Holtec Faces Uncertainty in Disposal of Indian Point’s Spent Fuel Pool Water

Holtec International finds itself facing a challenge regarding the disposal of radioactive wastewater from the decommissioned Indian Point nuclear facility after legislators signed a law preventing its release into the Hudson River.

Legislation to prevent dumping

In August, Governor Kathy Hochul signed the “Save the Hudson River” bill. The legislation aimed to protect the Hudson River’s waters, shores, and communities. It levies fines from $37,500 for the first day of radioactive water discharge, rising up to $150,000 for subsequent days.

The legislation responds to concerns about the release of radioactive waste water, particularly from the closed Indian Point Energy Center. Holtec International, owner of Indian Point, had planned to release waste water, but faced local pressure to delay the action. Bolstered by community support, state legislators pursued a legal remedy despite federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. They emphasized the importance of protecting the Hudson River watershed that supplies drinking water to thousands of citizens. So now, with this new law in place, stricter regulation and monitoring of such activities will occur. And Holtec remains effectively prevented from enacting their original plan.

Meeting to review options

During the Indian Point Decommissioning Oversight Board meeting on September 21st, Holtec’s representative, Rich Burroni, held back on discussing their options. As such, he acknowledged that the disposal process was bound to experience delays.

There will be a schedule impact; I don’t think you can avoid it.

Rich Burroni – Holtec International

However, several proposed solutions have ignited controversy. For instance, boiling the waste water could potentially release radiation into the atmosphere. Alternatively, discharging it into the ocean would violate international law. Another option involves mixing the radioactive water with concrete and transporting it to the western United States for burial. Other decommissioned plants have done this before. However, this approach has faced criticism for potentially just transferring environmental risks to other communities.

Buchanan Mayor, Theresa Knickerbocker, raised the federal government’s longstanding unfulfilled promise to establish a permanent nuclear waste storage facility. She argued that if such a facility existed, the wastewater could have been transported without incident. She also opposed the option which entails storing the wastewater in on-site tanks for 12 years to allow radioactive tritium to decay. Expressing concerns about the leaks to the tanks, she asserted that she would not grant the necessary permits.

Dave Lochbaum, the oversight board’s nuclear expert, emphasized the risks associated with potential tank failures. He cited a past incident in 2009 at Indian Point when a tank leak went undetected. This leak resulted in the release of 10,000 gallons of contaminated water. Lochbaum criticized the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for its lax enforcement, contending that the absence of penalties for misconduct provided little incentive for nuclear facilities to improve their storage solutions.

The oversight board has taken the initiative to request comprehensive information from the NRC concerning the inspection process at Indian Point. Answers are expected to be provided by the next public meeting scheduled for December 6th. The ongoing uncertainty surrounding the disposal of Indian Point’s radioactive waste water underscores the persistent concern of community still grappling with this issue.

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