AG James Takes Action to Ensure Safe, Rapid, and Complete Dismantling of Indian Point

Attorney General Letitia James today took action to ensure the safe, rapid, and thorough decommissioning and site restoration at Indian Point Energy Center (IP), a nuclear power facility located in the Hudson Valley slated to end all power generation next year. Attorney General James filed a petition to intervene in the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) proceeding concerning the transfer of IP to subsidiaries of the nuclear services firm Holtec International for decommissioning.

(Courtesy of the Indian Point Energy Center)

In the petition, Attorney General James underscores the State’s support for “prompt, thorough, and safe decommission and site restoration” at Indian Point, but expresses serious concerns that that Holtec fails to “possess the financial qualifications necessary to complete such a risk-intensive project.”

NYS Attorney General Letitia James

“It is essential that the decommissioning of Indian Point be safe, rapid, and complete,” said Attorney General James. “Putting the decommissioning of Indian Point in the hands of a company with no experience and uncertain financial resources is very risky. I am committed to ensuring that New York is granted full participation in this application proceeding and all other decision-making related to Indian Point’s decommissioning.”

In 2017, the owner of IP – Entergy – agreed to close the two remaining operating units at the site. On January 23, 2020, the NRC announced that it was considering approval of an application by Entergy to transfer the IP license to Holtec for decommissioning.

Decommissioning, which involves radiological clean-up and dismantling a nuclear facility is extremely demanding both technically and financially. NRC requires that nuclear facilities establish and maintain a trust fund to pay for facility decommissioning – the IP fund has been capitalized by New York ratepayers through their electricity bills.  The Holtec entities propose to seek NRC approval to use the trust, not only to conduct decommissioning, but also to fund site restoration and spent fuel management activities.

In January 2020, Holtec published a cost estimate for decommissioning, site restoration, and spent fuel management at the IP facility of $2.3 billion. However, Holtec represents that the value of the IP trust fund as of October 2019 was “approximately $2.1 billion” – which the State points out is a roughly $200 million shortfall in funding for decommissioning.

In the petition, Attorney General James expresses a number of substantial concerns about Holtec’s financial qualifications, which are necessary to complete the safe, timely, and full decommissioning of IP. The Attorney General argues that it would violate NRC rules for the Commission to approve a license transfer when there is currently a $200 million shortfall in the trust fund. In addition, Holtec’s cost estimates for decommissioning rely on “a series of unreasonable assumptions” that appear to underestimate those costs and threaten the companies’ ability to complete the necessary work on time and within budget. This is of particular concern because the Holtec subsidiaries have no resources beyond or independent from the trust fund and have failed to establish their financial qualifications to cope with a shortfall in the fund.

Today’s petition is just the latest action Attorney General James has taken to hold the NRC and Holtec accountable. On January 17, 2020, Attorney General James led a coalition of 12 states in supporting Massachusetts’s challenge to the NRC’s approval for the transfer of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station’s license to Holtec without affording Massachusetts a hearing to address its significant concerns about Holtec’s ability to successfully oversee the facility’s decommissioning. The coalition’s amicus brief; filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, argues that the NRC’s failure to hear from Massachusetts before approving the license transfer violates NRC rules, and the federal Atomic Energy and Administrative Procedure Acts.

“I have long called for the decommissioning of Indian Point and while I am pleased that day is finally drawing near, we must be sure it is done in the safest way possible,” said U.S. Representative Eliot Engel. “Putting this job in the hands of a shaky company is asking for trouble. I applaud Attorney General James for taking action to ensure this process is done in a thoughtful manner with the greatest possible care.”

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