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NRC Approves Transfer of Indian Point Despite Lack of Hearings

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November 24, 2020

By Barrett Seaman–

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) went ahead on Tuesday and approved the transfer of licenses for the Indian Point Nuclear Power plant from current operator Entergy to Holtec, a company involved in de-commissioning two other nuclear plants. That left a lot of state and local politicians, members of Congress and environmental groups unhappy.

The source of their displeasure was the federal agency’s failure to hold public hearings at which the credentials and record of Holtec and its ability to safely decommission the remaining reactors could be examined. Last month, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Representatives Nita Lowey, Eliot Engel and Sean Patrick Maloney, whose districts surround the Buchanan, NY nuclear complex, called on the NRC to hold hearings.

Riverkeeper, the lead environmental group that orchestrated the plan to de-commission Indian Point several years ago, charged that Holtec “lacks integrity, experience, and financial stability,” according to spokesman Cliff Weathers. “Since the NRC has once again neglected its responsibility to properly scrutinize Holtec’s qualifications, Riverkeeper calls upon New York State to step in to fill this gap and ensure the decommissioning of Indian Point is conducted safely, prudently, and in the best interests of New Yorkers.”

Peter Wolf, president of Nuclear Energy Solutions and a longtime advocate for the closure of the plant, said, “The major concern is financial transparency since Holtec is a privately-held company. The question is what will happen if there are insufficient funds in the Holtec subsidiary to properly clean up the site.”

For his part, Governor Andrew Cuomo reacted by saying, “”Cleaning up Indian Point will be complicated and expensive, and for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to act without considering New York’s request for a hearing is unacceptable and denies New Yorkers the public and transparent process they deserve.”

In a statement, Entergy claimed, “The transfer of Indian Point to Holtec, currently targeted for May 2021, would occur following the satisfaction of all closing conditions, including the permanent shutdown and reactor defueling of Unit 3, which is the last operating power plant at Indian Point. Unit 3 will shut down by April 30, 2021.”

The NRC expressed confidence in Holtec and said the company had the requisite financial and technical capability to get the job done. Spokesman Neil Sheehan added that “the decision on admitting or denying the hearing requests has not yet been made by the Commission. Also, the order approving the license transfer will include a condition that this approval is subject to the Commission’s authority to rescind, modify, or condition the approved transfer based on the outcome of any post-effectiveness hearing on the license transfer application.”

In other words, we can fix all that later.

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