Holtec & Hochul: A David and Goliath Story

Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant in Buchanan, N.Y. previously owned by Entergy, was sold and transferred to Holtec International, LLC in 2021. Indian Point was closed for financial reasons and for the safety of the environment: air, water, soil AND for the health and safety of the public and workers. This issue had been studied since 2012.

Holtec International, LLC, is responsible for decommissioning the site. Holtec has previously been charged with criminal behavior – with bribery, lying on applications, and has been charged with safety violations at many of the sites they own for decommissioning. The company recently violated safety regulations by transporting radioactive machinery from their Oyster Creek Reactor in N.J. to Indian Point in N.Y. As of November 9th, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has proposed a paltry $43,750 fine for this violation. The NRC also identified a serious violation on the part of Holtec, as Holtec, without application or approval, changed the design of the spent fuel baskets that go into the canisters and casks that will remain on site forever as there is no national repository. Holtec buys embrittled, aging plants that are slated for decommissioning, and obtains millions to billions of dollars in decommissioning trust funds from the states they are licensed in by asserting they will decommission reactor sites. Holtec wants to build and operate Small Modular Nuclear Reactors on many of their sites – grabbing billions of dollars from the Department of Energy in the process.

At the Decommissioning Oversight Board (DOB) meeting in February of 2023, Holtec said they planned to dump 1.3 million gallons of tritiated waste water (radioactive water) from the cooling pools into the Hudson River. A coalition of 138 organizations was headed by Food & Water Watch and was joined by Riverkeeper and Clearwater. We engaged in rallies and press conferences ahead of the DOB meetings. A Change.org petition garnered 444,000 signatures! The Rockland County Legislature signed a resolution in opposition to the dumping on March 8th. County Executive Ed Day stood in opposition to the dumping with County Executives in the Hudson Valley. Supervisors from our five towns signed Resolutions of opposition. Assemblymen Ken Zebrowski and Chris Eachus and Senator Bill Weber were some of the first co–sponsors of the bill and Congressman Mike Lawler stood with us, helping to create a bi–partisan wall of opposition. We worked closely with legislators, especially with Senator Harckham and Assemblywoman Levenberg – sponsors of the bill. On August 18, 2023, Governor Hochul signed the Save the Hudson bill in order to safeguard the Hudson River, the Hudson Valley's tourism economy and property values for its residents. It is now illegal to dump radioactive waste water into the Hudson River.

However, Holtec could dump illegally and pay fines; could try to evaporate the radioactive tritiated water which is even more dangerous to human health as it will be inhaled and which comes back down as rain, ice and snow; could consider suing NY State (on November 10th, a Holtec representative told a reporter from Highland News, that “They are weighing what to do with the wastewater at Indian Point….they have not ruled out legal action against the state.”) OR they could use an alternative being advocated for by citizen groups. This alternative is to store the tritiated water in aboveground storage tanks that can be monitored and repaired as needed. Tritium has a half life of 12.3 years. The radioactivity of the water – if stored and allowed to decay for many, many half lives, will be safe to discharge once the radioactivity is significantly reduced. This alternative of On Site Storage in tanks could be more cost effective and safer than dumping, evaporating or shipping off site. Additionally, thousands of tons of high level radioactive spent fuel is being stored in very thin–walled and shoddy Holtec produced canisters and casks. The Stop Holtec Coalition is advocating for robust inspections and monitoring, which the NRC is not requiring.

The Stop Holtec Coalition has been having meetings with NY State Agencies regarding a Waste Management Plan and asking for public participation. We hope it will become the model for the decommissioning of all nuclear reactors in NY State and perhaps the nation. We are also considering creating a Citizens and Experts Advisory Group to work parallel with the DOB.

A municipal sign on letter to Governor Hochul advocating for On Site Storage is being created. The next DOB meeting is in Cortland, N.Y. on December 6th – virtual and in–person for public comment, you are welcome to join. Please help us to Stop Holtec.