New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced plans this week to shot down the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which supplies electricity to New York City and surrounding areas. The plant’s two working reactors — which account for roughlyTen percent of the state’s power generation — are slated to go offline in 2020 and 2021, more than a decade ahead of schedule.
Some environmentalists celebrated the closure. Others lamented the loss of a carbon-free source of energy, despite nuclear power’s potential hazards to humans and wildlife.
Nuclear power plants represent a range of risks, from hazardous radioactive waste to a full-scale meltdown. They also supply the bulk of America’s zero-carbon electricity. In laying out its carbon-cutting goals, the Environmental Protection Agency assume that existing nuclear power plants would continue to operate for decades to come. But cheap natural gas is digging into the profits of America’s aging nuclear power plants, pressuring them to close ahead of schedule.
The Indian Point power plant presents a range of risks. Last year, it was discovered that a Leak at the Power Plant was turning groundwater radioactive, though reportedly not enough to threaten human health. Experts are most concerned about the possibility of nuclear meltdown or a terrorist attack. The people who planned the 9/11 attacks had initially Floating targeting nuclear power plants in addition to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Indian Point offers a prime target for terrorists. The plant lies less than 40 miles from Midtown Manhattan.
Cuomo is putting his money on clean, resilient renewable energy, but New York can’t transform its energy grid overnight. It will take decades to run the state on wind, solar, and hydropower alone, and that transition depends on smart public policy.
Renewables thrive where policies nurture their growth. That’s why New Jersey generates more Solar Power than Texas. And it’s why New York can shutter an important nuclear power plant and realistically expect to curb carbon emissions at the same time.
Its slate of climate policies could serve as a model for other states looking to wean off fossil fuels and nuclear energy both. And it has already begun: Just this week, Cuomo announced a new offshore Wind Project that will generate enough electricity to power more than eighteen Thousand Homes.