Tritium dump paused

Citizen opposition blocks discharge of radioactive water from Indian Point nuke into Hudson River, for now

Note: Beyond Nuclear is holding online teach-ins on tritium. The first — Tritium: Don’t Dump It! Tritium in the US Nuclear Power Sector — will take place on Tuesday, May 16, 10am-11:30am EDT and features: Dr. Ian Fairlie providing an overview of tritium and the harm it causes; Mary Lampert of Pilgrim Watch describing opposition to tritium dumping by Holtec into Cape Cod Bay from the closed Pilgrim, MA nuclear power plant; and lawyer, Michel Lee of the Council on Intelligent Energy & Conservation Policy, who will discuss the similar threat of tritium dumping by Holtec from the Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York into the Hudson River. Register here.

By Julia Conley, Common Dreams

Clean water and public health advocates in New York’s Hudson Valley applauded on April 13 as the energy technology company Holtec International announced it will not move ahead with plans to dump wastewater in May 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.

Protesters called for the shutdown of Indian Point with an appropriate backdrop — Long Island’s fully built but never opened Shoreham nuclear plant. Indian Point is now closed, but the decommissioning process could involve radioactive discharges into the Hudson River. (Photo: Brennan Cavanaugh/Creative Commons)

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.

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.

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.”

Riverkeeper welcomed Holtec’s announcement that it would pause plans to dump radioactive waste water into the Hudson River. ““Holtec’s decision to pause its hastily planned release of 1 million gallons of radioactive wastewater into the Hudson River demonstrates the power of local residents organizing to protect their communities and our river,” said Riverkeeper president, Tracy Brown. (Levenberg pictured at far left. Photo: Riverkeeper)

“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 was 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.

Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams. This article first appeared on Common Dreams whose content is available under a Creative Commons license.

Headline photo: Indian Point Nuclear Generating Station viewed from the Hudson River by Tony Fischer/Wikimedia Commons.

The opinions expressed in articles by outside contributors and published on the Beyond Nuclear International website, are their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Beyond Nuclear. However, we try to offer a broad variety of viewpoints and perspectives as part of our mission “to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future”.

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