NRC Approves License Transfer of Indian Point Energy Center
Real Estate In-Depth | November 24, 2020
WASHINGTON—The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced on Monday (Nov. 23) it had approved the transfer of the Indian Point nuclear power plant licenses from Entergy Nuclear Operations to Holtec International, as owner, and Holtec Decommissioning International as decommissioning operator.
Holtec and HDI have announced that they intend to expedite the decommissioning and dismantling of the power plant.
Indian Point’s three pressurized-water reactors are located in Buchanan in Westchester County. Indian Point Units 1 and 2 are permanently shut down; Unit 3 is scheduled to permanently shut down in April 2021. The license transfer also includes the plant’s dry cask spent fuel storage installation.
The NRC order approving the license transfer was effective immediately, but the license transfer will not be finalized until after Unit 3’s permanent shutdown and the completion of the transaction between Entergy, Holtec and HDI. At that point, the NRC will amend Indian Point’s licenses to reflect the completion of the transfer, the commission stated.
Additionally, several hearing requests are currently pending before the commission. The transfer approval is subject to the commission’s authority to rescind, modify, or condition the transfer based on the outcome of any subsequent hearing on the application.
In reviewing the license transfer application, the NRC staff, which approved the license transfer earlier in November, considered the Holtec and HDI technical and financial qualifications, the adequacy of the Indian Point decommissioning trust funds to complete the radiological decommissioning of the plant, and the adequacy of plans to manage the onsite storage of spent nuclear fuel until it can be removed for storage or disposal elsewhere. The NRC staff concluded that Holtec and HDI met the regulatory, legal, technical and financial requirements necessary to qualify as licensees.
Separate from the NRC approval, Entergy and Holtec had previously filed a petition with the New York Public Service Commission requesting a ruling disclaiming PSC jurisdiction or abstaining from review of the proposed transaction, or, in the alternative, an order approving the proposed transaction. That petition remains pending before the PSC.
The transfer of Indian Point to Holtec, currently targeted for May 2021, would occur following the satisfaction of all closing conditions, including the permanent shutdown and reactor defueling of Unit 3.
“The NRC’s approval of the Indian Point license transfer is a critical milestone as we move closer to completing the transaction,” said Leo Denault, Entergy’s chairman and CEO. “The sale of Indian Point following its permanent shutdown will benefit the community by enabling the facility to be removed and the site remediated decades sooner than otherwise thought possible. Stakeholders in the community will benefit from a dismantling and decommissioning process that can begin promptly following shutdown next year.”
Previously, the NRC approved two separate transfers of retired nuclear power plants to Holtec for prompt decommissioning; Holtec currently owns and is decommissioning the shutdown of the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in New Jersey and the shutdown of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Massachusetts. Additionally, the NRC previously approved the license transfer of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar Group Services in support of Entergy’s effort to divest of its merchant nuclear fleet to focus on its regulated and transformation strategies.
Holtec plans to begin the decommissioning process at Indian Point promptly upon taking ownership, and as part of the agreement between the companies, will initially provide job opportunities for approximately 300 of Entergy’s current employees at Indian Point. Holtec also has agreed to honor the collective bargaining agreements that apply to current employees.
The approximately 300 Entergy employees are expected to transition over to Holtec’s CDI subsidiary under the leadership of CDI President Kelly Trice, bringing with them years of Indian Point operational knowledge to complement Holtec’s experienced decommissioning team drawn from other company locations.
“In addition, CDI plans to deploy the union workforce under existing national labor agreements to use specialized trades from the local union halls. We are as committed to safe decommissioning as we are to human capital development as more workers join our workforce through plant acquisitions,” said CDI President Trice.
Holtec’s plan for decommissioning will result in the release for re-use of the vast majority of the site in the 2030s, with the exception of the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation and its security perimeter—the area where spent nuclear fuel is safely stored in dry casks until the U.S. Department of Energy transfers the spent fuel offsite. As part of its plan, Holtec expects to move all of the Indian Point spent nuclear fuel into dry casks within about three years following facility shutdown in 2021. Holtec has a pending application with the NRC for a Consolidated Interim Storage Facility in New Mexico, which could eventually store spent nuclear fuel from Indian Point and other U.S. nuclear power plants.
New York State Assemblywoman Sandra Galef prior to the NRC announcements, requested the NRC hold a public meeting before a final decision is rendered in the license transfer proceedings for Indian Point Energy Center.
Assemblywoman Galef in a letter to the NRC, said, “A public meeting to hear constituent concerns about Holtec International and the decommissioning process is necessary because Indian Point is in my constituency’s backyard. We must hear the views of the community members who live here and use these views to impact the decommissioning process, as these community members are the ones who will face the immediate effects of this nuclear closure and decommissioning project.”
Riverkeeper, in a statement, said it was “troubled” by the NRC staff’s recommendation. “Since the NRC has once again neglected its responsibility to properly scrutinize Holtec’s qualifications, Riverkeeper calls upon New York State to step in to fill this gap and ensure the decommissioning of Indian Point is conducted safely, prudently, and in the best interests of New Yorkers.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a statement on the NRC’s decision, stating, “Cleaning up Indian Point will be complicated and expensive, and for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to act without considering New York’s request for a hearing is unacceptable and denies New Yorkers the public and transparent process they deserve. We remain committed to ensuring that the decommissioning process is done quickly and prioritizes the safety of New Yorkers and as such, we are considering all options at our disposal to see that the shutdown of this facility protects the public’s health and the environment. Critical to that is for any new owner to have the capability and financial wherewithal to expeditiously and thoroughly decommission and restore the site. New York is unwavering in our commitment to holding any owner of Indian Point to the highest standards throughout this process and we will continue to fight to ensure it is shut down safely.”