Growing up in the New York suburbs, I remember vaguely the Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC) facility in Buchanan, N.Y., just thirty-five miles from New York City. As a little girl, I knew that there was much protest surrounding the facility, especially after 3 Mile Island's meltdown in 1979, but I had no idea why it was so perilous. If it's any indication, they dropped the name Indian Point Nuclear Plant as it was formerly known, and decided to rebrand it with the more innocuous 'Energy Center.' The catastrophic ramifications of the 2011 Fukushima Diaiichi disaster puts matters into clearer focus.
Governor Cuomo has banned fracking in the State of New York, so the concomitant earthquakes aren't as much of an imminent threat. However, its dense population requires that natural gas will have to be imported. In order to get it to N.Y. State, we need expensive and dangerous methods of transport (see Keystone XL). Why not put a pipeline frighteningly close to IPEC?
What could possibly go wrong?
The facility, originally built in 1962 is cause for concern. Currently, IPEC's two nuclear reactors (Unit 2 and Unit 3) went on line in 1975 and 1976, after the original reactor was shut down on October 31, 1974, because the emergency core cooling system did not meet regulatory requirements. In its forty year lifespan, the place has been wrought with accidents and safety violations.
One of the largest natural gas infrastructure companies in North America, calls the planned enlargements "The Algonquin Incremental Market Project" (AIM). AIM includes a two-mile section of 42-inch pipe carrying gas under very high pressures. It is this pipeline segment that will flank IPEC, which stands in a seismic zone. The nuclear complex has a derelict history. In 2001, The New York Times reported that "the plant has encountered a string of accidents and mishaps since it went into operation on June 26, 1973." The IPEC has also been on the federal list of the nation's worst nuclear power plants.
We can all imagine the risks a high pressured gas pipeline skirting a dangerous, aging nuclear facility poses. This is the most densely populated metropolitan area in the United States, which makes this insanity all the more terrifying.
The man who tried to warn everyone a few years ago about the perils associated with our nuclear industry was in charge of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Gregory Jaczko was chairman of the U.S. NRC when Japan’s Fukushima power plant suffered a major meltdown in 2013. An advocate of tightening safety controls at America’s aging nuclear facilities after the Fukushima disaster, Jaczko soon discovered that despite his concerns, the influence of profit-hungry corporations over the NRC was affecting its ability to adequately police the industry—and putting the public in danger.
Jaczko’s concerns, and his eventual ouster from the NRC, are part of a larger story told in Indian Point, a new documentary screening this week and next at the Tribeca Film Festival. Named after the electricity-generating nuclear reactor just 35 miles from New York City, the film is a cautionary tale about a technology once seen as an abundant and non-polluting energy source, but with downsides that could make oil spills and electrical brownouts seem as minor as a fender bender.
Paul Blanch is a professional engineer with nearly five decades of experience in nuclear safety, engineering operations and federal regulatory requirements. He has security clearance for his work, and is a nuclear industry proponent. He has worked with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission since its inception and for utility corporations across the United States, including Entergy. (The owners of IPEC)
"I've had over 45 years of nuclear experience and [experience in] safety issues." Blanch told Truthout. "I have never seen [a situation] that essentially puts 20 million residents at risk, plus the entire economics of the United States by making a large area surrounding Indian Point uninhabitable for generations. I'm not an alarmist and haven't been known as an alarmist, but the possibility of a gas line interacting with a plant could easily cause a Fukushima type of release."
The incredibly irresponsible behavior of the energy industry is beyond appalling. Even worse, we have a very Gerrymandered half of the political landscape obsessed with deregulating EVERYTHING. If the past is any indicator, things won't change until something tragically awful happens, or will it?
See the Fresno blast for clues.