NRC Hearing – Westchester – February 12 2009
Good evening members of the committee and their staff.
My name is Dr. Patrick Moore. I am a co-founder of Greenpeace, former Greenpeace leader, Chair of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd and advisor to the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this evening about why, from an environmental perspective, nuclear energy and Indian Point are so important to the energy future of down-state New York.
I have often said – and I continue to believe – that there are few places where nuclear power makes as much sense or is as important as in New York. Indeed, the state is a microcosm of the challenges America and the world face to have ample, clean and reasonably priced electricity.
Let me make three key points:
Nuclear energy is reliable and affordable
Nuclear energy makes economic sense. The cost of producing nuclear energy in the United States is on par with coal and hydroelectric. That’s a very important consideration in New York, which has the country’s second-highest electricity costs. This impacts the poor and elderly, in particular, and makes it difficult for the business sector to operate efficiently as well.
Nuclear power is safe.
Worldwide, nuclear energy is one of the safest industrial sectors. Here in North America, no one has been harmed by a radiation-related incident in the entire history of civilian nuclear power generation. Indeed, it’s proven safer to work at a nuclear power plant than in the finance or real estate sectors.
A 2004 Columbia University Study of 54,000 workers concluded that “…nuclear power plant workers in the United States…live longer and have significantly lower cancer rates compared to the general population.”
Very much related to the topic of safety, people often talk about the dangers of nuclear waste. The notion is misleading, as used fuel is not all ‘waste’. After its first cycle, spent fuel still contains 90 percent of its energy. Future generations will be able to put this valuable resource to work, powering the country. Used nuclear fuel is one of America’s most important future domestic energy resources.
Nuclear energy has strong environmental benefits
Nuclear energy has the lowest impact on the environment – air, land, water and wildlife – of any major energy source. Not only does it produce no harmful greenhouse gases or controlled air pollutants, but its waste byproducts are isolated from the environment.
In addition, nuclear energy requires less land to produce the same amount of electricity as any other electricity sources.
Nuclear power plants improve air quality by reducing smog. It is well established that this pollution has harmful health effects, especially for children and the elderly. This needs to be addressed now. Downstate New York arguably has the worst air quality of any region in the country, thanks to high levels of ozone and particulate pollution.
U.S. EPA recent statistics about New York show that pollution from coal power plants shortens the lives of 1,212 citizens annually, causes 164,612 lost workdays, 1,191 hospitalizations, and 28,665 asthma attacks.
More On Indian Point
I would like you to consider the following points about Indian Point nuclear facility:
1) Indian Point nuclear plant makes New York a cleaner, healthier place
• Indian Point mitigates 14 million tons of CO2 annually. In fact, New York has one of the lowest per capita CO2 emissions of any state, because nearly 50 percent of its electricity comes from nuclear and hydroelectric plants.
• The American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2007 gives several counties in New York State failing air quality grades and the U.S. EPA says New York has some of the worst air in the country. The situation would be even worse without Indian Point.
• It would require four to five natural gas fired power plants to replace Indian Point’s 2,000 megawatts of electricity. This would increase toxins and airborne particulates significantly, which we know are linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
2) Indian Point is compatible with a clean, thriving Hudson River
• Back in the early 1970s when my colleagues at Greenpeace were advocating for fundamental environmental changes, the Hudson River was extremely polluted, “dead” in some areas, and was an international disgrace. Since then, Indian Point’s two nuclear plants were built.
• Robert Kennedy Jr., an official with River Keepers, has said, and I quote, “This waterway was a national joke in 1966 … It was dead water for 20-mile stretches north of New York City, south of Albany. It turned color. It caught fire … Today it’s the richest body of water in the North Atlantic region, producing more pounds of fish per acre than any other waterway in the Atlantic Ocean north of the equator.”
• Indian Point not only is compatible with a clean Hudson River, but by mitigating pollution from other plants that causes the release of other harmful substances, including acid rain, it makes the Hudson cleaner.
• In a River Keepers document sent out only a few days ago, the group said it is concerned over:
“the slaughter of billions of fish, eggs and larvae every year that results from Indian Point…”
As a lifelong student of marine ecosystems, I can say categorically that this statement is misleading at best. Billions of fish cannot possibly be at risk because the plant goes to great lengths to screen out fish at the water intake. It is not possible for a fish of any size to enter the cooling system.
And if you know something of fish biology, then you know that each productive female fish produces thousands of eggs, and only a very small percentage of those eggs will normally result in fry. If Indian Point is killing a billion fish eggs imagine how many trillions of fish eggs there are in the Hudson River.
• Water flow at Indian Point is reduced during spring months to optimize fish spawning conditions. Studies conducted during the last 25 years demonstrate that the relatively small number of larvae and eggs that enter the plant have no impact on the Hudson River’s overall fish population. In fact, fish populations in the Hudson are on the rise.
• Moreover, Indian Point uses high-tech underwater screens to prevent fish as small as a finger from entering the plant in the water that is used for cooling. The screens slowly rotate to ensure that young fish caught near them are transported to a device that safely returns the fish to the river away from the water intake structures.
3) Nuclear energy from Indian Point is much safer than the alternatives
• If the power generated by Indian Point nuclear plant was replaced with coal power almost 6,300 tons of SOx emissions and over 1,400 tons of NOx emissions would be released into the New York air every year. Also released would be 48 tons of particulate matter and almost 1,500 tons of CO would enter the atmosphere.
• Replacing Indian Point energy with natural gas energy isn’t much better: 212 tons of SOX and 679 tons or NOX emissions per year would be released. 143 tons of CO and 118 tons of particulate matter would also be generated from creation of natural gas energy.
• As to safety issues raised by some in connection with attacks: Dry casks storage and spent fuel pools at Indian Point are not particularly vulnerable to terrorist attack. Consider that water serves as a natural—and one of the most effective—barriers to radiation. This is why spent fuel is stored in pools. The fuel is contained neatly in fuel rods in a 40 foot deep pool. The racks stand 13 feet high leaving the fuel completely contained and safely submerged under 27 feet of water.
• The spent fuel pool for Indian Point 1 is in a fully-enclosed concrete building. Both Indian Point pools are 99% to 100% underground making them virtually impossible to compromise from the sides. The roof of the spent-fuel pool building has no nuclear safety function. Damage to it would not have safety consequences. The fuel pools can easily be re-filled with water and have several backup mechanisms for doing so. In fact, it is highly unlikely there would be significant off-site radiological consequences even if the pools were drained of their water.
• Casks are placed upright on a concrete pad and are hardened structures capable of withstanding natural disasters and terrorist attacks. The canister/cask system is very robust, about 20 feet in height and 11 feet in diameter, with a cask wall that is over 2 feet thick and a total loaded weight of about 360,000 pounds.
• And finally, the plants and property at Indian Point Energy Center are monitored around the clock, 24 hours a day, seven days a week by well-trained, armed security guards, both at guard stations and in constant patrols. The security force rivals the size of most local law enforcement troops, and are among the most highly trained officers in the country. They attend fire range practice on a regular basis. These are extremely hardened targets.
Some have mentioned leaks. Let me say a couple of words about that:
• There is no continuing leak. There was a one-time leak under the previous owner of plant – the leak level of about 8000 picocuries is far BELOW the safe limit for sewage (10 million picocuries) or drinking water standard (20,000 picocuries).
• Once discovered, Entergy immediately took steps to identify and mitigate leakage of strontium-90 and tritium from the spent fuel pool of the non-operating Unit-1 plant and tritium from Unit 2 pool. Entergy installed a water purification system to remove more than 95% of SR-90 from the Unit-1 pool water.
• To stop leakage permanently, Entergy moved up its timetable to 2008 for removing the spent fuel and draining the water from pool. Entergy also installed more than 35 monitoring and sampling wells after its initial detection in September of 2005.
• In addition, Entergy has continued to inspect the inner liner of the IP2 pool with no reports of any active leaks to date.
In order to meet New York’s energy needs going forward, and to continue to do so in an environmentally responsible manner, we must mobilize all the clean energy sources available. The time for common sense, for scientifically sound decisions on energy and support for nuclear power generation is here and now.