Cuomo’s Egregious Nuke Calculus

cuomonukeThe life of a person living in Westchester County is worth more than that of someone in far Upstate New York. Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, lives in Westchester and he believes that fully.

Indian Point nuclear plant, commissioned in the early 1970s and located on the Hudson River in Buchanan, NY provides power from its reactor units to about 25 percent of the consumers in New York City and Westchester County. The plant has a dodgy safety history, starting almost immediately when just five months of powering up the plant had to be shut down because a steel liner in the protective concrete dome buckled. Over time additional failures occurred, most piling up in recent years as the plant has aged past its projected life span. This past February, radioactive tritium-contaminated water leaked into the groundwater around the plant and into the Hudson.

Understandably, Cuomo has vigorously raised concerns about the safety at the plant, and has called for its closure. He said, “This is a nuclear plant that is in the most dense area on the planet. You do not have a nuclear plant in as dense a populated area anywhere else on the globe—it’s literally about 20 miles from New York City. If something goes wrong at Indian Point, it goes seriously wrong and it affects a lot of people, so I’m very, very careful when it comes to Indian Point.”

The plant also happens to be a lot closer to Cuomo than New York City, which for him and the millions of neighbors in the vicinity of meltdown fallout is a constant looming nightmare.

For years I have wanted to see the plant shut down. It sits in the middle of a huge population center that could never be evacuated in time using highways that often resemble parking lots on any normal day. The plant also sits atop geologic fault lines, one of which was discovered in 2008 a mere one mile from the site. And if you don’t think earthquakes happen on the East Coast, ask the National Park Service which has been repairing damage to the Washington Monument after a 5.8 magnitude earthquake, occurred near the capital in 2011. But most disturbing is the richness of Indian Point as a terrorist target. Mohammed Atta flew a passenger jet right past the plant on his way to impaling the North Tower of the World Trade Center in 2001. Yes, I’ve heard claims that had he flown into the dome around the nuclear core that the plane would have disintegrated around it; I’ve also heard it told that no one thought the towers would collapse either.

So, I think I speak for many who would agree with Cuomo that it’s past the time to shut down Indian Point, and find alternative power sources, for the sakes of everyone within a 50 mile radius of the plant.

But in a stunning display of hypocrisy and arrogance, Cuomo is fighting hard to keep four other nuclear plants in New York alive for years to come: the Ginna reactor near Rochester and the FitzPatrick, Nine Mile Point One, and Nine Mile Point Two which occupy a single site on Lake Ontario. In fact, Cuomo is offering up billions in subsidies to help the owners – Entergy and Excelon – continue to operate.

The stated logic is that Cuomo wants to move New York away from power generated with fossil fuels – and to bridge the gap between now and 2030, or whenever there is sufficient solar and wind power production to replace the nukes, they must stay online. Under a normal, government hands-off approach, these aging, decrepit plants would be shut down by the owners within a year – but that would go against Cuomo’s plans. The only way today to replace the power generated by the four is to build plants that burn natural gas, and that’s not where he wants to go. (He’s also mindful of the blow to the weak Upstate economy should the nukes close, putting about 2,000 workers on the street.)

But how to reconcile the dissonance between strident calls to shut down Indian Point while leaving the Upstate Plants operating for another couple decades? Put another way: if Indian Point is too dangerous to operate, then why is it OK to continue to operate the Upstate reactors which are more decrepit than Indian Point, have the same design deficiencies as the Fukushima plant that melted down in Japan, and are among some of the oldest plants in the U.S.

The sorry answer is that Cuomo values the dense population of which he is a part over the sparser region that might as well live in Mongolia.

Delusion at 30,000 Feet

lufthansa

Yes, Lufthansa, I’d rather breathe recirculated stale air in a cramped middle seat next to a blob of cellulite than enjoy a dry Martini atop a Manhattan rooftop bar watching the sun set over the Hudson River.

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