FBA Welcomed at Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant

By Ray & Kimberly Feliciano

Q: Is it true that Indian Point, under Consolidated Edison, was one of the first nuclear power plants built in the United States?

"Indian Point Unit 1 was the first commercial nuclear power plant in the country. Units 2 and 3 were mid-generation plants that came into our area. 1962 is the date of its initial operation."

Q: Fusion or fission: What is the difference?

"The fission process (splitting the atom apart) uses uranium-dioxide. It's the U-235 atom that actually splits in two-that's fission, which releases heat and fission products. What is essentially a massed energy conversion, produces a lot of energy, E = MC². So, a small amount of mass produces a large amount of energy. Fusion, on the other hand, is the combining of molecules. Principally, hydrogen molecules with helium molecules produce the largest and best fusion reactor in the area."

Q: Is nuclear power really just boiling a pot of water, producing steam to power a turbine?

“Essentially, yes. All steam electric plants produce electricity essentially the same way. They produce steam which turns the turbine, which produces an electric current that is sent out on the grid. The difference with nuclear versus a fossil fuel is in the amount of energy produced. A very small amount of Uranium can produce a significant amount of energy relative to coal, oil or natural gas.” [see details in lead story on Iran.]

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[top] Indian Point Nuclear Reactors 1 & 2 [bottom] FBA Founders Ray & Kimberly Feliciano inside Indian Point Nuclear Reactor #2.
(Photos: Ray & Kimberly Feliciano)

Q: How much electricity is produced here?

“About 2100 megawatts-about 10% of the state’s energy supply; and anywhere from 25-40% of Westchester and New York City.”

Q: How many houses is that?

“A couple million. We are 25-40% of Consolidated Edison’s load, and that is primarily Westchester and the Five Burrows.”

Q: What’s the cost to produce nuclear?

“Nuclear can run anywhere from about 1.5 cents/Kwh to 2.5 cents/Kwh, depending on various conditions. We’re somewhere in the middle. As for your bill, the generation cost-the cost to actually supply the electricity-is about half of your debt. The rest is distribution, transmission charges, taxes, special funds, etc.”

Q: The production of electricity, in the end, comes down to spinning a magnet within a coil of copper. Is that right?

“The turbines go into what is essentially the generator. Inside it are stationary scatter bars that are copper-coated, and there is a rotating electro-magnet. That magnet induces the current in the copper coils and sends it to the grid. Most high school physics classes have seen the essential means of that. We are large, so the differences are in how we cool it; we use both hydrogen and water as a coolant."

Q: We’ve seen a lot of wind farms develop in Texas but it takes quite a few of them to produce a significant amount of electricity. Is it speed or the radius of the coils that affects the efficiency of electricity production?

Falciano: “The hold is like a break, trying to hold the generators back. To produce a larger mass of electricity, you need higher energy to produce a higher torque. That would be a function of the size of the equipment. It’s a little bit of everything you mentioned. It has to do with the physical size, that you can turn the generator on wheels, with the amount of force to turn that.”

Q: When you say a “good market for electricity” you mean there are a lot of consumers?

“Yes, and the demand is increasing.”

Q: How far into the future does Entergy look as far as allocating for the growth of people?

“We sell everything we produce. We’ve recently done ‘power upgrades’ to improve efficiency. We’ve probably gone about as far as we can go with these units to increase our output. statewide. That’s a major economic and political issue for the state. NY ISO, Independent System Operator, which essentially is the marketing clearing-house economically for power, as well as the grid operator, is projecting the demand in NY to increase anywhere from 3500-8000 megawatts in the next five years.”

Q: What would be the plan then? Where would we go from there?

“The solution is probably two-fold; we have to cut back on demand or we have to build more power plants. Albany is once again looking at building new plants.”

Q: Did Entergy buy Indian Point just a few days before 9/11?

“Entergy signed the purchase agreement with Consolidated Edison on September 6, 2001. So, while the deal was inked days before 9/11, the deal was actually in process for over a year.”

Q: Did 9/11 cause the new owners any major concerns over security?

“If 9/11 had been 9/6 instead, the finalization of the purchase would probably have been delayed. It was significant. Probably more significant for Indian Point than any other nuclear power plant in the country because of its proximity to NYC. It was significant to all of the power plants.”

Q: Is the federal government helping Entergy with security improvements?

“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission looks at security issues across the industry. Homeland Security looks at security issues for all critical infrastructures. As for footing the bill? Entergy shareholders pay for security improvements.”

Q: Does that include military personnel?

“That’s the National Guard. It is and has been there. That’s our tax dollars at work.

Q: There are those who feel that nuclear energy is not safe. They worry about environmental damage by nuclear waste or that an accident could kill or sicken millions. How would you address their concerns?

“Take a look at the track record. We started commercial nuclear power in 1962 here in Westchester County. There has not been a single accident that’s affected public health and safety, including Three-Mile Island which was the most severe accident that ever happened in the U.S. Two-thirds of the core melted down; it was a significant accident but it still didn’t release harmful amounts of radiation. There was some radiation released, this is true, but less than you would get on a typical x-ray. Nothing has happened anywhere near that since 1979. A lot of changes occurred as a result of Three-Mile Island; in terms of security, design, safeguards, training, you name it. The industry in 1989 was very different from what it was in 1979.”

Q: Is the waste taken care of in a way that ensures the protection of the environment?

“The low-level waste, which is the waste that is mildly contaminated, goes to a couple different depositories in the country. When I say ‘any’, I don’t mean absolutely zero, but certainly if you stack the record of environmental controls or low-level radioactive waste facility against any other-I don’t care if it’s toxic garbage, hazardous waste, you name it-the record is sterling. The same is true for transportation of nuclear waste-a sterling record. There has never been a significant accident that has released radioactivity into the environment through transportation, and that’s been through 50+ years.”

Q: What do you want people to know about nuclear power?

“I think people should know that nuclear supplies about 20% of our electrical capacity. That’s true in NY State and that’s true nationally. We have operated safely in this country since inception, despite a couple missteps here and there. If you look at the safety of this power supply, it’s second to none, and that’s from construction, operation, waste, the entire cycle. It’s competitive, in terms of cost. In some areas, like hydro, may be somewhat less, but overall it’s cost competitive and safe. I don’t believe it is a terrorist target like people like to believe. Nuclear facilities have significantly upgraded their security. We designed it safely. We designed containments to hold huge amounts of pressure. It can hold from within, and it can also withstand attacks from without. Indian Point is probably the most secure nuclear facility in the country."