Underreported: Indian Point and Water

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Concerns about seismic activity at the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant are grabbing the headlines this week, but other issues have been raised in the debate over whether the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should renew the plant's license. WNYC’s Bob Hennelly looks at environmental concerns about 90-100 degree waste water coming out of the plant into the Hudson River.


Bob Hennelly

Comments [8]

John Cowan from Manhattan

Harry from NJ:

All thermal systems of generating power are inherently inefficient: this is a consequence of the second law of thermodynamics, which limits efficiency to the ratio between the temperature inside and the temperature outside. Furthermore, real as opposed to ideal heat engines are made of imperfect parts which waste energy in the form of friction, which becomes heat. A car's gasoline engine, for example, is only 25% efficient; the remaining 75% of the energy goes out the tailpipe and the radiator. A coal-fired plant has an overall efficiency of about 50%. Nuclear power plants are deliberately run somewhat cooler than coal-fired plants for greater safety, so their maximum efficiency is about 35%.

Radioactive materials inherently generate heat: about 80% of the Earth's own heat is from the decay of radioactive elements. (The radioactivity is widely dispersed throughout the Earth's crust, and living beings have coexisted with it for 4 billion years.) With the exception of the cores of nuclear weapons, fuel rods are the most radioactive things that exist. So even after a nuclear power plant is shut down (temporarily or permanently), and this can and does happen very quickly, the fuel rods must be kept cool or their own internal heat will melt them. Spent fuel rods are even more radioactive than unused ones, making the problem all the worse.

Mar. 27 2011 12:35 PM
Steve from upstate from Garrison, NY

When Bob Hennelly pointed out the Fukushima plants and Indian Point use different designs, Leonard trenchantly asked, "Is it better?" meaning Indian Point, but never got answered. IP's owner Entergy claims it is better, but research papers don't support that. A more accurate answer is, it depends. some reactors of IP's type (Westinghouse PWRs) are less vulnerable than the Fukushima type (GE Mark I BWRs) and some are more vulnerable. See: IP is old, embrittled, inadequately protected, indifferently run, located on two fault lines, and already leaking radioactivity into groundwater and the Hudson. It has to be one of the worse PWRs, and we shouldn't kid ourselves that it's any better than the Fukushima plants.

Mar. 24 2011 06:14 PM
Peg from Upstate

Hey everybody. What are we going to do about nuclear waste??? Isn't it true that the tax payers are responsible for paying for it (forever)???

If the NY nuclear plants on Lake Ontario go...
the prevailing winds blow on NYC reservoirs.

Mar. 24 2011 01:56 PM
Harry from NJ

What is the technical reason for so much wasted energy in nuclear power? Why is it that the older reactor designs that don't allow them to be shut down on a moments notice, but rather still need constant cooling? Apparently, the fuel materials can't be separated?

Mar. 24 2011 01:55 PM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

Not only is thermal pollution from Indian Point wastewater (and that from all once-through cooled thermoelectric power plants) a problem, but also the millions of fish and other aquatic life KILLED.

Cooling towers (aka closed cycle cooling) is a must.

To learn more:

Power Plants Kill Fish campaign

Mar. 24 2011 01:53 PM
Penny Jones from Downtown

If New York had to be abandoned due to a nuclear accident or suitcase bomb, could trees continue to grow here with the low- or mid-grade radiation?

Mar. 24 2011 01:04 PM
Jeffrey from Upper West Side

The main problem here, and in all areas where our regulatory commissions are assumed to be protecting the public's interests first and foremost, is that in fact they are protecting business interests while public safety takes a back seat. We learned that about our energy regulators during the Gulf Coast oil spill, and about our banking regulators during the financial meltdown. It is no surprise that our nuclear regulators work the same way.

The real question ought to be: How can we get our government regulatory agencies back to protecting the public welfare, which is supposed to have been their mission all along, instead of protecting the financial interests of the businesses they are supposed to be regulating?

Mar. 24 2011 12:20 PM
Bob from Queens

Given the warnings the Japanese are currently receiving concerning their drinking water, would you please talk about the threat a radiation release at Indian Point could pose to New York City's drinking water, given its location just a few miles east of the New Croton Reservoir?
Thank you.

Mar. 24 2011 12:03 PM

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