Indian Point

Shutting down the single largest carbon-free energy source 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, Unit 2 was shut down in April 2020 and Unit 3 was shuttered in April 2021.

Evaluating New York Independent Systems Operator (NYISO) grid reports, distributed solar and load shows 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 since the sun doesn’t shine brighter in Pennsylvania nor wind blow harder in New England due to New York’s energy choices.

Source: NYISO Power Trends 2020, Gold Book 2020

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 (operating without a Title V permit 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 according to permits granted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Indian Point’s shutdown is also resulting in additional fossil combustion at some of the dirtiest gas- and oil- generators in metro-NYC, mostly located in poor and minority areas in the City.

Sources: IP2 Press Release, NYISO Gold Book 2020

Closure of Indian Point threatens the reliability of the electric grid serving downstate New York, leading to higher power costs and potential energy shortages. New York City is at extremely elevated risk to emergencies, as observed by NYISO (2021-2030 Comprehensive Reliability Plan):

Climate and Air Pollution Impacts

Closing Indian Point increased NYS annual electric sector CO2 emissions by 7 million metric tons (an increase of nearly a third). When the warming from methane leaks are included, the greenhouse gas impact is 12-15 million metric tons (GWP20). These avoidable emissions 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.

The closure of the Indian Point Energy Center, a significant source of clean energy for New York City, requires New York City customers to rely more heavily on the aging, heavily polluting in-City fossil generation fleet. This increased reliance has the potential to negatively impact local air quality, thereby exacerbating public health issues that already exist in disadvantaged communities in and around New York City, such as high incidences of asthma and other respiratory ailments.

New York City’s filings in the NYS Clean Energy Standard docket (15-E-0302)
Cricket Valley’s annualized generation is 6.2 TWh, making it the largest fossil plant. CPV Energy’s Valley is the 3rd largest. Neither would exist were Indian Point allowed to operate. Sources: NYISO Gold Books 2020 and 2021

Expanding renewables & nuclear generation to displace fossil-fired electricity would decrease deaths in NYC, but 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 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, including to respiratory illnesses like Covid-19.

How many African American children should suffer from asthma in order to marginally improve the level of fish egg mortality in the Hudson River?

African American Environmentalist Organization

The agreement between New York State, Entergy (the plant’s former 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,” reality has proven otherwise.

Low-Carbon Alternatives

Due to the Indian Point closure, 9 out of 10 electrons consumed in Downstate New York is from fossil combustion. Transmission bottlenecks limit emission-free electricity from reaching Downstate New York.

Opposition to transmission projects limits upstate wind power from reaching population-dense, renewable-starved downstate NY, where solar and wind provide only 2% of electricity. The proposed transmission lines would bring hydro from Quebec and wind from upstate New York, however their combined output does not come close to that of Indian Point. Electricity from wind projects offshore Long Island will not even start to service NYC until 2028, and federal barriers have caused years of delay. However, these carbon-free generation could have been used to displace fossil generation rather than make up for lost ground.

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.

Notes

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.

New York denied the Zero Emissions Credits for Indian Point, which allowed upstate nuclear plants to compete with shale economics.