"My constituents are already overburdened with the negative environmental externalities left behind by industrial infrastructure, and we should not be treated like pawns in this process," said one local lawmaker about Holtec International's now-paused plan.
Clean water and public health advocates in New York's Hudson Valley applauded Thursday as the energy technology company Holtec International announced it will not move ahead with plans to dump wastewater next month from the former Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, following intense pressure from local communities and state lawmakers.
The company had initially planned to complete its first discharge of wastewater from pools that were used to cool spent nuclear reactor fuel rods late this summer, but recently announced that in May it would discharge 45,000 gallons of the water into the Hudson River, which at least 100,000 people rely on for their drinking water.
The company ultimately plans to release one million gallons of wastewater into the river.
Holtec International said it was taking a "voluntary pause" in the plan to better explain the process of decommissioning the plant, which was shut down in 2021, to the local community and elected officials.
Local clean water group Riverkeeper expressed appreciation that Holtec "heard the concerns of public" and said advocates will continue pushing for an alternative to releasing the wastewater into the Hudson.
\u201c@Riverkeeper appreciates that Holtec heard the concerns of public. We are hopeful that state, federal & local partners can find a workable solution for the spent pool wastewater that avoids discharges to the Hudson. TY @SenSchumer @SenGillibrand @SenatorHarckham @AMDanaLevenberg\u201d— Tracy M Brown (@Tracy M Brown) 1681428598
Riverkeeper and Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) are among the groups that have raised concerns about the presence in the wastewater of the isotope tritium, which can be carcinogenic and is harmful to pregnant women and developing fetuses. Advocates have called on Holtec to store the water in tanks on the Indian Point site until a safe alternative disposal method can be found.
"There has been no prior disclosure of what pollutants or radioactive contaminants are in the wastewater or any public education on the environmental safety and public health risks associated with any potential discharges from the site," said local public health experts in a statement in January as PSR held the first of several public forums about the risks associated with Holtec's discharge plan.
The proposal has sparked outcry from local, state, and federal officials in New York in recent weeks. In March, state Sen. Pete Harckham (D-40) proposed legislation to ban any release of radioactive waste into the Hudson.
"I welcome Holtec postponing the planned release of radioactive wastewater into the Hudson River," said Harckham on Thursday.
\u201cI welcome Holtec postponing the planned release of radioactive wastewater into the Hudson River. This was the right decision to make: all the stakeholders deserve an opportunity to continue our dialogue with the company as it seeks a solution to stored waste at @Indian_Point.\u201d— Senator Pete Harckham (@Senator Pete Harckham) 1681423582
State Assemblymember Dana Levenberg (D-95) expressed relief that Holtec's plan has been postponed for the time being and said she is as "committed as ever to ensuring that the needs of my constituents are respected throughout this process."
"My constituents are already overburdened with the negative environmental externalities left behind by industrial infrastructure, and we should not be treated like pawns in this process," said Levenberg earlier this month. "What we need is a partner who will work with us to facilitate a safe and just decommissioning of this plant, in a way that respects the surrounding communities. The people of my district have made it clear that this conversation should not be one-sided; Holtec should not be the only participant driving the schedule. What is efficient for Holtec may not be what is in the best interest of our communities and our natural resources."
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who joined Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in writing to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about Holtec's plan on April 6, said he was "relieved that Holtec has heeded our call and will put a stop to its hastily hatched plan to dump radioactive wastewater into the Hudson."
The state's Indian Point Decommissioning Oversight Board is scheduled to hold an online meeting regarding the wastewater on April 25, where community members and officials will be able to comment on the issue.