The NY Independent System Operator Confirms Andrew Cuomo’s “PowerNY” Energy Plan to Shut Down Indian Point Nuclear Plant Would Cause Electrical Grid Instability and More Frequent Blackouts.

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New York gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo makes no bones about it.  He plans to shut down Indian Point Nuclear Plant if he is elected.   His opposition to the plant is no secret.  He has been an out spoken critic of the plant for years, even though Federal inspectors and independent safety assessments agree the plant is safe.  As part of his bid for Governor, Cuomo published his long term energy plan, “PowerNY” in which he calls for the two Indian Point nuclear energy facilities to shut down in 2013 and 2015. 

PowerNY states,

Andrew Cuomo has long been a supporter of closing the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester and has argued that the federal government should not renew the plant’s operating license when it expires in 2013.

PowerNY says New York must “find alternate sources of generation and transmission” so they can replace Indian Point.  Last week, however, the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) released its latest Reliability Assessment of the electrical grid in New York.  They are the independent non-profit organization that controls the flow of electricity throughout the state.  They are responsible for ensuring the electrical grid is safe and reliable.  In this report the NYISO concluded that without Indian Point the system would become unreliable and blackouts more frequent.  Here is what they said:

Reliability violations would occur if the Indian Point Plant were to be retired at
the latter of the two units’ current license expiration dates using the Base Case load forecast assumptions.

In layman’s terms, that means the grid would become unstable and blackouts much more likely if Indian Point is shut down.  In fact, if you read the report in detail it states that blackouts would be almost four times more likely than allowed by ISO rules if Indian Point is taken out of service.  The NYISO also stated

Under stress conditions, the voltage performance on the system without Indian Point would be degraded.

This means that during peak loads like those that occur on warm summer days voltage on the grid would drop to dangerously low levels.  When this occurs grid operators are sometimes forces to implement rolling blackouts to prevent loss of large portions of the electrical supply system.  This “degraded voltage” condition also causes accelerated wear and tear on industrial motors, household appliances and electronics because as voltage drops the current draw of the machines rises.  This can cause the appliances to short circuit and fail.

The report also says that electricity generated outside the regions would be unable to reach southern New York and New York City because of “transmission constraints.”  Simply put, there are not enough transmission lines to bring that huge quantity of energy the long distances needed to replace Indian Point.

The NYISO is not alone.  Experts from the National Academy of Sciences also say alternatives are not available. The NAS says existing power plants and transmission lines won’t be able to replace Indian Point.  New power plants would have to be built in the lower Hudson Valley or large transmission lines would need to be built to bring the power in from far away.   The NAS calls both of these unlikely because of the lack of funding and because permitting and finding suitable locations for such facilities would be difficult.

If you live in New York you should keep this in mind when you go to the polls in November.  Andrew Cuomo’s energy plan is a feel good fantasy that wont work in the real world.

John Wheeler

This Week in Nuclear

Author: John Wheeler

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