The Indian Point Energy Center

Daniel Perret
March 22, 2013

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2013

Fig. 1: The Indian Point Facility on the Hudson River in Buchanan, NY. (Source: Wikimedia Commons.)

The Indian Point Energy Center, located on the Hudson River in Buchanan, NY, is (and has been) at the center of a frenzied debate. The plant's proximity to New York City, its energy importance to the New York metropolitan region, and a history of safety violations are all major players in the deliberation over the plant's continued operation. Owned by the Entergy Corporation, the Indian Point Energy Center is a flashpoint in New York State politics. This short article aims to provide a brief and balanced overview of the history and issues surrounding the power plant and the current debate.

A Brief History

The Indian Point reactors have been running more or less continuously since 1962, making it one of the older functional nuclear power facilities in the United States. The facility contains three reactors. The oldest reactor, Indian Point 1, began operation in 1962 and was permanently retired in 1974 after the NRC discovered that its emergency core cooling system did not meet regulation standards. [1] Indian Point 2 began operation the same year, and Indian Point 3 commenced operation two years later, in 1976. [2] The plant has since been plagued by a number of problems and violations. Although exact figures regarding the number of closures are hard to come by, the two operational reactors have been temporarily shut down at least ten times between 2005 and 2007. [3] Problems range from smaller electrical malfunctions to steam leaks to leaking spent fuel rod pools - the latter resulting in unsafe groundwater levels of tritium and Sr-90 in 2005 and 2006. [3] The standard 40-year NRC operation permits for Indian Point 2 and 3 expire in September 2013 and December 2015 respectively. [4,5] The permit renewals have the subject of much debate and deliberation.

Public Debate

The continued existence of the Indian Point Energy Center has been the subject of much public debate at least since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City. Central to the debate is the concern that the Indian Point Energy Center is located in one of the most densely populated areas of the country-- 20 million people (or 6 % of the total United States population) live within a 50-mile radius of the plant. [6] The 2011 disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant threw into stark relief the consequences of a similar disaster at Indian Point for many groups and activists, including the National Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Protection Agency, and New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo. [3-6] The current debate revolves around the problem of relicensing the plant; opponents of continued operation cite past safety violations and evacuation concerns, while proponents of the plants' continued operation cite the vast energy contribution of the plant at relatively low cost. [5,6] The Indian Point Energy Center currently supplies 25% of the electricity consumed by New York City and Westchester County. [5] If the permit renewal is denied, energy replacement options include the licensing of new non-nuclear generation plants in New York State, or the increased importation of energy from neighboring states or Canada at high cost. [5]

The pitch of the debate is almost guaranteed to rise as the 40-year permit expiration date approaches. There already exist extensive public campaigns from both sides, of varying levels of transparency and reliability. In such a heated and public debate, an emphasis on rational, informed decision-making is especially crucial. We can only hope that the relevant government agencies and elected officials maintain their objectivity and act in the best interests of all stakeholders.

© Daniel Perret. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "Economic Benefits of Indian Point Energy Center" Nuclear Energy Institute, April 2004.

[2] J. Rhodes et al., "Indian Point Independent Safety Evaluation (ISE), Entergy Corporation, ENT000364, 31 Jul 08.

[3] A. Cuomo et al. , "New York State Notice of Intention to Participate and Petition to Intervene, NRC Dockets 50-247-LR and 50-286-LR" U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, RAS 14717, November 2007.

[4] J. Filippelli, "Professional Communication to David J. Wrona,". U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, 18 Jan 11.

[5] D. Hakim, "Cuomo Takes Tough Stance on Nuclear Reactors," New York Times, 28 Jun 11.

[6] M. McKinzie and C. Paine, "Nuclear Accident at Indian Point: Consequences and Costs," National Resources Defense Council, October 2011.