Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Spitzer, Cuomo Rachet Up Fight on Indian Point

From the New York Sun:

To the alarm of business and energy groups, the Spitzer administration is cranking up its effort to shut down the Indian Point nuclear reactors by demanding that the federal government reject the plant's license renewal application because of safety reasons.

Governor Spitzer, along with Attorney General Cuomo, yesterday submitted a petition to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission claiming that the Hudson River plant is too old and susceptible to terrorist attacks and natural disasters to be granted a 20-year extension of its license.

"The presence of the Indian Point nuclear power plant in our midst is untenable," the petition states.

The legal filing is the governor's most significant action against the plant since taking office, and the latest sign of a political shift among local government officials toward shutting it down.
Here's the official NEI response from CNO Marv Fertel:
“The position taken today by the governor and the attorney general pre-judges the facts concerning the Indian Point license renewal application.

“Before deciding whether to extend a nuclear power plant’s operating license, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission reviews a license renewal application for more than 22 months – nearly two years. In comparison, fewer than eight months have passed since Entergy filed its license renewal application for the Indian Point power station.

“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s independent review is comprehensive so that it is assured that the company seeking to extend the operation of a nuclear power plant has in place the programs to monitor and manage safety systems and components like the reactor pressure vessel during the renewal period. This is above and beyond monitoring and improvements made to the plant on a daily basis to ensure that it is operating safely every day. In addition to the review of Entergy’s license renewal application, the NRC applies a minimum of 2,200 hours of oversight annually – including resident inspectors who are at the power station around the clock and supplemented by NRC officials at the regional and national levels.

“While state officials certainly should identify issues that they consider relevant to the safe operations of Indian Point going forward, they also have a responsibility, once they have done so, to let the deliberative regulatory processes function as intended.”
As you might imagine, we're not the only ones who have a problem with the state's two highest elected officials trying their level best to shut down New York City's most reliable source of emission-free electricity. Here's a statement from our friends at NAM:
In addition to the direct economic benefits provided by Indian Point, the plant generates 15.7 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity -- approximately 11 percent of New York state's electricity needs. A 2002 study estimated that if Indian Point were shut down, wholesale electricity prices in the downstate New York area would increase between 13 percent and 25 percent

“As utility workers lay high-capacity cables under the Hudson River to extract power from New Jersey utilities to help power New York, restricting or closing power generating facilities is akin to turning a blind eye to the electricity need of businesses and citizens,” said NAM President John Engler. “The New York region needs more reliable electricity, not less. The Indian Point facility is a critical element of New York’s power grid.”

“As countries like France, Japan, Russia and China continue to build nuclear energy capacity to meet their energy needs, New York officials are trying to create less capacity and drive up costs, Engler said.

Depending on seasonal demand, the 2000 megawatts of electricity produced by Indian Point supplies between 18 percent 38 percent of the region’s energy needs, including power for the New York City subways and the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Metro North trains.
Though she might be out of the Indian Point zip code, Ruth Sponsler is right on target with this assessment of the anti-Indian Point effort:
Cuomo, Spitzer, and Spano have no responsible plan to replace Indian Point's electricity. They are trying to make a divisive political issue out of a facility that has been operating safely for a number of years. They are also demonstrating a glaring ignorance and refusal to address the issue of fossil fuel emissions and all their ramifications from asthma to climate change.
Rod Adams:
If they are successful, natural gas suppliers in the Northeast will be loving life - Indian Point has a capacity of 2200 MWe. It has been running at an average annual capacity factor of about 93%. If that power is replaced by very efficient gas turbine combined cycle plants running at an average heat rate of 7,000 BTU per kilowatt hour, and if the price of natural gas is a well behaved $7.00 per million BTU, it will cost New York residents about $900 million per year to pay for the fuel for the yet to be built plants.

People who understand a bit more about the law of supply and demand and who understand the pipeline constraints that currently exist will know that a more likely price for natural gas for the plants needed to replace Indian Point would be a bit higher most of the time and a whole lot higher during peak demand periods in both summer and winter. It might very well cost residents in excess of $1.5 billion per year in fuel and capital recovery costs to shut down Indian Point. Most of that money will be spent buying fuel from someplace else since NY is not a gas producing state.

Not only will that increased expense be borne by NY residents, but the increased demand for natural gas will also cause price increases throughout the northeast US. A lot of people who are already struggling with heating bills are going to be hurt by a decision to prematurely close an operating reactor.

Of course, there is also the environmental impact to consider. This plant is not going to be replaced by windmills or solar panels; the most friendly replacement choice is natural gas but it might also be partly replaced by increased coal burning. I will leave the computation of that effect to someone else.
No worries, Bill Hammond of the New York Daily News did the math:
If the state were to replace that power by burning fossil fuel - which is the only realistic alternative - an extra 14 million tons per year of CO2 would billow into the atmosphere. That's the equivalent of putting 2.7 million more cars on the road. Or clear-cutting 10 million acres of forest, which is almost 1-1/2 Adirondack Parks.
Further ...
When it comes to combating global warming, Gov. Spitzer and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo showed yesterday that they're full of hot air. At a White Plains press conference, Spitzer and Cuomo announced that the State of New York will seek to shut down the Indian Point nuclear plants when their federal licenses expire in 2013 and 2015.

But that is probably the single most counterproductive thing the state could do about climate change. And, for good measure, it would compound New York City's smog problem, aggravate its asthma epidemic, drive electric rates further into the stratosphere, invite blackouts and crater the economy.

Not bad for a day's work by two Democrats who call themselves environmentalists.
Prairie Pundit:
So the Democrats think that the cost of energy is too high and there solution is to further restrict supply? We need to be building more nuclear plants and making sure that the ones we have are run properly not shutting them down. This is just another example of how unserious Democrats are about energy policies.
Interesting. Of course, yesterday's dog and pony show by the folks in New York is just the start of what should prove to be an interesting process. Stick with us as we follow all the developments.

One last note: Despite the unified press release from opponents of the plant, there was anything but unity behind the scenes. Makes one wonder what their real motivations are, doesn't it?

Actually, somebody else has already thought about that ...
Eliot Spitzer's party is the reason why the United States has not built a new oil refinery in thirty years. Eliot Spitzer's party opposes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In fact, there is likely not a single, solitary square foot in the United States and our coastal waters where the party of Eliot Spitzer would drill for oil.

Eliot Spitzer's party opposes the excavation of coal. Eliot Spitzer's party opposes the construction of wind farms because the Kennedys and other wealthy families believe they're eye-sores. If it were up to the Luddites in Eliot Spitzer's party, New Yorkers would be rubbing two wooden sticks together to stay warm.

This announcement has nothing to do with terrorism or nuclear power. It's about raw politics. Governor Spitzer continues to grovel before the hard Democrat left as his character and competence are questioned in the wake of using the State Police in an attempt to destroy the career of Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.

Govenor Spitzer's ethics, or lack thereof, and the sleazy behavior of his top aides will be in the public spotlight for at least another year, at a minimum. The Governor needs to create as many distractions as possible. Attacking Indian Point is one distraction among many to come.
Nice to have that local perspective.

Other Links:
State Urges Indian Point Closure (Albany Times-Union)
Spitzer moves to block Indian Point relicensing (The Buzz)
Spitzer and Cuomo "Haggling" on Indian Point (Newsday's Spin Cycle)

8 comments:

Matthew66 said...

As a taxpayer of New York state I resent the use of public money in opposing the relicensing of IPEC. If IPEC is so dangerous, why doesn't Spitzer use eminent domain and compulsorily acquire the plant and then close it? As a resident of Astoria I oppose closing IPEC because such an action will inevitably mean the expansion of the ConEd facility next to La Guardia airport and the Keyspan power station on the east river, with a serious degradation of the already poor air quality in my neighborhood.

Spitzer won't use eminent domain because that would be successful in closing IPEC. Making the filing, which they know will fail, enables Spitzer and Cuomo to get their names and faces in the news whilst being assured that IPEC continues to generate cheap electricity for another twenty years.

Joffan said...

And so it goes; the visceral reaction to even the idea of radiation making intelligent people behave like cowering children.

And probability, it appears, counts for nothing. Thousands of reactor-years of civilian power show that the probabilities of significant problems are far lower than the conservative early estimates that the fearmongers routinely still appeal to. Studies of radiation show that the effects of low-level radiation are nowhere near as bad as the regulations assume they are. Risk assessments demonstrate over and over that the individual equipment problems that arise naturally can be compensated for and controlled.

It's time to be less tolerant of ignorance on nuclear power. Name-calling, appeals to uncertainty and dogma should not be enough in any rational debate. I would like to see the NRC respond explicitly to the New York State document pointing out the full extent of its wrongheadednesss; and how the reality and the regulatory process does not support either instant or accelerated closure, but rather extended usage.

Anonymous said...

The Democrats sure aren't like they were in the FDR days, when they wanted to dramatically increase the standard of living of the average person. Now they are the party of the super rich.

For the super rich it doesn't matter if electricity rates double or triple. But for the average family it really hurts, to the point they have to accept a lower standard of living.

For the super rich it doesn't matter if a factory has to relocate to an area with cheaper electricity to stay competitive. They don't work at the factory and they have worldwide investments.

John Wheeler said...

Spitzer's governorship is in shambles; he has alienated his own party, and created such distrust and contempt in Albany that NO ONE in either party will work with him, or anyone in his administration, to accomplish anything meaningful. His only hope is to create distractions - and what better target than their favorite punching bad - Indian Point.

Facts if Indian Point Shuts Down: (1) NY would not meet obligations made to its own citizens and neighbors under the NE Greenhouse Gas Initiative (2) burning of oil and natural gas to produce electricity (most expensive forms of electricity) will increase by ~25% to greater than half of all electricity produced in NY State (3) NY State sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide, causes of smog and asthma, will increase 11% and 19% respectively, (4) property taxes in Westchester County will increase by AT LEAST $49.7 million (many home owners already pay greater than $10,000 per year in property taxes for simple middle class homes).

Many hard working middle class people I know can’t wait for an opportunity to get out of NY State because of the long commutes to work, the cost of living, super high property taxes, lousy public services, the cost of electricity and home heating, and some of the highest income taxes in the country. If Spitzer, Cuomo, and Spano have their way they will simply hasten the exodus.

Matthew66 said...

They've also been remarkably silent about the three reactors in Oswego, NY and the one in Rochester, NY. Are we to assume that it's okay to have a reactor in upstate NY, but not downstate?

Anonymous said...

I told you guys this will happen. And if Hillary gets to the Presidency, she will act on the advice of her freinds, Spitzer, Cuomo and Spano. I get so annoyed. Don't ingratiate yourselves with these people.

Anonymous said...

I changed my mind. John Wheeler is right. I used to work with him. He usually is right. Good man - lots of common sense.

aluric said...

While we are at it, why not look the other way for the moment. The Military now builds reactors that will run for 50 years without having to refuel. If commercial reactors where allowed to buld reactors to half that level of enrichment; the cost of power from nuclear would be driven even lower then the 2 cents per Kw hour it is now. Wouldnt that kill the mega oil companies as electricity went so cheap people demanded electric cars.
This whole thing is a political version of the 3 card monty games being run on new york city streets every day for the unsuspecting tourists. They dont want you to knw the real truth; because they would be hung drawn and quartered for all the BS they have already alwoed to occur.