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Cuomo Confirms Deal to Close Indian Point Nuclear Plant

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NewsHubGov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York confirmed on Monday that the state had reached an agreement to shut down the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which sits less than 30 miles north of New York City, by April 2021.
Mr. Cuomo will claim the long-sought shutdown as a victory in the State of the State speeches he is scheduled to deliver in the city and other locations this week, state officials said. He has argued for more than 15 years that it is unsafe for nuclear reactors to operate on the edge of the most populous metropolitan area in the country.
Along with the governor’s office, the office of the state attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, and Riverkeeper, a nonprofit environmental group, participated in the deal.
The plant has been the target of protests by local residents and environmental groups, but its supporters have argued that there are no adequate substitutes for its high output of low-cost, carbon-free power. Indian Point’s two reactors can produce more than 2,000 megawatts, or about one-fourth of the electricity consumed in the city and in Westchester County.
“For 15 years, I have been deeply concerned by the continuing safety violations at Indian Point, especially given its location in the largest and most densely populated metropolitan region in the country,” Mr. Cuomo said in a prepared statement. “I am proud to have secured this agreement with Entergy to responsibly close the facility,” which could have remained open for another 14 years.
Entergy, the utility company based in New Orleans that operates Indian Point, said on Monday that the low wholesale price of energy and the rising costs of operating Indian Point were factors in the decision to shut it. The company said it would take an impairment charge of $2.4 billion, before taxes, against its earnings for the fourth quarter of 2016.
Entergy has sought renewal of its federal licenses to operate the reactors for almost a decade.
Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, will argue that more than enough other sources of energy will be available by 2021, including hydropower from Quebec carried by new transmission lines, state officials said. He will also say that the effect on electric ratepayers will be negligible.
A state official said the governor’s office estimated that, at most, the proposed shutdown would add $3 a month to electric bills in the metropolitan area. Utility customers in New York City already pay rates that are higher than anywhere else in the country, except Hawaii.
“We don’t want this to turn into harder impacts on those who are already socially vulnerable,” said Robert Freudenberg, the director of energy and environmental programs for the Regional Plan Association.
Mr. Freudenberg wondered how the proposed shutdown would fit with Mr. Cuomo’s ambitious goal of having half of the power consumed in the state produced from renewable sources, like wind and solar power , by 2030.
“There is currently not enough carbon-free energy in the pipeline to replace Indian Point,” he said. “We feel that now the most urgent priority is that the state take all the steps necessary to ramp up the state’s renewable energy supply.”
The agreement would involve the state’s withdrawal of its challenges to Entergy’s license renewals and permits that it needs from state agencies, officials said.
State officials said the contractual agreement calls for Entergy to shut down one of the reactors by April 2020 and the other by April 2021. The only exception to meeting those deadlines would come in the event of an unforeseen, catastrophic event, they said.
Local and county officials in Westchester complained that they had been excluded from talks between the state and Entergy, and they expressed concerns about the impending loss of jobs and tax revenue in their communities. The plant employs nearly 1,000 full-time workers, about 550 of whom are union members.
The state official said there would be time to adjust for those losses and to retrain displaced workers. Entergy agreed to offer displaced workers positions in other facilities it operates, the official said.
The state official said Entergy estimated that its work force would shrink by about 20 percent, or about 200 jobs, in 2021. After the shutdowns, about 190 workers would stay on for the decommissioning process, he said. Entergy estimated that it would take charges of about $180 million for the costs of severance and employee retention.
Officials said the state would inspect the plant annually, including examinations of bolts in the reactors during periodic refueling, until it closed. They said Entergy had agreed to transfer used fuel to protective storage in dry casks, the preferred method of storing spent reactor fuel.

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