January 31, 2020

Schumer, Gillibrand, Lowey, Engel, Maloney Call On Nuclear Regulatory Commission To Hold A Public Hearing Before Moving Forward On Indian Point License Transfer

Entergy Corporation Plans to Sell Indian Point to Holtec International After The Nuclear Plant Shuts Down Next Year. The NRC Must Approve Transferring The Plant’s Federal License Before A Change in Ownership Can Happen; Lawmakers to NRC: “Shutting the Representatives Of The State And Local Communities Out Of The Process Would Not Be In The Public Interest.”

Washington, DC – U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and U.S. Representatives Nita Lowey (D-NY-17), Eliot Engel (D-NY-16), and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY-18) today sent a letter to the Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Kristine Svinicki, calling on the Commission to hold a public hearing before taking any action to approve transferring the NRC license for the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, NY, from Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc. (Entergy) to Holtec Decommissioning International (Holtec).

Entergy and Holtec submitted a license transfer application to the NRC on November 21, 2019. This would facilitate a change in ownership of the plant from Entergy to Holtec, once Indian Point is completely shut down in 2021. Holtec would then carry out all of the activities to decommission the plant, store the spent nuclear fuel, and restore the site to its original condition.   

Under NRC regulations, stakeholders with an interest that may be affected by the license transfer, including the State of New York and local officials, can request a public hearing before the NRC acts on the proposed license transfer. The lawmakers explained that the NRC did not grant a hearing request by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts before approving their license transfer application from Entergy to Holtec for the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Massachusetts. In their letter, the lawmakers told the NRC that a failure to grant a hearing request by the State of New York would be “wholly unacceptable and not consistent with the procedure for handling requests for a hearing.”

“The proposed license transfer and decommissioning of Indian Point will have a significant impact on the State of New York and the communities near Indian Point,” said the lawmakers. The state and other relevant interveners must be given an opportunity to present their views on the license transfer to the NRC before the Commission decides whether to approve the application. Shutting the representatives of the state and local communities and other stakeholders out of the process would not be in the public interest.”

The closure of Indian Point, which is expected to begin with the shutdown of Indian Point Unit 2 this Spring, followed by Indian Point Unit 3 in 2021, raises the potential for significant impacts to the region, including to the environment, the local workforce, public services, state and municipal budgets, the school district, safety and emergency planning. Once the plant is shut down, significant reductions in the plant’s workforce are expected over time, a large amount of spent nuclear fuel will be indefinitely stored on-site, and the local municipalities will experience a major loss in revenue. Additionally, Holtec has indicated that it will seek exemptions to a number of safety and emergency planning requirements and will request another exemption to use money in the NRC’s Decommissioning Trust Fund for spent fuel management and restoration activities.

The federal lawmakers have vowed to provide strong Congressional oversight over the shutdown and decommissioning of Indian Point to make sure that local concerns are addressed upfront. This includes ensuring that state and local officials, and the public, have the opportunity to have their voices heard every step of the way.

The full text of the letter may be found here and below:

Dear Chairman Svinicki,

We are writing in strong support of a hearing on the Indian Point Energy Center (Indian Point) license transfer application.  We anticipate that the State of New York will request a hearing pursuant to Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulations set forth in 10 C.F.R. § 2.105.  Should a request be made by the State of New York or any other person whose interest may be affected by the proceeding, it is imperative that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) hold the requested hearing prior to taking any action to approve the proposed license transfer from Entergy Corporation (Entergy) to subsidiaries of Holtec International (Holtec). 

Entergy Corporation has requested to transfer the ownership and NRC licenses for Indian Point Units 1, 2, and 3, as well as the general license for the Indian Point Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (collectively, the licenses), to subsidiaries of Holtec for the purpose of decommissioning the plant once all operating units have been permanently shut down. The proposed license transfer and decommissioning activities will have a significant impact on the State of New York and the communities near to Indian Point. This includes, but is not limited to, potential impacts to the environment, local public services, safety and emergency planning, the local workforce, and the local economy. Additionally, we believe that there must be robust and transparent scrutiny of the proposed use of the Decommissioning Trust Fund money for activities unrelated to radiological decommissioning as well as Holtec’s ability to safely and successfully carry out the site’s decommissioning through to completion.

The state and other relevant interveners must be given an opportunity to present their views on the license transfer to the NRC before the Commission decides whether to approve the application. We are very concerned that recently, despite filing a request for a hearing, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was not granted a hearing by the NRC before the Commission approved the license transfer from Entergy to Holtec for the decommissioning of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Massachusetts. We find that to be wholly unacceptable and not consistent with the procedure for handling requests for a hearing or a petition for leave to intervene pursuant to NRC’s regulations as set forth in 10 C.F.R. § 2.105(e). Therefore, it is essential that you not follow the same pattern and instead ensure that, if requested, a hearing is held before any further action is taken by the NRC to approve the license application.

Shutting the representatives of the state and local communities and other stakeholders out of the process would not be in the public interest. Without a hearing, we do not believe that the NRC can make a fully informed decision on whether to grant the license transfer, as a hearing is the only way for the state and other interveners to present their views and concerns as part of the decisional record for this proposed action. 

Thank you for your attention to this matter.  We hope you will ensure a fair process for our constituents in all proceedings and actions by the NRC pertaining to the decommissioning of Indian Point.