Nuclear New York: Indian Point

Patrick Conaton
March 20, 2017

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2017

Nuclear Energy in New York

Fig. 1: Robert E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant (1974). (Courtesy of the DOE. Source: Wikimedia Commons)

New York State has six operational nuclear power plants, which have become the state's most reliable energy source. New York's nuclear landscape is steadily changing, however. By 2030, the state mandates half of its energy come from renewable sources. Nonetheless, for the foreseeable future, nuclear energy will continue to provide energy to thousands of New Yorkers. [1]

One of the country's oldest operating nuclear power plants, is the R. E. Ginna Power Plant located outside of Rochester (Fig. 1). The plant was named after Robert Emmett Ginna, who was one of the first pioneers of commercializing nuclear energy. Ginna advocated to modify the Atomic Energy Act to permit research into using nuclear energy to generate electricity, in 1954. While he was chief executive of Rochester Gas and Electric, the company established New York's first successful commercial nuclear plant. [2] The Ginna power plant paved way for New York's five other plants, which obtained licenses in the next decades.

Indian Point History

Indian Point (Fig. 2) has been New York's most troubled nuclear power plant. It has been at the center of dozens of controversies since the operation of its first reactor unit began. New York's first nuclear power generator was actually constructed and first operated in 1963 at Indian Point. However, in 1970, Indian Point 1 was shut down because of defects in the stainless steel piping used to help keep the reactor cool. [3] It had drawn protests and eventually a fine, for killing fish in the Hudson River due to discharge of hot water, before being officially decommissioned. Con Edison seemingly learned from the failure and inaugurated the Indian Point 2 generator in 1973. Not long after, in 1975, Con Edison instated and sold the Indian Point 3 reactor to the State Power Authority. [3]

Since Indian Point commercialized nuclear power in the 1970, it has been the center of many troubles and controversies. In 1980, 100,000 gallons of radioactive water leaked in a building of Indian Point 2. Following the incident, Con Ed was forced to shut the reactor down until investigations into the leak were complete. More troubles followed as in 1993, Indian Point 3 was shut down and fined for 17 safety violations. Indian Point 3 was shut down for almost three years. Indian Point 3 also repeatedly endangered the surrounding environment, mainly the Hudson, as they spilled toxic waste into the river in 1993 and again in 1994. [3] Incidents racked up and the Indian Point power plants continually faced violations, fines and protests. In 2000 Indian Point 2 was even dubbed one of the most troublesome nuclear power plants in the United States and not much would change.

Fig. 2: Indian Point Nuclear Facility. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)


After countless infractions and safety concerns throughout the 21st century, the Indian Point nuclear power plant has been condemned to closure. In 2016, Indian Point again leaked radioactive material into groundwater near New York City, proving to be the last straw for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. For 15 years, I have been concerned by the continuing safety violations at Indian Point, especially given its location in the largest and most densely populated metropolitan region in the country, Cuomo announced in January 2017. [4] Indian Point experienced upwards of 40 safety events, operational events, and shutdown since 2012. Enough is finally enough; the Indian Point nuclear reactors will be closed by 2021. [4]

© Patrick Conaton. 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] L. W. Foderaro, "Nuclear Plant's Closing Raises New Fears for Jobs and Taxes," New York Times, 28 Feb 17.

[2] A. Salpukas, "Robert Ginna, 94, A Champion of Nuclear Power," New York Times, 19 May 96.

[3] "At Indian Pt., a History of Nuclear Power, Problems and Controversy," New York Times, 6 May 83.

[4] S. Thielman, "Indian Point Nuclear Plant in New York Will Close After Dozens of 'Safety Events'," The Guardian, 9 Jan 17.