New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced that her office has reached a provisional agreement with Holtec International and its subsidiaries (Holtec).
The agreement is regarding the decommissioning and cleanup of the Indian Point nuclear power facility in the lower Hudson Valley.
The joint proposal, which is subject to approval by the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC), was negotiated by the state of New York, environmental organizations, Entergy — the current owner of Indian Point, and Holtec.
If approved by the PSC, the agreement would transfer ownership of the nuclear power facility to Holtec, which would be responsible for the swift, complete, and safe decommissioning and remediation of the facility and site.
The joint proposal is now available for public comment and is slated to be voted on by the PSC on May 13th.
“We have worked hard to ensure that Indian Point is dismantled and cleaned up responsibly and safely,” said Attorney General James. “Once fully approved, this agreement will result in a safer, faster, and more thorough decommissioning process that exceeds stringent federal standards. We will continue to work diligently to see this closure through with an eye toward the safety of millions of New Yorkers.”
In 2017, Entergy agreed to close the two remaining and operating nuclear reactors at Indian Point. Unit 2 powered down in April 2020, and Unit 3 is scheduled to cease operations at the end of April 2021.
In November 2019, Entergy and Holtec filed an application for a license transfer with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
In January 2020, the NRC announced that it was considering approval of an application by Entergy to transfer the Indian Point license — and the facility’s trust funds to pay for decommissioning — to Holtec to implement the facility’s decommissioning.
Decommissioning, the radiological cleanup, and dismantling of a nuclear facility are extremely demanding, both technically and financially.
Accordingly, the NRC requires that nuclear facilities establish and maintain funding to pay for facility decommissioning following closure.
In the case of Indian Point, portions of its three decommissioning trusts were funded by New York ratepayers through their electricity bills.
Holtec obtained the NRC’s approval to use the trust money, not only to conduct the required radiological decommissioning but also to fund spent fuel management and site restoration.
Of the approximately $2.4 billion of aggregated decommissioning trust funds, Holtec estimated that it will spend more than $630 million for spent fuel management alone, which raised concerns about whether the remaining funds were adequate to conduct safe and comprehensive decommissioning at a site known to harbor substantial contamination.
In February 2020, Attorney General James filed a petition on behalf of the state of New York to intervene in the NRC license transfer proceeding, arguing that the transfer violated the NRC’s rules.
Attorney General James also requested that the NRC hold a public hearing on whether Holtec — the proposed licensee — demonstrated financial qualification, whether it had shown adequate financial assurance for decommissioning, and whether its decommissioning plans would actually ensure adequate funding for decommissioning and the other activities for which Holtec sought to use the decommissioning trusts, particularly long-term spent fuel management at the site.
In January 2021, the NRC rejected New York’s petition to intervene, and denied a hearing to address the state’s concerns regarding the decommissioning plan proposed by Holtec.
In January 2021, Attorney General James filed a lawsuit challenging the NRC’s decision.
This joint agreement regarding the proposed license transfer and to address the state’s concerns, is intended to ensure that adequate funds are available to complete the project subject to state oversight.
Under the agreement, Holtec is required to adhere to financial and administrative provisions, including:
- Maintaining a minimum balance of no less than $400 million in the Decommissioning Trust Fund for 10 years following the Transaction Closing Date;
- Maintaining a minimum balance of no less than $360 million in the Decommissioning Trust Fund at partial site release from the NRC for costs related to waste management and radiological cleanup of the site;
- Requiring Holtec to return 50 percent of the money it recovers from the Department of Energy (DOE) for spent fuel management costs to the Decommissioning Trust Fund;
- Conducting site restoration and remediation under order on consent with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which will oversee the hazardous materials cleanup at Indian Point, including through the use of an on-site monitor;
- Providing funds for state and local emergency management and response; and
- Providing financial and project reporting to the state and the public through a website and other channels to ensure transparency regarding project status and costs.
Per additional agreement terms, the Office of the Attorney General, Riverkeeper, the Town of Cortlandt, and the Hendrick Hudson School District will withdraw their lawsuits against the NRC, which are currently pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
“Since day one in Congress, I’ve supported responsibly phasing out operations at Indian Point, especially after so many safety issues in recent years — from faulty baffle bolts to contaminated water leaks — have shown Indian Point is simply too dangerous to continue operating,” said U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney. “I applaud Attorney General James’ work to secure this critical decommissioning and site cleanup agreement. We must ensure adequate funds are available to safely complete the decommissioning and finally close this site down. Indian Point has been a risk to the Hudson Valley and the entire region for too long.”
“The safe and responsible decommissioning of Indian Point is essential for the safety of our community in Westchester and for the entire Hudson Valley region,” said U.S. Representative Mondaire Jones. “I am grateful to Attorney General James, our local leaders, and the community advocates who have been dedicated to ensuring the decommissioning process is carried out in a financially and environmentally responsible way. Holtec must remain responsive to the needs of the community for whom the decommissioning will have the greatest impact. This agreement is an important step towards that goal.”
“I commend Attorney General James for her diligent efforts on this agreement,” said Westchester County Executive George Latimer. “Westchester County stands to face the largest impact from this process and thanks to the Attorney General’s leadership, the community at large will have an increased role and better clarity on what is to come next. I look forward to working with the Attorney General as this process continues to play out.”
“To ensure the safety and security of our communities, the dismantling of Indian Point must be completed in an expertly managed manner,” said State Senator Pete Harckham. “If the decommissioning process is done too hastily, radioactive contamination of the environment is a distinct risk. Today’s announcement will go a long way towards guaranteeing both a detailed and methodical dismantling process and a complete cleanup of the site. Many thanks to Attorney General James for her ongoing leadership on this crucial issue.”
“I have the honor of serving on Governor Cuomo’s Indian Point Closure Task Force and the local town of Cortlandt Task Force advocating for the safe decommissioning of IPEC Nuclear Power Plant. I was quite relieved when our Attorney General, Letitia James, listened to the concerns of labor, elected officials, school officials, community groups, and small business leaders,” said Tom Carey, President of the Westchester-Putnam Central Labor Body AFL-CIO. “I am currently a local labor leader and a former employee at the plant. In fact, my entire family worked for over 5 decades at IPEC. I applaud Attorney General James’ steadfast pursuit to ensure the decommissioning will undergo stringent guidelines for the continued safety of labor’s workforce and of our entire local community.”
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Joshua M. Tallent and Channing Wistar-Jones, and Deputy Bureau Chief Lisa M. Burianek — all of the Environmental Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic reports Consumer Affairs.
The Environmental Protection Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.
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