Entergy, the owner of the Indian Point nuclear plant in Buchanan, in Northern Westchester, got a slap on wrist last week. It will have to pay a $1.2 million fine for spilling huge amounts of oil into the Hudson River in 2010.
Announcing the fine, Joe Martens, Commissioner of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, said: “Long-standing problems cannot be left unaddressed at nuclear facilities and Clean Water Act standards must be complied with to protect public health and our state’s natural resources.” Martens also said that in addition to the oil spill there were violations of rules for storing bulk chemicals at the plant.
In 2007 another transformer at Indian Point also caught fire and at that time the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) warned the whole industry to improve transformer safety. However, these types of explosions and oil spills are considered to be merely low-level emergencies by the NRC. The DEC reports that after the 2010 explosion, more than 10,000 gallons of oil were recovered from the transformer, the containment moat and areas outside the containment moat including the discharge canal, the Hudson River shoreline, and the Hudson River.
The new penalty is one of the highest levied to date, but still represents just a tiny fraction of Entergy’s overall corporate budget. The state will require Entergy to pay $600,000 of the overall fine for an Environmental Benefit Project as yet to be determined; $62,000 to reimburse the state for natural resources damages to the Hudson River; and $5,000 for assessment and restoration oversight costs. Entergy will work with DEC and local stakeholders to identify possible environmental projects in the next 90 days. An additional $225,000 penalty was suspended contingent upon Entergy complying with the terms of the Consent Order.
Entergy also agreed to take the following corrective actions at Indian Point Unit 2 and Unit 3:
- properly test, inspect and if necessary replace any and all of Indian Point’s chemical bulk storage facilities;
- properly test, inspect, repair and maintain the remaining three main transformer containment structures to avoid similar environmental releases in the future; and
- complete all necessary repair work in 2012.
Entergy is seeking to renew its license to operate two Indian Point reactors beyond 2014 and 2016, when their initial 40-year operating licenses are scheduled to expire. The reactors are licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which could allow a 20-year extension for each reactor.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and many local environmental groups want the reactors shut down when their licenses expire.