New York Judge Rules Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant Does Not Meet Clean Water Act Standards

On Friday, April 2, a New York judge ruled that the Indian Point nuclear power plant is in violation of the Clean Water Act because of 1) the number of fish and other aquatic organisms killed by the plant’s cooling system and 2) the amount of water consumed.  According to an article on CNN’s website, the plant kills almost 1 billion aquatic organisms every year.  Some of these organisms include some endangered species such as the shortnose sturgeon.  Entergy is the parent company of the nuclear plant.  On their website for the plant, Entergy claims that “the relatively small number of larvae and eggs that enter the plant have no impact on the Hudson River’s overall fish population.”  This claim is supposedly supported by studies.  However, even if the quantity of fish and aquatic organisms being killed by the plant does not have a major effect on the total population in the Hudson, classifying a billion of anything as a “relatively small number” seems highly questionable.  Indian Point has made substantial contributions to several different groups that work to protect fish.  These organizations seem primarily focused on research.  About $100 million were spent by Enetergy on new equipment and methods of protecting fish.  The company has also made numerous contributions to governmental organizations that deal with conservation in the Hudson River.

Another problem with the plant is that Indian Point uses an open cooling system that intakes about 2.5 billion gallons of water each day.  The New York Times tells readers that this is two times the total water usage of New York City.  Furthermore, the outflow from the plant is between 20 and 30 degrees warmer than the inflow.  The company says that no studies have shown the temperature difference to have any negative effects on the environment and aquatic species.  The average temperature of the Hudson has varied between 10.55 and 13.06 degrees Celsius, according to a 1994 study. The New York Times did not specify whether the 20 to 30 degree difference was in Celsius or Fahrenheit, but, ether way, this is a substantial increase in temperature over the natural temperature of the river.

Updating the plant poses several problems for the parent company Entergy.  In order to convert the current cooling system to a more modern, closed system, the company would have to spend 1.1 billion dollars.  The New York Times says that the current system was outdated in the 1970’s.  The two reactors were given their original licenses in 1971 and 1976 for reactors 2 and 3.  Reactor 1 was shut down in 1976.  The plant would also have to shut down for about 42 weeks according to the New York Times and CNN.  Since the plant supplies 30% of N.Y.C.’s electricity, the 42 week shutdown could be problematic for both the city and the company.  However, both of these costs seem to be short term costs, especially in comparison to the environmental costs associated with the plant as it operates today.

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