Environmental Action

For Immediate Release
February 10, 2009
Indian Point Environmental Impact Study Ignores Health Risks, Environmental Justice Impacts and Benefits of Renewable Energy
Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant POUGHKEEPSIE, NY — Manna Jo Greene, environmental director at Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, joined Joseph Mangano of the Radiation and Public Health Project today at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) hearing in Cortlandt Manor, NY, in presenting newly released data that shows that thyroid cancer rates in the four counties closest to Indian Point are nearly double the U.S. average, and that childhood cancer in these counties is also above the national rate.
The NRC recently issued a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) on the relicensing of Indian Point nuclear reactors in Westchester County, NY, and concluded that Indian Point poses no significant public health risk. The statement is part of the federal review for the application to extend the licenses for Indian Point Units 2 and 3 for 20 years.
Data just released by the New York State Health Department, however, show that thyroid cancer rates in the four counties closest to Indian Point are nearly double the U.S. average, and that childhood cancer rates in these counties are also above the national rate. Rockland, Orange, and Putnam Counties, three of the four counties flanking Indian Point, had the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd highest thyroid cancer rates in 2001-2004 of all 62 New York State counties. The other county, Westchester, had the 8th highest rate. A total of 992 persons in the four counties were diagnosed with thyroid cancer in these four years.
In addition, a study by the Mother’s Milk Project shows that nearly all of 30 milk samples from breastfeeding mothers and goats within 50 miles of Indian Point reveal levels of strontium-90, with the highest results occurring closest to the nuclear plant located on the Hudson River in Buchanan, New York. Together with the NYS Health Department data, this suggests that emissions from Indian Point may be compromising the health of local residents.
The SDEIS also dismisses any disproportionate impacts on minority or low income communities, including impacts on families of subsistence fishermen who catch fish and crabs that contain traces of strontium-90 and other isotopes, as insignificant. In a previous generic environment impact study (GEIS) done in 1996 for all nuclear power plants, the health and environmental impacts were considered to be “small”. The newly released SDEIS focuses on any additional impacts from planned releases and discharges at Indian Point during normal operations and the leaks of radioactive isotopes that were discovered in and are specific to Indian Point.
Clearwater’s Environmental Director, Manna Jo Greene, notes, “While the regulatory standards the NRC staff used to evaluate the radioactive isotopes leaking from the plant into the Hudson may allow them to label the potential impacts ‘small’ and ‘of no significant impact to plant workers, the public and the environment’, we are not convinced. This additional burden of radioactivity to people who may be catching and eating fish, sharing their catch with friends and families without even realizing that the plant is leaking radioactivity, is an example of environmental injustice.”
The SDEIS also failed to consider the impacts on United Water of New York’s proposed desalination plant in Haverstraw Bay, which, if approved, would provide 7.5 million gallons a day of drinking water to Rockland County.
Although the SDEIS does provide comparisons of renewable energy resources to nuclear power generated Indian Point, it underestimates the ability of energy efficiency and renewables to serve as more sustainable alternatives to nuclear or fossil fuel. It ignores, for example, Westchester County Executive Andy Spano’s aggressive plan to reduce the county’s carbon footprint by 20 percent within the next seven years and 80 percent by 2050. Also, Stanford University’s Mark Z. Jacobson recently conducted the first quantitative, scientific evaluation of major, energy-related solutions currently extant, assessing not only their energy potential but also their impacts on global warming, human health, energy security, water supply, space requirements, wildlife, water pollution, reliability and sustainability. Jacobson—who received no funding from any interest group, company or government agency—ranked nuclear and coal with capture and carbon sequestration tied for last place as the two worst sources of energy. Best was wind, followed by concentrated solar, geothermal, tidal, solar photovoltaics, wave and hydroelectric.
In addition to minimizing concern in issues addressed in the SDEIS, most of the public health safety and environmental issues, which the public would assume are being considered, are deemed to be “out of the scope” of the relicensing proceedings. For example, although the huge increase in the surrounding population in the past 40 years is noted, the corresponding impossibility of a viable evacuation plan is considered to be out of scope, as are the plant’s vulnerability to terrorism in a post-9/11 world, and its past history of serious, repeated problems related to aging, such as a steam boiler rupture, transformer explosion and clogged cooling system intake valves.

Manna Jo Greene
Environmental Director
Hudson River Sloop Clearwater