Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Decommissioning funds in question

If Entergy’s license renewal application for Indian Point Unit 2 is turned down by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the company wouldn’t have enough decommissioning funds to close down in 2013 when its license expires. The multi-billion dollar utility company also wouldn’t have enough money to decommission and close down Unit 1, the oldest of the three plants at Indian Point in Buchanan.

Entergy is asking the NRC if it could use their decommissioning funds for storing spent fuel at the plant in the dry cask storage operation. The NRC would have to approve an extension to the decommissioning regulations to allow Entergy to re-direct some of the funds.
When the Indian Point plants actually do close down, the funds are slated to pay for the removal and disposal of subsurface contaminated soil, including the demolition of several buildings.

According to recent NRC documents sent to Entergy, the decommissioning fund for Unit 2 as of December 31, 2008 was $321.39 million and $218.39 million for Unit 1. The NRC estimates that over $400 million is needed to decommission each unit. Regulations provides for a 60 year shut down process.

Entergy has said that although the economic meltdown has decreased the funds, they will have enough money in the future.
“Entergy meets all current NRC decommissioning funding account guidelines and regulations, and will meet those that change in the future,” said Jerry Nappi, Entergy spokesperson.

Westchester County Legislator Mike Kaplowitz (D-Somers) said Entergy shouldn’t be allowed to tap in to the decommissioning funds for non-decommissioning uses.
“Entergy makes $2 million a day and over $700 million a year in profit. They shouldn’t have to tap into this fund for any other purpose.”
Kaplowitz said he expects the NRC to approve these extensions. “They’ve never turned down one. Now that there’s a move in the country towards more nuclear power, the sea of change is in their favor.”

John Boska, the NRC Indian Point Project Manager said Entergy can come up with the needed decommissioning funds though financial maneuvers.
“For short-time swings in the financial markets, licensees could establish supplemental trust funds to cover the deficiency if the NRC approves it, and remove those if the financial market recovers.” Boska said NRC approval would be needed to remove the funds. Other financial fixes include adding a periodic amount to the fund every year for a number of years or add a lump sum amount now to the fund.

According to NRC spokesperson Neil Sheehan, a private call is being scheduled with Entergy within the next few weeks to discuss decommissioning funds for Indian Point.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Clearwater Contention against Entergy Denied

The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) announced last week that they have rejected a new contention submitted by Clearwater against the re-licensing of Indian Point. In March Clearwater argued against the license renewal by Indian Point’s owner, Entergy, until a water safety study is done. Clearwater was acting on the pending application by United Water New York to build a desalination plant that will, if built, extract water from the Hudson River and provide municipal drinking water to Rockland County. The desalination plant would be located across the Hudson River, 3.5 miles downstream from the power plant. Clearwater’s concern is that the treatment plant is not equipped to effectively filter out radioactive isotopes that Indian Point regularly discharges into the Hudson River along with contaminants in Indian Point’s groundwater which are suspected of finding their way to the river as well.

The ASLB, three-judge panel said Clearwater’s arguments didn’t present new information and that “the issue involving the desalination plant will be encompassed by another contention from Clearwater that was admitted to the proceeding.”

The ASLB, who works in tandem with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), has been reviewing arguments, or contentions, against issuing a new operating license to Entergy who applied in 2007 to extend their license to keep Units 2 and 3 running 20 more years to 2033 and 2035.

Manna Jo Greene, environmental director at Clearwater said she wasn’t disappointed with the ASLB decision since it indicated that concerns about the water treatment plant would be looked at under a previous contention submitted by both the environmental group Riverkeeper and Clearwater.
“It’s really a case of bad news and good news,” said Greene. “They are saying the proper place to look at how contaminated, radioactive water leaking under the plant and into the Hudson River would impact a water desalination plant is being addressed in an earlier contention. They left the door open.”

Earlier in the review process the board denied a request from Entergy to reconsider turning down a contention regarding impacts groundwater contamination from leaks at Indian Point and the possible effects on drinking water, especially if the source is the Hudson River.

Entergy spokesperson Jerry Nappi said the recent ASLB ruling speaks for itself.
“This issue was already referenced in an earlier filing, and further, this contention will be encompassed by another contention that has already been admitted. Entergy looks forward to a thorough review by the ASLB and is working to provide them with any information they need in advance of future hearings.”

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said the judges saw nothing "new and significant" in Clearwater’s contention. “As part of their consideration of that contention, the judges believe the issue of impacts on the river will also be addressed.”

Entergy’s license renewal application has elicited 154 contentions opposing the continued operation of the plant. According to the NRC it’s the largest number of contentions for a license renewal proceeding to date. Out of 154 contentions the ASLB has accepted 15 including contentions submitted by New York State Department of Conservation, the Attorney General’s office, Riverkeeper and Clearwater.