Shutting down the single largest source of zero-carbon energy in the downstate area jeopardizes the economy, safety, and well-being of New Yorkers, while contributing to catastrophic climate change.
Burning fossil fuels also generates other harmful pollutants, like particulate matter. Fine particulates – especially those with a diameter smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) – are particularly dangerous to the human respiratory system, as they deplete lung capacity. Using growing renewable generation to displace fossil-fired electricity would decrease deaths in NYC, and ramping up fossil-fired generation does the opposite. This is the human cost of fear.
- The Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant (Indian Point) generates 80% of the clean electricity (24% of the total) in downstate New York (Albany on south, NYC, and the surrounding metro area).1
- The agreement between New York State, Entergy (the plant’s owner), and Riverkeeper (a local antinuclear group) to close Indian Point was signed in early 2017 without public notice or participation.2
- Despite a greater appreciation of climate change (NYC declared a “Climate Emergency” in 2019)3 there is scant awareness that the first reactor (IP2) will permanently close in April 2020, followed by the second reactor (IP3) in April 2021, resulting in significant additional pollution from fossil fuel-fired generation.
- Despite Governor Cuomo’s assurance at the time that replacement power will have “no new carbon emissions,”4 these resources are not yet available. The agreement had the foresight to include a provision to delay closure by up to 4 years if needed.
- New York grid operator NYISO’s deactivation assessment5 shows that Indian Point will be replaced primarily by methane gas-fired generation at Cricket Valley Energy (online from March 2020) and CPV Valley (operational since October 2018), making New York’s electric grid more fossil fuel-dependent than it has been since 2001.
- Opposition to transmission projects6 prevents upstate wind and Canadian hydro power from reaching renewable-starved7 downstate NY, where solar and wind provide only 2% of electricity.1 Approval and construction of needed transmission projects remain highly uncertain.
- A recent comprehensive report from the Citizens Budget Commission, an influential think tank, found that the projected expansion of solar and wind was “likely infeasible.”8
- The closure of Indian Point means NY is going backward in-terms of both GHG emissions and public safety, for no rational or scientifically supportable reason.9 This is antithetical to combating climate change and is in direct opposition to NY’s stated policy of reducing its carbon footprint.
- By the end of 2021, Indian Point’s closure will lead to increasing annual CO2-equivalent emissions by 12-15 million metric tons, exacerbating global climate change.10 Emissions from NY’s power generation will increase 27-29% 11, 11, endangering the state’s ability to meet its nation-leading goals in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).
- Electricity from wind projects offshore Long Island will not even start to service NYC until 2028,12 and federal scrutiny may cause substantial additional delays.13
- The decision to close Indian Point will increase deaths due to outdoor air pollution by 11 to 182 per year and the incidence of serious illnesses by 119 to 1,956 per year.14 The premature deaths would hurt the downstate economy nearly $100 million to $1.7 trillion per year, using EPA’s Value of Statistical Life.15 Regulated nuclear power is the safest source of energy worldwide,16 and the Indian Point generators have operated safely for 54 years.17 Risks of an extremely low-probability nuclear accident18 need to be balanced against documented health effects associated with outdoor air pollution.
- Indian Point’s shutdown will result in additional fossil fuel burning at some of the dirtiest gas- and oil- generators in NYC, mostly located in poor and minority areas in the City.19
- Closing Indian Point will reduce the reliability of the electric grid serving downstate New York, possibly causing widespread power outages, brownouts, and increased power costs.20
- While closure can be postponed until clean energy sources become available, the operator would likely need to be compensated with Zero Emission Credits, currently only afforded to upstate nuclear plants.21
Cowardice asks the question – is it safe? Expediency asks the question – is it politic? Vanity asks the question – is it popular? But conscience asks the question – is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right. -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr
- NYISO. Power Trends 2019, Figure 16. May 2019. 2018 clean generation in TWh (nuclear 16.3 + hydro 2.6 + solar/other 1.6) vs. 69.3 TWh total downstate generation.
- NY State, Riverkeeper, and Entergy. Indian Point Closure Agreement. January 2017.
- Bernard / New York Times. A ‘Climate Emergency’ Was Declared in New York City. Will That Change Anything? June 2019.
- Governor Cuomo Announces 10th Proposal of the 2017 State of the State: Closure of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant by 2021. January 2017.
- NYISO. Generator Deactivation Assessment Indian Point Energy Center. December 2017. The other identified methane project, uprate of the peaker plant at Bayonne Energy Center II in New Jersey has been withdrawn.
- Eadie / Sierra Club – Atlantic Chapter. Stop CHPE; No need to import Canadian electricity from 1,200 miles away. March 2015.
- New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund. Breaking Down the Barriers to Renewable Energy in New York State. March 2019.
- Citizens’ Budget Commission. Getting Greener: Cost-Effective Options for Achieving New York State’s Greenhouse Gas Goals. December 2019.
- Specter / Micro Utilities. The Best Emergency Plan for Indian Point, Rev. 2. November 2019
- Combined Cycle Gas Turbines generate 758-932 gCO2-eq/kWh at 2.3%-3.5% methane leak rates. Displacing 16.3 TWh of nuclear generation (12 gCO2-eq/kWh) with gas-fired electricity increases annual GWP20 emissions by 12.2-15.0 million tonnes (Mt) CO2e. Methane is a 84x-worse pollutant than CO2 over a 20-year time horizon (GWP20). New York’s CLCPA defined CO2 equivalencies for other greenhouse gases over 20 years, a time-frame appropriate for addressing the urgency of climate change.
- UN IPCC. Technology-specific Cost and Performance Parameters Annex III, Table A.III.2. 2014.
- EDF. Measuring Methane: A Groundbreaking Effort to Quantify Methane Emissions from the Oil and Gas Industry. 2018.
- Howarth. Ideas and perspectives: is shale gas a major driver of recent increase in global atmospheric methane? 2019
- Cornell Chronicle Howarth advised on methane portions of NY’s new climate law. July 2019.
- UN IPCC. Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative Forcing. Table 8.7 | GWP and GTP with and without inclusion of climate–carbon feedbacks.
- NYSERDA. New York State Greenhouse Gas Inventory, Table 1. July 2019.
Environmental Progress. Closure of Indian Point Would Spike Power Emissions 29%, Reversing 14 years of Declines. January 2017.
- NYSERDA. Offshore Wind Policy Options Paper. January 2018. Page 85. Table 17: Capex, opex, and capacity factor results for the base deployment case. Base-case deployment of capacity serving NYC: 400MW in 2028, 400MW in 2029, 400MW in 2030. These add up to 4.9 TWh.
- Storrow / E&E News. Trump admin throws wrench into offshore wind plans. August 2019.
Stromsta/Greentech Media Vineyard Wind’s Timeline Slips as Trump Administration Further Delays Permits. February 2020.
- Markandya, A., & Wilkinson, P. 2007. Electricity generation and health. The Lancet, 370(9591), 979-990.
- EPA. Mortality Risk Valuation. Retrieved February 2020.
- Ritchie / OurWorldInData. What are the safest sources of energy? February 2020.
- U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission IP2 and IP3
- Latest findings from the United Nations and WHO studies indicate that there will be less than 1 radiation-related fatality due to the Fukushima Nuclear Accident versus over 15,500 from the tsunami caused by a category 9 earthquake.UNSCREAR. 2013. Sources, Effects and Risks of Ionizing Radiation, and WHO. FAQs: Health consequences of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident in 2011
- New York City Council Committee on Environmental Protection. Res. No. 320: Resolution calling on the state of New York to phase out Number 4 and Number 6 fuel oil in power plants in its plan to meet carbon dioxide reduction goals. November 2016. Available upon request.
- Craig / Daily Voice PLUS. Engineer Predicts Indian Point Closure Will Cause Widespread Blackouts, Pollution.
- McDermott Will & Emery / EnergyBusinessLaw. NY Creates New Emissions Credit for Nuclear Plants. September 2016.