Shutting down the single largest source of carbon-free energy in New York has jeopardized the economy, safety, and well-being of New Yorkers, while contributing to catastrophic climate change.
Of the two reactors at Indian Point, #2 was shut down in April 2020 and #3 was shut down in April 2021.
Evaluating New York Independent Systems Operator (NYISO) reports show how fossil combustion has increased after Indian Point closure, both within New York and out-of-state. The increase in ‘net imports’ was from burning fossil fuels as well. The sun doesn’t shine brighter in Pennsylvania and the wind doesn’t blow harder in New England based on New York’s energy choices.
Indian Point’s carbon-free output was replaced primarily by methane gas-fired generation at Cricket Valley Energy (online from March 2020) and CPV Valley (operational since October 2018), the largest and 3rd largest fossil plants in New York State, respectively. Consistent with the NYISO Indian Point Deactivation Assessment, neither of these would exist were Indian Point allowed to operate. Indian Point’s shutdown will also result in additional fossil fuel burning at some of the dirtiest gas- and oil- generators in metro-NYC, mostly located in poor and minority areas in the City.
Closing Indian Point has reduced the reliability of the electric grid serving downstate New York, leading to higher power costs, potential energy shortages, the risk of widespread power outages and brownouts.
Climate and Air Pollution Impacts
Closing Indian Point increases New York’s annul greenhouse emissions from the electricity sector by nearly a third. This deficit will stay with New York until the entire grid is decarbonized.
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. Regulated nuclear power is the safest source of energy worldwide, and the Indian Point generators have operated safely for 54 years. Risks of an extremely low-probability nuclear accident need to be balanced against documented health effects associated with outdoor air pollution.
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. Despite former Governor Cuomo’s assurance at the time that replacement power will have “no new carbon emissions,” these resources are not yet available.
Opposition to transmission projects deters upstate wind and Canadian hydro power from reaching population-dense, renewable-starved downstate NY, where solar and wind provide only 2% of electricity. Approval and construction of needed transmission projects remain highly uncertain.
Indian Point closure ensured New York’s Great Leap Backward in-terms of both GHG emissions and public safety, for no rational or scientifically supportable reason. This is antithetical to combating climate change and is in direct opposition to NY’s stated policy of reducing its carbon footprint.
New York denied the Zero Emissions Credits for Indian Point, which allowed upstate nuclear plants to compete with shale economics.
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.