Sunday, May 8, 2016

Indian Point Power Plant Leak Sets off State Alarms

Indian Point power plant on Hudson Rover  (

By Tyler Blackman

Earlier this year New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that a hazardous radioactive agent has seeped into groundwater at the Indian Point power plant, which is only 25 miles away from New York City, as well as Bergen County, New Jersey. The power plant on the Hudson River in Buchanan, NY is the main source of power for over 23 million people in the New York City area.

“The company reported alarming levels of radioactivity at three monitoring wells, with one well's radioactivity increasing nearly 65,000 percent,” CBS News reported. Tritium, which can cause birth defects and cancer, was found in some areas around the plant peaking at 8 million picocuries per liter. Curie is a measurement of radioactivity, a picocurie is 1 trillionth of a curie. Though the radioactive material did not seep into the Hudson River there was a high possibility of the agent contaminating drinking water.

A spokeperson for the plant, Jerry Nappi, said the leak could’ve came from water spillage “as a result of a mechanical issue during pumping of water during January.”  Spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Neil Sheehan agreed with the statement, adding “it was water build up from a contaminated drain,” but did not have any comments as to why it went overlooked for so long. In 2009 the same plant was under federal investigation following the release of 100,000 gallons of contaminated water. Five years later the plant tested for high levels of tritium during a plant shutdown.

After Governor Cuomo called for an investigation of the plant in February, samples were taken immediately. Since then more tests have been done and have shown that the contamination levels are over 75% higher than the previous samples taken earlier this year. Cuomo is joining efforts by environmental groups to get federal approval for the plant to be shut down.

"It's a disaster waiting to happen and it should be shut down," stated Paul Gallay, president of Riverkeeper, a watchdog organization that works to protect the Hudson River.

 But former director of licensing for the plant, John J. Kelly, said “It’s more of a regulatory problem than an environmental problem”. Entergy, the company owner of the plant, stated that the contamination will not affect local communities since the groundwater is on their plant land..

State officials see a bigger problem.

 “For over 40 years, Entergy’s Indian Point nuclear facilities have been damaging the coastal resources of the Hudson River estuary…New York is home to four commercial nuclear facilities. When properly located and safely functioning, these facilities are regarded as important generators of electricity… However, by virtue of its location as well as its operations, the Department cannot make the same finding as to Indian Point,” Secretary of State Cesar Perales said.

According to news reports, the plant continued to spew toxic radioactive material, in some places as high as 65,000 percent increase compared to previous tests. When will they fix this problem and why does it keep happening? Though the public may not know all the answers to these questions, one question that was answered was the potential termination of the plant. Due to a series of mishaps in the past and present, the investigation called by Governor Cuomo can potentially have a huge influence in the closing of the plant.

“This latest failure at Indian Point is unacceptable," Cuomo said, "and I have directed Department of Environmental Conservation Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos and Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to fully investigate this incident and employ all available measures, including working with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to determine the extent of the release, its likely duration, cause, and potential impacts to the environment and public health.” 

Tyler Blackman is a graduating senior at Ramapo College of New Jersey pursuing a Multimedia Journalism degree through the school of Contemporary Arts. "After learning about citizen journalist in a class I took, I decided to change my major from Journalism to Multimedia Journalism aiming to gain experience in different fields such as journalism, video production, web/app design, augmented reality and even foreign film."

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