Quantcast
Energy

Does Andy Revkin Have Growing Doubts About NYC's Aging Nuclear Neighbor?

Andy Revkin of the NY Times has been one of Indian Point’s most prominent supporters, but he seems to have growing doubts about NYC’s aging nuclear neighbor to the north.

On June 12, Revkin published an entry on his influential online NY Times blog, DotEarth, with the provocative title Indian Point’s Tritium Problem and the N.R.C.’s Regulatory Problem.

One of America’s oldest, most dangerous nuke plants continues to be overseen by a regulator only the industry has faith in.

Revkin refers to recent increases in observed levels of radioactive tritium in the groundwater beneath Indian Point, adjacent to the plant’s spent fuel pools. He asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for comment about this disturbing news and also queried David A. Lochbaum, director of the Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

That’s where things got interesting.

Revkin wrote that he “agree[s] with Lochbaum on the need for significant changes in [nuke plant] oversight” and quotes Lochbaum as saying, “The N.R.C. should enforce its regulations or change its name…”

Lochbaum is far from the most famous expert to observe that the NRC is a paper tiger, not a real regulator. That honor belongs to our President, Barack Obama, who said, in 2007, The NRC is a “moribund agency. It’s become captive of the industry that it regulates.”

Tritium leaks at Indian Point have spurred new question about NRC oversight.

Revkin sent me his essay and I asked him, in reply, “If the NRC is not an effective regulator (which you seem to believe they are not) we should close Indian Point until NRC becomes effective, right? After all, a facility this dangerous should not be in operation without strong regulatory oversight, should it?”

Revkin wrote back almost immediately, and said:

“Why i disagree:
1) no difference in tritium etc risks if shut down.
2) fuel going nowhere whether decommissioned or not.
3) more opportunity to incent best practices etc if company has an interest in keeping things going?”

I showed this response to a number of people who observed that it really ducks the core issue: Does NRC’s unreliability require closure of Indian Point? So, I pressed on, with responses to Revkin on each of his three proposed reasons why closure is not required.

Read page one

1) no difference in tritium etc risks if shut down.
I responded to this by saying, “Tritium leaks are the just tip of the iceberg. Shutting down Indian Point would eliminate other, far more catastrophic operational risks associated with the plant’s age and lack of effective regulation (like failure to inspect more than 5% of the plant per year, the presence of corroded underground piping, and lax oversight of poor security).”

2) fuel going nowhere whether decommissioned or not. 
Here, I pointed out that, “If Indian Point is shut down rather than relicensed, we would avoid the creation of an additional thousand tons of highly-radioactive spent fuel that will significantly increase the risk in an accident or attack. Plus, one unavoidable, ongoing risk—the presence of orphaned spent nuclear fuel—is no reason to prolong a second, avoidable risk—unsafe operation of poorly-regulated 40-year old nuclear reactors.”

3) more opportunity to incent best practices etc if company has an interest in keeping things going? 
This one really struck me as naive. So, I observed: “Without a reliable regulator, Entergy has repeatedly gamed the system rather than implement best practices. For example: when the fireproofing insulation on cables supplying power to the reactors were found to be vastly substandard, Entergy did not replace the cables with satisfactory new ones—they asked NRC for a variance which was dutifully granted.”

I closed with:

“Forgive the presumption, Andy, but perhaps your conclusion that we should let Indian Point continue to operate without effective regulation is driven by your concerns about carbon loading. These concerns do not change the fact that Indian Point is at the end of its 40 years of intended use; in close proximity to 18 million people and two earthquake faults that have led NRC to rank the plant as the U.S. nuke facility most at risk for meltdown due to earthquake; that Indian Point has no viable evacuation plan; that its spent fuel pools have five times as much nuclear waste in them as they were designed to hold; and, that the NRC is an unreliable regulator … Riverkeeper believes that we cannot allow our village to be placed at such real and significant risk of destruction in an attempt to save it from climate disruption.”

When I didn’t hear back from Revkin [he's usually very prompt in writing back; like me, I think he enjoys this sort of give and take], I pressed him for a reply, and he said he’d been offline and would have a look.

It’s been a week and still no reply from Revkin. Is he processing? Deciding whether to let the other shoe drop and call for closure?

More likely, he has just moved on.

Meanwhile, one of America’s oldest, most dangerous nuke plants continues to be overseen by a regulator only the industry has faith in. If Andy Revkin can’t explain why this is acceptable to him, doesn’t it mean he’s finally crossed the line from journalist to apologist, when it comes to Indian Point? 

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Popular
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, seen here speaking to the press about the Flint water crisis in 2016, will be the highest ranking official to stand trial over the public health disaster. Brett Carlsen / Getty Images

Judge Orders Michigan Health Director to Face Trial Over Flint Water Crisis Deaths

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon will be the highest ranking official to go to trial so far as a result of an investigation into the Flint water crisis, The Associated Press reported Monday.

Judge David Goggins ruled Monday there was probable cause for Lyon to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of Robert Skidmore and John Snyder that prosecutors say were due to a Legionnaires' disease outbreak that Lyon was aware of a year before he alerted Michigan's governor, Michigan Live reported. Lyons is also charged with misconduct in office.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Coal-fired power plant near Becker, Minnesota. Tony Webster / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Trump's 'Dirty Power Plan' Could Cost More Than 1,000 Lives a Year

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled on Tuesday its long-anticipated replacement of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. The new coal pollution rules will increase planet-warming carbon pollution and could cost more than a thousand American lives each year, according to the EPA's own estimates.

EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler released the "Affordable Clean Energy Rule" today under President Trump's directive. The new plan encourages efficiency improvements at existing coal plants to ensure they operate longer and allows states to weaken, or even eliminate, coal emissions standards. That's a clear difference from former President Obama's plan, which was aimed at phasing out coal and transitioning to cleaner power sources to avoid dangerous climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Two workers in protective gear scrape asbestos tile and mastic from a facility at Naval Base Point Loma in California. NAVFAC / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Why Asbestos Is Still a Major Public Health Threat in the U.S.

Reports surfaced this month that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had proposed a significant new use rule (SNUR) for asbestos in June, requiring anyone who wanted to start or resume importing or manufacturing the carcinogenic mineral to first receive EPA approval.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Rklfoto / Getty Images

Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Wants to End EPA’s Cruel Animal Testing

By Justin Goodman and Nathan Herschler

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress recently pressed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its "questionable" and "dubious" animal tests. The lawmakers' demand for information on "horrific and inhumane" animal testing at the EPA comes on the heels of a recent Johns Hopkins University study that found that high-tech computer models are more effective than animal tests.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Wikimedia Commons

Strongest, Oldest Arctic Sea Ice Breaks Up for First Time on Record

The Arctic is warming at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the globe, and now the region's thickest and oldest sea ice—also known as "the last ice area"—is breaking up for the first time on record, the Guardian reported Tuesday.

The breakage has opened up waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen-solid even in the peak of summer.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Climate Justice Edmonton

These Giant Portraits Will Stand in the Path of Trans Mountain Pipeline

By Andrea Germanos

To put forth a "hopeful vision for the future" that includes bold climate action, a new installation project is to be erected along the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion route to harnesses art's ability to be a force for social change and highlight the fossil fuel project's increased threats to indigenous rights and a safe climate.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
A worker inspects recycled plastic in a plastics factory. Getty Images

The Plastic Waste Crisis Is an Opportunity to Get Serious About Recycling

By Kate O'Neill

A global plastic waste crisis is building, with major implications for health and the environment. Under its so-called "National Sword" policy, China has sharply reduced imports of foreign scrap materials. As a result, piles of plastic waste are building up in ports and recycling facilities across the U.S.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure
Aaron Teasdale

The One Thing Better Than Summer Skiing

By Aaron Teasdale

"There's snow up here, I promise," I assure my son Jonah, as we grunt up a south-facing mountainside in Glacier National Park in July. A mountain goat cocks its head as if to say, "What kind of crazy people hike up bare mountains in ski boots?" He's not the only one to wonder what in the name of Bode Miller we're doing up here with ski gear.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!