Tuesday, June 06, 2006

NAS Report: Political, Regulatory and Financial Hurdles Complicate Indian Point Closure

In response to a request from Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the National Academy of Sciences undertook a study to determine how New York could compensate if the two nuclear reactors at Entergy's Indian Point Energy Center were closed. While the report concluded that the closure was "technically feasible," there were a number of significant hurdles in the way.

From the news release (emphasis mine):

The report emphasizes that the issues associated with the potential shutdown of Indian Point are complex and intertwined with broader energy issues. Even with Indian Point still operating in 2008, for example, southeastern New York would require 500 more megawatts of new generating capacity than is now under construction in the state. And if Indian Point were closed, New York's current government mechanisms and regulatory policies may limit its ability to address the consequences. Closing the plant would require a long-term, integrated strategy that may include changes to state law and policies, such as reauthorization of the Article X statute, which was designed to facilitate the environmental review and siting of new power plants.

New power plants, improvements in electricity transmission and energy efficiency, and distributed generation could contribute to replacing the energy lost by the closure of Indian Point, the report says. Most new power plants are likely to be fueled with natural gas. However, the committee expressed concern over this increasing reliance on natural gas because new sources of the fuel, such as imported liquefied natural gas, may be required. It noted that constructing new power plants upstate may be easier than doing so in New York City or Westchester County, but building upstate would require upgraded transmission capacity as well.

Electricity from new plants is almost certain to be more costly than that from Indian Point, the committee said. However, given the state's new regulatory structure for pricing electricity, the committee could not accurately estimate the increase in the cost of electricity to consumers that might result from the plant's closure. In addition, to the extent that the reactors are replaced with plants that burn fossil fuel, emissions of carbon dioxide will be higher, complicating efforts by New York to reduce greenhouse gases under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
In other words, the idea is "technically feasible," if you're not worried about raising electric rates, protecting the environment or the reliability of the electrical grid that supports America's largest city. That doesn't even take into account that new generating capacity would have to be natural gas-fired, increasing America's dependence on foreign sources of fossil fuel.

And if you could even do that, the state's regulatory structures would most likely be unable to fast-track the needed approvals for additional generation.

Doesn't sound very feasible to me. Click here for the full report.

UPDATE: This might be a good time to point everyone to the economic benefits report NEI prepared on Indian Point.

Here's more from the AP account of the report's release:

The committee warned that generating capacity in the New York City area may be outstripped by peak demand in as little as three years.

Indian Point is a 2,000 megawatt facility, and the state's power needs are expected to grow between 1,200 and 1,600 megawatts by 2010.

The experts also suggested public resistance, bureaucratic delay and market forces may slow the expansion of needed power plants until the demand reaches a crisis point.

"New generating capacity may not be available until reserves are dangerously low. Forestalling a crisis may require extraordinary efforts on the part of policy makers and regulators," the report said.

For all the coverage, visit Google News. And here's what we wrote when New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said in a policy speech in April that Indian Point should be closed.

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Paul Primavera said...

Thank you, Eric.

It will be a sad day, indeed, if IPEC were closed.

Don Kosloff said...

One interesting fact in the report is that more than 10% of the electricity generated in NY state is generated by burning oil. The five nuclear power plants generate 14%. So there need to be at least three new nuclear power plants built in New York just to offset most of the oil being burned.

Overall the report is grossly deficient because it doesn't mention the known health and safety hazards of the replacement power. Given the level of knowledge of the participants, this cannot merely be an oversight.

Stewart Peterson said...

No, it isn't an oversight; it's merely outside the realm of the report. Or so the authors thought.

Paul Primavera said...

Both the pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear sides are taking this NAS report as a big win for themselves.

U.S. Science Panel Sees Big Problems if Indian Point Reactors Are Closed by Matt Wald of the NY Times
< http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/07/nyregion/07indian.html?_r=1&oref=slogin >

Riverkeeper 6/6/06: Press Release - THE VERDICT IS IN: INDIAN POINT’S POWER NOT NEEDED
< http://riverkeeper.org/campaign.php/indian_point/the_facts/1176 >

I find the report incites more division and confusion that clarification and guidance.

Paul Primavera said...

Speaking of Indian Point,

Please find the PDF file for the “Letter from Chairman Nils J. Diaz to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton regarding the NRC's plans for conducting engineering and emergency preparedness inspections at the Indian Point nuclear power plant” at web page:


If I interpret these 372 pages correctly, Chairman Diaz told Hillary Clinton, “No, there won’t be another separate, independent safety inspection because we ARE the independent safety agency for all nuclear power as mandated by Congress AND we are already doing such inspections.”

What about this statement Senator Clinton fails to understand is anyone’s guess.