Environmental regulators may shut down nuclear plant during summer

July 24, 2014

Nearly a quarter of the power used in the New York City area comes from one source—the 2,061-megawatt Indian Point nuclear power plant, located about 40 miles north of Manhattan. However, state environmental regulators are considering a plan to temporarily close the plant during the summer.

The reason? Fish. Specifically, fish in the Hudson River, who experience their peak migration season between May and August. However, their journey is a bit more treacherous thanks to the Indian Point plant, which is thought to kill as many as one billion fish, fish eggs and larvae each year when it withdraws the 2.5 billion gallons of water necessary to cool its reactors.

The debate over this issue is not new. Environmentalists originally asked the plant to install a more efficient system that would allow it to use less water overall. Meanwhile, the plant's owner, Entergy Corp., said that this would be too expensive and instead proposed to use simple screens to block the entrance of fish.

The proposal by state environmental regulators goes significantly further, especially when one considers that electricity demand during the summer months is quite high due to widespread air conditioning. Industry officials argue that this move will lead to higher prices and disruption, as well as the need to burn more fossil fuels.

As this story clearly demonstrates, there is always a trade-off when it comes to balancing environmental protection with energy needs. It is important for project stakeholders to work with environmental consultants, who can help them balance these competing demands.