WNISR, 30 April 2021
Forty-five years after first being connected to the grid, the Indian Point-3 reactor closed on 30 April 2021, bringing to an end nuclear generation at the site which is located on the Hudson River, 48 km from Manhattan, New York.
A 50-mile (80-km) radius from the Indian Point Energy Center nuclear plant is shown, which includes all of New York City. In 2011, the United States government urged Americans within 50 miles of the damaged Japanese Fukushima nuclear plant to evacuate. (NRDC)
Long considered a major safety risk to millions of people, the closure of the reactors was secured under the terms of a historic agreement in January 2017 between the nuclear plant owner, Entergy, the non-governmental organization Riverkeeper and the state of New York. Indian Point-2 closed on 30 April 2020.
Entergy had invested over US$1 billion in the two remaining 1,000 MW Units 2 and 3 in recent years. Unit 1, a smaller 250 MW reactor, was closed in 1974 just 12 years after it had started up. Indian Point-2 was connected to the grid on 26 June 1973, and Unit 3 on 27 April 1976.
In closing the reactor, Entergy highlighted that it had surpassed the world record for continuous operation of a light water reactor, having operated since refueling in April 2019 or 751 days.
In April 2007, Entergy filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) a license renewal application for Indian Point-2 and -3, which were subsequently subject to sustained opposition from citizens groups over the following decade. Operations of the two remaining Indian Point units were challenged on two basic environmental requirements: a coastal zone management certification and a water permit application. While Entergy had declared that it was exempt from needing the coastal zone management certification, New York State disagreed, and the issue continued in the Court of Appeals. According to the 2017 agreement, Indian Point-2 was required to close no later than April 2020 and Unit 3 one year later.
In terms of multiple safety issues with the Indian Point-2 and -3 reactors over the decades, the most serious in recent years was the discovery of major corrosion in steel bolts on the reactor core baffle which surrounds the fuel and directs cooling water entering the reactor vessel. If the baffle and former assembly do not remain intact, water can enter and leave the reactor vessel without passing through and cooling the core.
In highlighting the significance of the closure of Indian Point, Riverkeeper pointed to the energy efficiency and renewable energy projects implemented in New York between the agreement for closure in 2017 and 2025, which will provide nearly triple the total amount of power Indian Point once generated.
The Natural Resources and Defense Council (NRDC), which worked with Riverkeeper and other NGOs over the decades to challenge the nuclear power plant, noted:
“Indian Point was sited in the wrong place some 50 years ago—a location where a severe accident would jeopardize the health of millions of people and where no large-scale evacuation plan would be remotely feasible. The closure of Indian Point this week ends this risky chapter. The retirement will happen on schedule with no red flags from reliability monitors at NYISO [New York Independent System Operator], and against the backdrop of accelerated climate and clean energy progress in New York State that was almost unimaginable when the debate over Indian Point began decades ago.”