Indian Point Energy Center

Indian Point Energy Center is a nuclear power plant located in Buchanan, New York, on the east bank of the Hudson River. Its two Westinghouse pressurized water reactors, commissioned in 1974 and 1976, respectively, have an installed capacity to produce 1,020 MW of power each, with the two combining to generate over 16,000 GWh a year. The plant’s original reactor, called either Unit 1 or Indian Point 1, operated from 1962 until 1974, when it was shut down due to concerns that the uranium oxide-fueled core’s emergency cooling system did not meet regulations.

Located 38 miles north of New York City and just south of Peekskill, work began on Units 2 and 3 in 1968. Design and construction of the plant was carried out by United Engineers and Constructors. Today the plant supplies up to 30% of the electrical power demanded by New York City and Westchester County. It is currently owned by the Entergy Corporation, which purchased the plant from the New York Port Authority and Consolidated Edison, and operated by Entergy Nuclear Northeast, one of Entergy’s non-utility subsidiaries. Nearly 1700 workers are currently employed at its facilities.

Though Federal regulators awarded Indian Point a fifth consecutive top safety rating for annual operations in 2009, some safety and environmental questions have emerged or been pressed forward by activists in recent years. The discovery by researchers at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which is run by Columbia University, of a seismic fault line that runs from Peekskill to Stamford, Connecticut has led the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to conclude that Indian Point’s Unit 3, which is situated less than a mile south of the fault, has the greatest risk of receiving earthquake damage among all nuclear generating stations in the United States. However, it has been noted that in 2010 California’s nuclear power station at San Onofre, which is of a similar design, took no damage while withstanding a 7.2 magnitude earthquake.

Indian Point has also been the recent target of the Department of Environmental Conservation, which in 2010 ruled that the plant violated the Clean Air and Water Act due to the possibility that fish can get caught in its water intakes. Local leaders have disputed this, however, and note that Entergy’s offer to install fish screens in lieu of building new cooling towers was turned down even though similar screens were permitted for the nearby gas plant at Bowline Point.

However, the fish are not the only creatures in danger from the Indian Point plant.  Many such power plants built in the 1960s and 1970s employed asbestos as a fire-retardant and insulator to protect facilities, machinery, and workers from extreme temperature.  However, the long-term damage wrought by asbestos far outweighed the protection it provided.  This mineral has been linked to fatal diseases such as mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer with a life expectancy of between eight and 14 months.