A protest held symbolically next to the Hudson River yesterday in Riverside Park, aimed at shutting down the Indian Point nuclear power plant 35 miles upstream in Buchanan, a town in Westchester County, New York. The plant has come into the limelight because its 40-year license is up for a 20-year renewal and because of likenesses made of the plant to the Daiichi plant that experienced meltdowns last march in Fukushima, Japan. These likenesses are earthquake-vulnerability and design, though, the charges don’t stop there and the public has been faced with many contradictions.
Though the rally was one of sixteen antinuclear demonstrations yesterday across the nation in ten states, this one might have happened with the most urgency. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) told MSNBC after the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown that Indian Point is the most susceptible to earthquakes; Reactor “3” in particular has a one in 10,000 chance of being damaged by an earthquake, reported Bill Dedman.
It has been said that Indian Point is between two fault lines; it’s actually on top of the Ramapo Fault Line according to WNYC. Indian Point is designed to withstand up to a 6.0 magnitude earthquake. The quake that surprised the east coast last August calibrated at 5.8 in the Virginia area. Though Indian Point was not affected, the North Anna nuclear plant in Virginia experienced a disruption to its initial cooling system. Fortunately, unlike the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the operators were able to engage the safety features immediately without problems. The North Anna plant is still offline while an analysis takes place.
Entergy, which runs Indian Point, continues to insist that the plant in Buchanan is safe from earthquakes. Entergy also says 2,000 people currently work at Indian Point. According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, IP had an economic impact of 811.7 million in New York Sate in 2004.
The public is forced to weigh the arguments. A meltdown, as vividly described at yesterday’s rally, would potentially entail the release of radiation, which could cause cancers or destroy the local food and water. Furthermore, the radiation would circulate around the globe. Stories were shared by those who had friends or family in Japan, the emphasis being that the government raised the acceptable level of contamination in food. Regardless of these stories, the weight of pragmatism falls heavy as the media repeats the conflict that nuclear energy emits no carbon dioxide and currently supplies a substantial amount of power that we need.
Obama is for nuclear and Mayor Bloomberg is for nuclear. However, Governor Cuomo has been talking about shutting down Indian Point since candidacy. A recent New York Post editorial claimed that Indian Point “provides 12 percent of the Empire State’s power — 30 percent to New York City and Westchester.” WNYC says it generates 25 percent to the City. ShutDownIndianPointNow.org refers to a NYISO (Independent System Operator) “Gold Report” in its claim that Indian Point only supplies the City between 4.3 and 6.2%.
When asked about this, Gary Shaw, a resident of Ossining in Westchester and member of Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, said that as of this year, Con Ed no longer contracts all of the output from Indian Point. An article in NukeFreeTexas.org indicates further that the excess energy is sold into the grid from “Maine to Delaware.” Shaw also referred to the 2003 Northeast Blackout when Indian Point closed for two days afterwards, in which no power shortages were experienced.
Bloomberg has stated that nuclear is good for now, as reliable, renewable energy is still in the “down the road.” Brent Blackwelder of Friends of the Earth however, insisted at the rally that “We know that renewables, (wind, solar, geothermal) in combination with efficiency can go all the way.” He did not outline a method of how this could be implemented but he referred to Germany, which has gotten rid of all of its nuclear plants and is “number one in solar electricity production” despite its lack of sun.