A very large gas pipeline will soon skirt the Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC), an aging nuclear power plant that stands in the town of Cortlandt in Westchester County, New York, 30 miles north of Manhattan. The federal agencies that have permitted the project have bowed to two corporations – the pipeline’s owner, Spectra Energy, and Entergy, which bought the Indian Point complex in 2001 from its former owner.
A hazards assessment by a former employee of one of the plant’s prior owners, replete with errors, was the basis for the go-ahead. A dearth of mainstream press coverage leaves ignorant the population that stands to be most impacted by a nuclear catastrophe, which experts say could be triggered by a potential pipeline rupture. I urge Truthout’s audience to read an earlier article by Alison Rose Levy, which includes details I haven’t space to recap here.
Since 2011, Spectra Corporation, owner of the 1,129-mile Algonquin Pipeline, which runs from Texas to Beverly, Massachusetts, where it connects with another pipeline running into Canada, has sought to expand the pipeline in order to transport fracked gas north from Pennsylvania. Spectra, one of the largest natural gas infrastructure companies in North America, calls the planned enlargements “The Algonquin Incremental Market Project” (AIM).
“I have never seen a situation that essentially puts 20 million residents at risk, plus the entire economics of the US.”
AIM includes a two-mile section of 42-inch pipe carrying gas under very high pressures. It is this pipeline segment that will flank IPEC, which stands in a seismic zone. The nuclear complex has a derelict history. In 2001, The New York Times reported that “the plant has encountered a string of accidents and mishaps since it went into operation on June 26, 1973.” The IPEC has also been on the federal list of the nation’s worst nuclear power plants.
Paul Blanch is a professional engineer with nearly five decades of experience in nuclear safety, engineering operations and federal regulatory requirements. He has security clearance for his work, and is a nuclear industry proponent. He has worked with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission since its inception and for utility corporations across the United States, including Entergy. He also works pro bono for nuclear safety and has been doing this for the town of Cortlandt and local organizations including the grassroots group, Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Extension (SAPE), which has been fighting AIM for the past year and a half.
“I’ve had over 45 years of nuclear experience and [experience in] safety issues,” Blanch told Truthout. “I have never seen [a situation] that essentially puts 20 million residents at risk, plus the entire economics of the United States by making a large area surrounding Indian Point uninhabitable for generations. I’m not an alarmist and haven’t been known as an alarmist, but the possibility of a gas line interacting with a plant could easily cause a Fukushima type of release.”
The potential hazards of the AIM construction near IPEC are no longer hypothetical. On March 3, 2015, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the AIM project in its entirety, from New York to the Canadian border.