With the license for one its reactors up for renewal later this year, the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County is becoming a flashpoint of controversy for New York politicians and environmentalists. Now, there's a new fight brewing over a natural gas pipeline that is set to be built near the power plant. NY1’s Zack Fink has the details.
The Indian Point nuclear facility sits on the banks of the Hudson River in northern Westchester County.
The Algonquin Incremental Market Project known as AIM is a natural gas pipeline that cuts through several states to meet growing energy demands in New York state and New England. Experts say the current blueprint allows the pipeline to come far too close to Indian Point.
"The pipeline comes within 105 feet of some structures that are necessary to provide power to the nuclear power plant,” said nuclear energy consultant Paul Blanch. “The probability of its failure is maybe once in 1,000, maybe once in 10,000 years, which is way higher than is allowable by the NRC, which is once in 10 million years."
Blanch is a consultant with more than 45 years of nuclear power experience. He says the danger is that if there is a rupture of the gas line, it could damage the electrical systems necessary for keeping reactors cool.
"Without those electrical systems, we could have a meltdown, which is the same scenario as Fukushima. The meltdown was caused by loss of electrical power," he said.
A spokesman for Entergy, which runs the plant, says loss of external power wouldn't mean a meltdown, since Indian Point has multiple generators to provide backup power.
Spectra Energy, the company currently constructing the pipeline, issued a statement saying that "the proposed route would not pose any new safety hazards to the facility."
Ironically, New York is using the pipeline to collect natural gas from other states, after Governor Andrew Cuomo opted to ban a controversial natural gas extraction method known as fracking in the state.
"It just doesn't make any sense to have natural gas transmission lines. These are huge lines that release up to four kilotons of energy. Hiroshima was 15 kilotons. It just doesn't make any sense, " Blanch said.
Later this year, one of Indian Point's reactors is up for renewal. New York City relies on Indian Point for roughly 25 percent of its energy needs.
"We want to make sure that all of the lights come on in the city. I've always been okay with nuclear power," said New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
Governor Cuomo, who has previously called for Indian Point to be shut down, had no comment on the pipeline.