Future Prospect of Indian Point Power Plant

Lucy Dikeou
March 7, 2015

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2015


Fig. 1: Indian Point Energy Center (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Indian Point Energy Center is a Nuclear Energy Center located about 25 miles north of New York City. Due to concerns of natural disaster, terrorist attack, environmental impact and equipment malfunction many special interest groups and politicians have pushed to shut down Indian Point Energy Center as soon as possible. [1] While this plan may be the safest plan for New York in the long term, it simply isn't feasible now.

Why Indian Point is Not the Same as Fukashima

The most notable argument has to due with concerns with natural disaster such as an earthquake and specifically what happened at the Fukashima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011. [2] However, the plant actually handled the earthquake correctly and the trouble really began when the tsunami hit 45 minutes later, which is not an issue for Indian Point. The earthquake hit at 2:46 pm and by 2:47 pm the nuclear reactors had already registered the earthquake and had began to automatically shut down. It was when the 50ft tsunami wave swept across the plant that problems arose. The wave drowned the plants electrical systems and emergency backup generators, leaving the radioactive fuel without any cooling water. [3] The probability of an earthquake happening in New York is much lower than in Japan. Even with the earthquake threat being on the lower end nationally, Indian Point is design to withstand the strongest expected earthquake. [2]

Energy Production

Indian Point produces about 25% of the electricity consumed in New York City and the lower Hudson Valley. The state Department of Environmental Conservation, which is proposing the shutdown, hasn't specified how the loss of power produced by Indian Point would be made up. [4] While shutting down the plant would alleviate a lot of risk and improve the Hudson River ecosystem, this is not an option at this point in time. One of the major benefits of nuclear power is that it operates at the same level constantly. Thus, nuclear power is very reliable and can be used as a strong baseline of energy. In order to shut down Indian Point, New York needs to build the infrastructure to reliably produce this massive amount of energy. This is not a change that can happen overnight.


Indian Point's total impact on New York state's economy for [2002] was $811.7 million and $1.5 billion for the U.S. economy. [5] Replacing the plant would eliminate thousands of jobs. Furthermore, in order to replace the plant New York will need to build billions of dollars of energy infrastructure. The economic impact of these changes is simply too substantial to occur rapidly. Converting New York away from nuclear energy is a multi-year process.


While it is likely that New York will eventually be powered without the help of nuclear energy, this change isn't a reality in the near future, nor does it need to be due to concerns about natural disasters. The groups and politicians arguing to shut the plant down should instead focus their efforts on developing feasible replacements.

© Lucy Dikeou. 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] M. Degraw, "The Future of the Indian Point Energy Center, PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2014.

[2] R. Palmer, "'Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Catastrophe' Reveals New Insight into Japanese Catastrophe," International Business Times, 11 Feb 14.

[3] P. Applebome, "Living With a Nuclear Question Mark in the Backyard," New York Times, 16 Mar 11.

[4] J. De Avila, "Temporary Closing of Indian Point Power Plant Is Considered," Wall Street Journal, 21 Jul 14.

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