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State lawmakers want to ban discharging radioactive waste

  • / Updated:
  • Edwin Viera 

New York lawmakers have introduced a bill to ban radioactive waste from being discharged from the Indian Point Energy Center. This comes as the facility’s owner, Holtec International, is considering dumping treated – but still radioactive – waste into the Hudson River.

The river has a history of pollutants being dumped into it, and some 200 river miles are classified as a superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency. During a forum about the implications of Holtec’s actions, physicist Dr. Helen Caldicott described some of what could end up in the Hudson, such as tritium.

“You can’t remove tritium from water, because tritium becomes part of the water, H3O instead of H2O,” she said. “Tritium gets out into the atmosphere from nuclear power plants, and if you’re immersed in a cloud of fog near a nuclear power plant, the tritium in the fog can actually enter the skin.”

The bill, introduced by state Sen. Peter Harckham, D-Lewisboro, would fine violators $25,000 a day if caught dumping radiological agents into New York State waters. Second-violation fines would increase to $50,000 a day. The bill is under review in the state Senate Environmental Conservation Committee.

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Up to this point, Holtec International had worked closely with state agencies to ensure a safe process, based partly on the joint proposal to decommission Indian Point.

Dr. Diane Turco, director of Cape Downwinders, said this is a moment when elected officials need to stand up for their constituents.

“Let’s see,” she said. “Can our laws really protect the people? And can our legislators and elected officials do the best for the people? This is a real big test.”

Earlier this month, at a meeting of the Indian Point Closure Task Force and Decommissioning Oversight Board, residents spoke against dumping the waste and recommended other methods. One option is leaving the waste in tanks onsite, so radioactive agents are safer to remove. Others include transferring it to out-of-state sites and possibly allowing the wastewater to evaporate.