lohud: NY Needs Nuclear
This story originally appeared in lohud: The Journal News, and was authored by Norris McDonald, President, African American Environmentalist Association.
View: Indian Point protects air quality
Cuomo’s upstate-downstate disconnect on nuclear power threatens local environment, economy
New York has long led the country in recognizing the importance of giving people the opportunity to breathe clean air through the Clean Air Act and in combating climate change through the enactment of carbon dioxide reduction programs.
Under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s energy plan, we will only be the leader in irony. On the one hand, the administration says we need to save upstate nuclear plants because closing them would result in the release of 12 million additional metric tons of carbon dioxide into our environment, which he called a “truly unacceptable outcome.” On the other hand, the governor is determined to close the Indian Point Energy Center, which would increase the carbon dioxide emissions by 8.5 million metric tons on an annual basis — or the equivalent of adding 1.6 million cars on the road. That’s nothing less than a giant step backwards.
When it comes to public safety, transparency is great, but fear-mongering is harmful. Case in point: recently, Indian Point Energy Center did the responsible thing and voluntarily reported finding a small amount of tritium in groundwater at the plant. The recorded levels were 1/1000th — that is 1,000 times less — than what the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires to be reported. Simply put, the water poses no threat to the public. This water is also not used for drinking water.
Rather than commending Indian Point for its focus on safety and voluntary transparency, some politicians and media outlets decided to create hysteria, based on misinformation and falsehoods. Such manufactured hysteria creates unnecessary anxiety. It also impedes us from recognizing and dealing with actual threats to public health and safety — like the pollution that would be pumped into our air from fossil fuel plants if Indian Point were to close.
But it’s more than that, because we face an issue of environmental justice — the fair treatment of all people regarding environmental issues, irrespective of their race or income.
New York’s African-American and Latino communities suffer disproportionately from asthma. As one of the millions of African-Americans with asthma, I’ve worked for decades to promote clean air in our neighborhoods. If we lose Indian Point, we’ll suffer from a marked increase in the pollutants that exacerbate asthma.
Decades of progress in bringing attention and action to cleaner air for all our citizens — progress that’s been assured thanks to Indian Point’s consistently safe, reliable, carbon-free electricity, will be lost if the state succeeds in shuttering this crucial plant. Moving us backwards while trampling over the concerns of those most at risk is no way to lead the fight against climate change.
Indian Point provides 25 percent of the electricity for New York City and Westchester County and does this with zero carbon dioxide emissions. This is more than 2,000 megawatts of virtually no carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulates. Losing Indian Point would degrade our air quality; weaken our already stressed electrical system; and increase the greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change.
Simply put, Indian Point’s continued operation means a safer and cleaner New York.