|Fig. 1: The Indian Point facility, located in Buchanan, New York. (Source: Wikimedia Commons.|
The Indian Point Energy Center, located in Buchanan, New York, has spurred significant public debate. The Indian Point power plant is located about 45 miles north of Midtown Manhattan.  20 million people (6% of the total population of the United States) live within a 50-mile radius of the plant.  New plans to expand a pipeline at Indian Point have recently caused controversy and protest. Pillars of the controversy involve the plant's proximity to the densely-populated New York City (and related evacuation concerns), a history of safety concerns, and the importance of the plant's energy contribution to the New York metropolitan region. 
Three reactors originally made up the Indian Point facility. The oldest reactor, Indian Point 1, began operation in 1962 and was closed in 1974, after an examination by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) showed that the plant's emergency core cooling system did not meet regulation standards.  Later in 1974, Indian Point 2 began operation, and Indian Point 3 began operation in 1976.  Indian Point 2 and 3 have been temporarily closed at least ten times between the years 2005 and 2007, sparking public concern regarding the plant's potential threat to the surrounding area. 
Licenses for Indian Point's two reactors were set to expire in 2013 and 2015.  Currently, the Indian Point debate's major focal point is whether or not to relicense the plant. Proponents of the plant assert that the plant should be relicensed, as it contribute a vast amount of energy for a relatively low price.  They also point out that the Indian Point plant provides 25% of the power in New York City and Westchester, and that replacing the plant would require a long-term energy strategy. [2,3] Furthermore, if the state were to use natural gas plants or other, more conventional options to replace the energy supplied by the plant, new environmental concerns would arise.  Opponents of the relicensing of Indian Point discuss safety violations and concerns about evacuation measures in the case of an emergency. Furthermore, terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 added to these concerns, as government officials and members of the public feared that a similar attack would occur on the plant.  In addition, the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant caused concern that a natural disaster would have a similar effect at Indian Point.  Amid these trepidations, a new construction project overseen by Spectra Energy is planning to expand a natural gas pipeline across the Indian Point pipeline. 
Federal regulators have approved this pipeline expansion, which means the pipe will run through New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.  Spectra Energy has begun construction in Westchester County, including at the 240-acre Indian Point site.  Although the Nuclear Regulatory Commission conducted an analysis showing that the Indian Point power plant could continue operating safety, or could be temporarily shut down, in the event of a rupture, continuing accidents leave citizens concerned about the expansion of the pipeline.  The fact that this project is being continued, even though two accidents have occurred in the past year alone, has led environmental activists to conduct protests and express their concerns more fervently. In May, oil and fire-retardant foam was spilled into the Hudson when a transformer fire harmed one of the reactors.  Later, in February, Entergy, the owner of the Indian Point power plant, announced that radioactive water had been found in three of forty monitoring wells on the site.  This accident was caused by contamination by tritium, a radioactive isotope.  While proponents of the project insist that the project is safe, citing several independent studies conducted by Entergy, Spectra and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, environmental activists and concerned citizens from New York City and Westchester County remain skeptical.  Several activists came together to collect 30,000 signatures on a petition demanding that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stop the project and continue studying the risks.  Last weekend, activists held a vigil outside Cuomo's house in Mount Kisco, NY, which is less than ten miles from the plant.  Whether Cuomo will take action or allow construction to continue is still up in the air, but the issue is expected to gain traction in coming months.
© Sylvie Sherman. 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.
 L. Foderaro, "Plan to Expand a Pipeline at Indian Point Raises Concern," New York Times, 28 Feb 16.
 D. Perret, "The Indian Point Energy Center," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2013.
 D. Hakim, "Cuomo Takes Tough Stance on Nuclear Reactors," New York Times, 28 Jun 11.