New York governor blocks discharge of radioactive water into Hudson River from closed nuclear plant

Aug 18, 2023, 11:43 AM

FILE - A sign warning of radioactive materials is seen on a fence around a nuclear reactor containm...

FILE - A sign warning of radioactive materials is seen on a fence around a nuclear reactor containment building, April 26, 2021, a few days before it stopped generating electricity at Indian Point Energy Center, in Buchanan, N.Y. A measure to block radiological discharges into the Hudson River as part of the Indian Point nuclear plant's decommissioning was signed by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, Friday, Aug. 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A measure to block discharges of radioactive water into the Hudson River as part of the Indian Point nuclear plant’s decommissioning was signed into law Friday by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The bill was introduced to thwart the planned release of 1.3 million gallons of water with traces of radioactive tritium from the retired riverside plant 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of New York City.

The plan sparked a groundswell of opposition in the suburban communities along the river. Many feared the discharges would depress real estate values and drive away sailors, kayakers and swimmers after decades of progress in cleaning up the Hudson River.

Supporters of the planned releases say that they would be similar to those made when the Indian Point Energy Center was making electricity and that the concentration of tritium had been far below federal standards. Such releases are made by other plants, hospitals and other institutions, they said.

The bill to ban radioactive discharges into the Hudson River as part of decommissioning was introduced by two Democratic lawmakers from the Hudson Valley and approved by the Legislature in June.

“The Hudson River is one of New York’s landmark natural treasures, and it’s critical we stand together to protect it for generations to come,” Hochul said in a prepared statement.

Indian Point was shut down in 2021 and transferred to Holtec International for decommissioning. The project was expected to take 12 years and cost $2.3 billion.

Holtec planned to discharge water from spent fuel pools and other parts of the plant as early as next month. Some of that water contains tritium, which occurs naturally in the environment and is a common byproduct of nuclear plant operations.

Holtec and some labor unions had warned a ban on river discharges could lead to layoffs since it would affect how the decommissioning proceeds.

The company expressed disappointment Friday that Hochul signed the bill.

“We firmly believe that this legislation is preempted by federal law and that the discharge of monitored, processed, and treated water would not impact the environment or the health and safety of the public,” company spokesperson Patrick O’Brien said in a prepared statement. “In the interim, we will evaluate the impact to our decommissioning milestones and the overall project schedule.”

Hochul said her administration will work with Holtec, regulators and local officials to identify alternatives.

Indian Point generated about a quarter of the electricity used in New York City and suburban Westchester County.

Critics who fought for its closure said it was dangerous to have a nuclear plant so close to the city and cited what they called its checkered environmental and safety record.

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New York governor blocks discharge of radioactive water into Hudson River from closed nuclear plant