The Future of the Indian Point Nuclear Energy Center

Matthew DeGraw
November 12, 2014

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2014


Fig. 1: Indian Point Energy Center located on the Hudson River in New York. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Indian Point Energy Center is a nuclear power plant located in Westchester County, New York on the eastern shore of the Hudson River. The plant's proximity to New York City and environmental impact have led to a political dispute dealing with the future of the plant. This standoff comes as Entergy, the company that owns the plant, looks to renew Indian Point's federal operating license, an effort that is strongly opposed by New York state multiple activist groups. [1]

Population Density

Indian Point sits only 25 miles north of New York City. The extremely high population density within Indian Point's meltdown radius leads to worries of an accident within the plant, a terrorist attack or an earthquake. Furthermore, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and Fukushima meltdown have made New York State especially wary of renewing the plant's operating license. [2]

Environmental Impact

During the summer, the plant draws up 2.5 billion gallons of water from the Hudson River to use in its cooling process. This process also leads to the plant sucking in about 1 billion tiny fish, including river herring, bay anchovy, and striped bass, and their eggs, each year. To combat this problem the state proposed a project to build new cooling towers that would cost an estimated $1 billion but reduce levels of fish entrainment by 92% - 96%. Entergy counter-proposed a plan involving wedge-wire screens that would cost about $250 million and reduce entrainment by 90%. Currently, neither plan has been adopted and the plant continues to operate. [1]

Too Big to Fail?

New York's electric system is highly complex, and the Indian Point Energy Center is one of the most important parts. Not only does Indian Point Energy Center provide 30 percent of New York City's electricity; it helps ensure that the system operates safely and reliably. [3] Because the plant produces such a significant portion of New York's energy and operates around-the-clock replacing the plant is a tall order. Replacement plans include switching to new gas-fired plants or with Wind, Solar Photovoltaic, and Hydroelectric Renewable Generation. While plans to replace Indian Point's 2,000 MW of electrical generation are technically feasible, they all involve decreased reliability, major infrastructure changes, years to implement and high price tags. [4] According to an estimate by Manhattan Institute, closing the plant would increase annual electric costs in New York by $1.5-$2.2 billion over a 15 year period from 2016-2030. Furthermore, job loss could reach 26,000-40,000 depending on the alternative energy option chosen. [3] On the other hand, switching to renewable power would eliminate nuclear waste, reduce the impact on the ecosystems of the Hudson River and do away with the possibility of a nuclear meltdown. [3,4]


Despite coming with major concerns, the future of Indian Point Energy Center remains unclear because of lackluster alternatives and high barriers to entry. Furthermore, the highly politicized nature of this issue will only further slow a seemingly time sensitive process.

© Matthew DeGraw. 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] J. de Avila, "New York State, Indian Point Nuclear Plant Operator Clash Over Fate of Fish," Wall Street Journal, 16 Sep 14.

[2] V. Gilinsky, "Indian Point: The Next Fukushima?" New York Times, 16 Dec 11.

[3] J. A. Lesser, "The Economic Impacts of Closing and Replacing the Indian Point Energy Center," Manhattan Institute, Energy Policy and the Environment, Report 11, September 2012.

[4] Alternatives to the Indian Point Energy Center for Meeting New York Electric Power Needs (National Academies Press, 2006).