viable plan in place and is held accountable,” Latimer said. “All of Westchester County, from Cortlandt to Yonkers, stands to be greatly impacted by the Indian Point decommissioning process and this move by the Attorney General brings the resources and expertise of the State to this high-stakes proceeding.”
State and federal lawmakers who represent communities around Indian Point said the state’s input was needed to make sure the decommissioning is done safely.
“Nuclear energy has been produced on this site for nearly 60 years, so contamination of the environment is a distinct risk if dismantling the reactors is mishandled,” state Sen. Pete Harckham said.