New York PSC approves final enviro statement on Indian Point options

The New York State Public Service Commission on Sept. 19 issued an order approving the final generic environmental impact statement (GEIS) that covers in very general terms the replacement options for the Indian Point nuclear plant.

In November 2012, the PSC opened a docket where it has been looking at options to replace the Indian Point plant, in case the plant has to be shut due to any lack of Nuclear Regulatory Commission license extensions and also due to state-specific environmental concerns about the two Indian Point units. The PSC process focused on the possibility that Indian Point may not be available to generate electricity at the end of 2015, upon the expiration of its NRC licenses.

The PSC’s review of the plan and the recommended portfolios of transmission upgrades and new generating capacity to offset any Indian Point shutdown is an “action” requiring compliance with the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).

The PSC determined that the preparation of a broad-based GEIS would be more appropriate than a site-specific EIS. Staff subsequently prepared a Draft GEIS describing the potential impacts of the action. After reviewing and considering the Draft GEIS, the commission issued an order adopting and approving issuance of the draft, which was noticed on the commission’s website on July 18. The public comment period for the draft GEIS closed Aug. 23.

In the meantime, Entergy (NYSE: ETR) can continue operating Indian Point Unit 2 (IP2), located in Westchester County, N.Y., while the NRC continues to consider its 20-year license extension request. The NRC made that clear in an Aug. 19 letter to Entergy Nuclear Operations from Michele Evans, who is the director of NRC’s Division of Operating Reactor Licensing.

Federal law and NRC regulations permit continued operation of IP2 beyond its original licensing period. The current operating license remains in full force and effect. IP2’s original license would have expired on Sept. 28, 2013.

“Due to ongoing Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) activities that affect the Indian Point 2 license renewal application (LRA), it is clear that the NRC will not issue a renewed operating license for Indian Point 2 prior to September 28, 2013,” Evans said in the letter.

Indian Point Unit 3’s license ends in December 2015.  “If the NRC has not reached a final determination on our license renewal application by then, then that unit would also continue to operate – contingent on our compliance with NRC regulations and inspections of course,” an Entergy spokesperson said Aug. 20.

Questions over when and if the Indian Point units will get 20-year license extensions have encouraged New York officials, under orders from the New York PSC, to solicit proposals for power generation and transmissions upgrades to make up for potential loss of the two units. Each of the pressurized water reactors (PWRs) lists an operating capacity of a little over 1,000 MW.

Entergy has told the PSC that this contingency planning is an expensive and useless exercise since there is every likelihood that these two units will win life extensions. Entergy, in competition with several mostly gas-fired power developers, has itself offered capacity from a life-extended Indian Point into the PSC-backed request for proposals process.