Friday, April 07, 2006

NY AREA Addresses AG Spitzer on Indian Point

Just arriving on my desktop was a copy of a letter that John Kelly, a member of New York AREA and one-time director of licensing at Indian Point Energy Center, sent to New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer on March 31 in response to a speech on energy policy he gave in Albany on March 29. Because there isn't any online copy of the letter available, I'm reprinting it here in full:

March 31, 2006
The Honorable Eliot Spitzer
State of New York
Office of the Attorney General
120 Broadway, 25th Floor
New York, NY 10271

Dear Attorney General Spitzer:

The New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (New York AREA) shares your concern, expressed in your energy policy speech on March 29 in Albany, that trace amounts of tritium and strontium 90 are assumed to be leaking into the Hudson River from the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan.

Using conservative, worst case assumptions, the radiation dose to the maximally exposed individual reported by an NRC Special Inspection Report on March 16, 2006 from the amount of radioactive material entering the Hudson from tritium and strontium 90, a dose far too low to measure, has been calculated to be about .00002 millirem per year. By comparison, the average New Yorker is exposed to 360 millirem of radiation a year from natural and man-made radiation sources other than Indian Point, or about 1 millirem a day.

In fact, a low-level radiation chest x-ray (8 millirem) would expose one to more than four hundred thousand times the radiation the maximally exposed individual could receive from the above tritium and strontium 90 pollutants over the course of a year.

Because of these compelling facts, the NRC and has found that there is no threat to public health or safety from the leaks. The New York State Department of Health and Department of Environmental Conservation have participated in the NRC inspection associated with the leaks. Numerous elected officials and their staffs at the local, state, and national level have been kept informed of testing results and developments since fall 2005 and have been, on the whole, quite responsible and temperate in their public remarks about the situation. It is critical that the leaks are rectified quickly, but through scientific analysis and engineering solutions, not the rhetoric issued regularly by anti-nuclear activists.

As you know, our organization represents more than 70 business organizations, labor unions, academics, and independent energy experts who are very concerned about New York'’s energy future. We are working to have the Article X power plant siting law renewed and applaud your support for an update to the statute that expired 39 months ago. Our members also support the continued operations of Indian Point as a critical component of our energy infrastructure and economic vitality, as well as a major source of power for New York City and the downstate region.

On behalf of New York AREA, I respectfully submit that your March 29 call to close Indian Point is not only premature, but such closure is likely to cause significant and negative economic, environmental, and health impacts to New Yorkers. Indeed, New Yorkers face far greater health and other challenges if the plants do not continue operation and obtain license renewal. Please consider the following:

Air Pollution. On March 22, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that New Yorkers breathe the dirtiest air in the nation and have a higher chance of contracting cancer from dirty air than do residents of any other state. Without Indian Point's emission free power, counties in the lower Hudson Valley and New York City, already in noncompliance with federal clean air standards, would be much worse off.

A 2002 study by the respected TRC Environmental Corp. consulting firm found if Indian Point's power could somehow be replaced by the mix of other sources currently serving New York State, air pollution would be increased by more than 14 million tons annually, including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, particulate matter and nitrogen oxides and volatile organic carbons which contribute to ozone and smog production.

New York'’s Electricity Costs are America's Second Highest. The Public Policy Institute of New York (which is affiliated with the Business Council of New York State, a New York AREA member) has found that New York has the second highest electricity costs in the country. Taking Indian Point's low-cost and consistently generated base-load power offline would further increase costs and drive companies away from re-locating, remaining in, or expanding in the state.

Job Retention and Opportunity. The more than 1,200 hard-working, dedicated people at Indian Point place safety above all else through their daily professionalism. Many are members of New York's proud labor unions. Taking Indian Point offline would have a tremendous negative impact on these hard working individuals and their families, as well as many others. Indian Point provides more than $750 million in annual economic activity to New York State through jobs, purchases, and tax payments.

There is No Foreseeable Replacement Power for Indian Point. Organizations like the New York City Mayor's Energy Task Force, the New York Building Congress, and the New York Independent System Operator have documented that downstate New York will need to add quite significant amounts of new electricity in the coming years.

This challenge is compounded by the intensity and sophistication of not-in-my-backyard(NIMBY) opposition. It is further compounded by the expired Article X law, and the fact that it typically took at least five years from the time a new plant was proposed under Article X until it actually produced power.

Indian Point mitigates the need for several large power plants in the southeast corridor. Adding the burden of replacing Indian Point's power to the already quite formidable situation at hand would have profound consequences for New York├é’s economy and electricity reliability.

By way of background, I am a Certified Health Physicist and the retired director of licensing for Indian Point, the Fitzpatrick nuclear power plant in Oswego and other nuclear power plants owned by Entergy in the northeast. I have lived less than four miles from the Indian Point plants for 35 years with my family, and am quite comfortable that it is among the safest places in New York to reside.

I have recently been asked by Jerry Kremer, New York AREA'’s Advisory Board Chairman and one of the original authors of the Article X legislation, to serve as the Indian Point Health and Safety Liaison to New York AREA. As such, I will keep track of developments in the detection and remediation of tritium and strontium 90 at the site and inform New York AREA members and others of developments in this regard.

I am also working with Mr. Kremer to arrange a previously discussed meeting with you, your staff, and several of our members -- business and labor leaders and energy experts -- to discuss New York'’s energy future, Article X renewal, and the critical role that Indian Point plays in making sure that New York has reliable power, and why it must be part of the state's energy equation in the future. I look forward to sharing this dialogue with you in the future to assist in building your awareness of the dire consequences that opposition to Indian Point license renewal will have on air quality, jobs, economic growth and development, and our energy future.

Thank you for your time and attention to these serious matters that will affect all New Yorkers.

Sincerely,
John J. Kelly
New York AREA Member
Indian Point Health & Safety Liaison
cc: Ms. Kathy Bennett
Mr. Peter Lehner
Ms. Susanna Zwerling
For what our David Bradish wrote about Spitzer's speech earlier this week, click here. For a post on Tritium from March 24, click here.

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6 comments:

Paul Primavera said...

I am glad that John Kelly identified the NIMBYism of the anti-nuclear activists. Actually, I would call it BANANAism - Build Anything Not Anywhere Near Anyone.

Here is another sad example of the same, but in this case it is the opposition of Democrat Senator Ted Kennedy and Republican Governor Mitt Romney's opposition to supplying 75% of Cape Cod's electricity from wind power:

Congress near blocking Mass. offshore wind farm
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060407/pl_nm/energy_congress_wind_dc

It seems that only pro-nuclear Senator Pete Dominici is making any sense:

"It would be folly for us in Congress to talk about breaking our addiction to foreign oil and, at the same time, pass laws that stymie our own production of clean and renewable energies here at home."

It also seems that this isn't about political parties or anti vs pro-nuclearism, but about a small and very vocal subset, a fringe element of society, that thinks we can return to a 19th century way of life, for example, the Little House on the Prarrie, where everything was flowers, trees, horses, deer, etc., and no hardships ever existed for mankind that only technology can overcome.

Eliot Spitzer, RFK Jr. (head of anti-nuclear Riverkeeper and Senator Teddy's nephew), Teddy himself and Mitt Romney must stop catering to the whims, fancies and fanatasies of a fringe element of society and start doing what is right and beneficial for their states and our Republic.

BTW, this gives me one more opportunity to point out that both Republicans and Democrats can be equally myopic and small minded when it comes to doing what is best for our Republic. It is high time to throw the lot of them out and vote Libertarian. I just can't help myself. We have too few major Party men like Ron Paul of Texas (men of integrity, virtue and honor) and too many professional politicians who look out for only their own wallets and the next election, and not the Nation's best interests.

gunter said...

You know you guys totally miss the point, intentionally, I might add.

The Indian Point site is having unplanned and unmonitored releases of radioactivity. And nobody fully understands where the leaks are coming from and how long they have been there.

That's not good... because if unplanned releases of radiation are also unmonitored as they travel into biological pathways, like water, we (those of us susceptible to increased radiation damage) really don’t know how much is getting out. Do we? And since radiation releases are regulated you have to follow regulations.

Even you admit that radioactive leaks should be “rectified quickly” and as such there is no argument or excuse for the leak in Indian Point Unit 1’s fuel pool, still leaking now for more than a decade.

If a gas station had a leak in its fuel storage tank there’s no arguing that it should be shut down, at least until its fixed if not permanently.

Indian Point is no different.

Brian Mays said...

Bad example. In fact, today many gas stations have leaks in their tanks. Fortunately, that is not a very serious problem (stations are more concerned with water leaking in and getting into the fuel), except that fuel additives such as methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) are fairly efficient in spreading out from leaking underground storage tanks. In fact, it is estimated that more than 1,500 municipal water supplies in the United States are badly tainted with MTBE.

So, we're talking about something that is several orders of magnitude beyond what even the worse case scenarios predict for Indian Point.

The truth is that Indian Point is different than gas stations; it is held to a much higher standard. Fortunately for public safety -- but unfortunately for public relations, since the facts can be twisted by groups such as yours, Mr. Gunter -- radiation is easy to monitor. So easy, in fact, that we can calculate doses of exposure for something as small as .00002 millirem per year.

So what you are complaining about is essentially a non-issue, unless of course, you are complaining about all of that MTBE leaking from the underground storage tanks of gas stations. Or did I totally miss the point?

Paul Primavera said...

This whole issue about miniscule radioactive leaks from commercial nuclear reactors is really a non-issue (especially given that coal plants routinely release hundreds of times as much). Jim Muckerheide pointed out the following yesterday at the Know_Nukes message board:

< http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Know_Nukes/message/16998 >

Friends,

This reflects our knowledge that biology requires ionizing radiation to function. Life was formed in natural radiation levels that were more than 10 times higher than they are today since radioactivity in the earth is decaying away. People who live in areas that have higher background radiation have lower cancer, better health and longer mean lifespans. Organisms and animals that are exposed to chronic radiation at levels much higher than background have lower cancer, essentially no infections, much less inflammatory disease, and longer mean lifespans.

Creating fear about low levels of radiation is produced by disinformation from government agencies and large government research organizations and contractors who extract $100s Billions from the gullible public, as electric ratepayers, as medical patients and insurance payers, as taxpayers, etc.

< http://comment.independent.co.uk/columnists_a_l/dominic_lawson/article356233.ece >

The Independent UK, On Line Edition

Dominic Lawson: Listen to the birds of Chernobyl - they may be making the case for nuclear power

Animals have returned and the cooling ponds of the power station are teeming with fish

-----

You'll have to go to the article to read more. The point is that NO radiation exposure just might be as much a bad thing as radiation over-exposure. And the minor amount of tritium release from Indian Point, Braidwood, Byron, Dresden and Palo Verde results in exposure barely above background (if detectable at all).

gunter said...

You dont really know how much has leaked through these unplanned and unmonitored pathways. so what you call "minor" you have no idea.

BTW, these unplanned and unmonitored releases are drawing alot of public attention to the large amounts of "planned" and rountine radioactive releases from nuclear power stations going out the vent stacks and into water resources.

Perhaps efforts like Mr. Primavera's to trivialize the added radioactive burden from the nuclear fuel cycle might receive an audience on this blog but is less and less convincing in the broader court of public opinion.

Paul Primavera said...

Paul Gunter,

You are correct when you stated, “You don’t really know how much has leaked through these unplanned and unmonitored pathways, so what you call ‘minor’ you have no idea.”

However, what has been detected and quantified is indeed miniscule and of no adverse measurable impact on public health or safety. The Regulator and the Utilities have to respond to the facts – what is measurable, quantifiable, provable and demonstrable. No one can constantly respond to and prepare for hypothetical ‘what-ifs’ and ‘don’t knows’. Yet in large measure that is exactly what the US commercial nuclear energy industry has had to do, and that is exactly why NRC Chairman Diaz cautioned us to use ‘Realistic Conservativism’ in two of his 2003 speeches:

< http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/commission/speeches/2003/s-03-023.html >

< http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/commission/speeches/2003/s-03-009.html >

Robert Heinlein expressed this in a different way: “What are the facts? Again and again and again--what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what ‘the stars foretell,’ avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable ‘verdict of history’--what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!”

Your position – and your fear of some hypothetical unknown amount of radioactive leakage – is based on the Precautionary Principle (from Wikipedia): “The idea that if the consequences of an action are unknown, but are judged to have some potential for major or irreversible negative consequences, then it is better to avoid that action.” This “formal concept evolved out of the German socio-legal tradition that was created in the zenith of German Democratic Socialism in the 1930s… In German the concept is Vorsorgeprinzip, which translates into English as precaution principle.”

(I am, of course, unsurprised at the origin of the Precautionary Principle, even as I am unsurprised at the European origins of WISE – NIRS.)

But back to the topic of the Precautionary Principle. This principle has been debunked by Reason Magazine (http://reason.com/9904/fe.rb.precautionary.shtml), the Competitive Enterprise Institute (http://www.cei.org/gencon/027,03079.cfm) and of course my favorite: the Ayn Rand Institute. The point is that even if the miniscule radioactive leaks DID cause some effect (none of which is measurable), nuclear STILL releases far less radioactivity to the environment than coal, and certainly has far less of an environmental footprint than coal, oil, gas, solar and wind. Thus, even if we embraced the Precautionary Principle, we STILL should opt for nuclear energy above all the rest.

Ayn Rand describes this best in her discussion on the merits of using coal power vs the naturist way (e.g., ‘Little House on the Prairie’): “City smog and filthy rivers are not good for men (though they are not the kind of danger that the ecological panic-mongers proclaim them to be.) This is a scientific, technological problem – not a political one – and it can be solved only by technology. Even if smog were a risk to human life, we must remember that life in nature, without technology, is wholesale death.”

To make it applicable to nuclear power, I would revise her statement to read: ““Radiation and radioactivity are not good for men (though they are not the kind of danger that the ecological panic-mongers proclaim them to be.) This is a scientific, technological problem – not a political one – and it can be solved only by technology. Even if radiation and radioactivity were a risk to human life, we must remember that life in nature, without technology, is wholesale death.”