By Dan Murphy
Efforts to keep Holtec, the Corporation that is charged with decommissioning Indian Point Power Plant, from dumping one million gallons of nuclear waste in the Hudson River, continue, with a bill to prohibit radiological discharges into the Hudson River expected to be passed in the Assembly this week, and to land on the desk of Governor Kathy Hochul this month.
But Holtec is now on the offensive, pushing back on the narrative that they should not be allowed to dump in the Hudson River, which took Pete Seeger and Robert Kennedy Jr., and many other environmental advocates, decades to clean. Members of several unions packed a recent decommissioning meeting in Buchanan and held protests outside of the office of Assemblywoman Dana Levenberg, the sponsor of the bill.
“I care deeply about all of my constituents, including our local workforce. I have been hearing concerns from three labor unions who are fearful of possible layoffs during the decommissioning of Indian Point. Because I am very concerned about local jobs, I asked multiple questions about the labor implications of different radioactive waste management options during last night’s Decommissioning Oversight Board meeting. I heard repeatedly that there is plenty of work to be done at various points during the decommissioning process. If this is the case, why are workers being told that their jobs are at stake if A7208 passes? This appears to be an attempt to enlist labor in an effort to stifle public discussion of our options,” said Assemblywoman Levenberg.
“If they are confident that the science and evidence unequivocally supports the safety of discharging the water, they should want skeptical members of the public to be able to come in and hear it and be convinced. Public perception of a polluted, hazardous river will undermine our local economy in various ways, harming property values, business interests, and much more. More than 30 municipalities and thousands of my constituents have reached out to my office to oppose the plan to discharge nuclear waste into the Hudson.”
Members of the Carpenters Union oppose the bill by Levenberg and State Senator Pete Harckham, claiming that it will effectively stop the decommissioning of Indian Point and kill their union jobs as a part of the cleanup.
“This bill may be well intentioned, but it would stop the decommissioning of Indian Point and lead to substantial long-term job losses in the Hudson Valley. The concerns raised by the bill’s sponsors have been addressed, and the EPA has developed environmentally conscious procedures that our members are following closely. A handful of misguided activists from outside our community shouldn’t be allowed to stop a worthy project that is providing critical blue collar jobs,” said Bill Banfield, Assistant to the Executive Secretary-Treasurer, North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters.
However, finding the connection between stopping Holtec from dumping in the Hudson, to the union jobs for the cleanup on the power plant and surrounding property, is difficult to find. “This is nothing more than Holtec strongarming unions into stopping this bill from passing, and allowing them to dump this Nuclear Waste in the Hudson. This is how a child acts when they don’t get what they want, and their refusal to consider other options is a sign of a corporation that doesn’t care,” said one Westchester environmental leader.
State Sen. Peter Harckham, a sponsor of the bill, called connecting union jobs with toxic dumping a false choice.”Protecting jobs versus protecting our environment and natural resources is a false choice. We need to work together to accomplish both. There are years’ worth of work onsite at Indian Point, and workers should not be treated as hostages while we deal with the challenges of safe decommissioning.”
Another point raised by opponents of the dumping is that if Holtec decides to store the wastewater on site, which would reduce the tritium’s half-life (the radioactive isotope) by 50%, there would be hundreds of new union jobs required to build the waste facilites and the surrounding infrastructure.
Recent supporters of Holtec’s plan to dump include John Ravitz, of the Business Council of Westchester, who penned an Op-Ed, ( https://www.theexaminernews.com/holtecs-planned-release-of-indian-point-water-was-agreed-to-by-all-parties/?) and from Warren Smith, republican candidate for Cortlandt Town Supervisor.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer at his weekly briefing on June 15, said, “If Holtec asserts that there is no method by which the contaminated water can remain on site, they must explain why that is the case…The question that I have to ask is if this water is released in this quantity at this level of pollution, that there will be no harmful effects to this river over the next 50 years? I have no confidence, nor have I seen persuasive data that assures me otherwise….If there is any miscalculation, we are the ones who will pay the price. I support calls for a moratorium to address these issues.”