A debate is brewing over the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) proposal to force the Entergy (NYSE:ETR) Indian Point nuclear units go offline for a prolonged period during the fish migration season every year.
If approved, the state plan would force the nuclear units to suspend operations an average of 42 days each year between May 10 and Aug. 10, a period which could affect Indian Point availability for part of the summer air conditioning season.
The DEC plan is the latest twist in the much-contested history of the nuclear units located along the banks of the Hudson River roughly 40 miles from New York City.
The proposal is to address concern over fish kills linked to the Indian Point 2 and 3 nuclear units. One way to reduce “impingement mortality” for fish would be to install costly closed-cycle cooling the state has noted.
“DEC is seeking to reduce the impact to aquatic life as part of the ongoing adjudication of Entergy’s operating permits for Indian Point,” according to a statement released by DEC.
“As alternatives are weighed in this process, DEC has asked for a shutdown for an average of 42 days during prime fish migrations – between May 10 and August 10, as was the practice at these plants when Con Edison owned the facilities and is consistent with what has been done at other facilities on the Hudson River. This would not curtail operations this summer. In addition, DEC recognizes that Entergy will need adequate lead time to comply with any solution, and that other stakeholders, such as [Department of Public Service] DPS and NYISO [New York Independent System Operator], will need time to plan and to ensure that if outages are required they do not disrupt supply or adversely impact system-wide capacity,” DEC said.
Indian Point units 2 and 3 in Buchanan, N.Y., located roughly an hour from New York City, are both pressurized water reactors (PWRs) with a combined generating capacity in excess of 2,000 MW.
A 20-year license renewal request for the unit has faced much public opposition in New York. The units are currently undergoing a contested renewal procedure before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
The New York Power Authority has gotten many power plant proposals in response to a request for proposals issued a couple of years ago to secure options in case the Indian Point reactors are not relicensed.
Each unit utilizes a once-through condenser cooling water system, with the intake structure on the bank of, and a shared discharge canal to, the Hudson River, according to a May 9 fact sheet from DEC.
The maximum flow rate of the cooling system for each unit is 840,000 gallons of water per minute (GPM), for a combined intake capacity of approximately 2.5 billion gallons of Hudson River water per day. Relative to impingement and entrainment, the Indian Point facilities currently operate with dual (Unit 2) and variable (Unit 3) speed pumps, modified Ristroph screens, and a fish return system, as well as certain flow limitations.
Entergy reacts to forced outage proposal
The DEC was holding public meetings on the forced outage proposal July 22 and 23, said an Entergy spokesperson, who said the company is very opposed.
“First, I want to make clear that Indian Point right now operates in a manner that is fully protective of the Hudson River ecosystem and pursuant to its state and federal permits and law,” the company spokesperson said.
“Entergy strongly disagrees with DEC Staff’s proposal for annual simultaneous, forced outages of 42, 62, or 92 days at both Indian Point units between the months of May and August, or some combination of forced outages and Cooling Towers,” the representative said.
“We believe that DEC Staff’s proposal ignores the immensely important reality facing everyone living and working in New York City and the lower Hudson Valley: Shutting down Indian Point during summer months will significantly and negatively impact human health, the New York economy and the local environment without any discernible benefit to an already healthy fish population. To suggest that Indian Point be out for 42 days during the summertime peak demand period today, however you slice it, is out of touch with the New York electric system’s and New York electricity customers’ needs,” said the Entergy representative.
More details could arise on the New York situation during the Entergy quarterly earnings conference call July 29.