Nuclear Regulatory Commission Withheld and Misrepresented Critical Information Used to Evaluate and Approve the Siting of the Spectra AIM Pipeline Alongside Indian Point
Montrose, NY, On Wednesday, July 15, 2015, at the Hendrick Hudson Library, at a special presentation to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) Petition Review Board, nuclear expert Paul Blanch revealed that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission withheld and misrepresented critical information used to evaluate and approve the siting of the Spectra Algonquin Incremental Market Project’s 42-inch diameter gas pipeline adjacent to the Indian Point nuclear power plant. Therefore, the Certificate for the Spectra AIM project, issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on March 3, 2015, which was based on the NRC’s faulty analysis, must be rescinded immediately.
Mr. Blanch began his presentation to the NRC in a room filled with over 15 elected officials and 80 members of the public with this powerful statement:
“The NRC has threatened the safety of more than 20 million residents and the infrastructure of the greater NY metropolitan area and is risking trillions of dollars of damage and possibly the US economy by basing its safety assessment on a calculation that was recently obtained from the NRC under FOIA.This new information confirms that this NRC ‘calculation’ which was partially handwritten, unapproved, undated and unsigned, used fictitious, false and unsupported assumptions. This NRC calculation supported the FERC approval of the AIM project and the transportation of thousands of tons of TNT equivalent across and in the vicinity of the Indian Point nuclear plants. This ‘back of the envelope-type calculation,’ which misled Congressional representatives, FERC and the general public, must be invalidated and an independent, transparent, structured risk assessment, as outlined in an Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) methodology, must be undertaken.”
Nationally recognized pipeline expert Richard Kuprewicz, engaged by the Town of Cortlandt to analyze the project, provided formal comments to FERC in November and December. Mr. Kuprewicz participated in the NRC Petition Review Board call. He stated:
“In reviewing the various analyses of information provided to date, it has become obvious that those attempting to perform rupture dynamics of the 42-inch pipeline should not be doing such work, as their analyses consistently fail to capture the fundamental basics of gas pipeline rupture dynamics, especially on this system in the vicinity of the nuclear plant. From my perspective, it appears the permitting agencies are attempting to take advantage of a loophole that permits the NRC to dismiss risks if such analysis can be categorized below a certain threshold value, while ignoring the severe consequences that might prevent the nuke plant to safely shutdown.”
Mr. Blanch discovered the new information through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request of NRC correspondence resulting from a letter to Assemblywoman Sandy Galef from the NRC. The links to the FOIA documents are available here:
Assemblywoman Galef, who hosted the press conference prior to the presentation said, “At the press conference I joined my colleagues and elected officials to hear more about the grave concerns with the siting of the Spectra AIM pipeline so close to the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. We will continue to advocate for greater scrutiny and a halt to this project unless and until it can be determined that this is safe. Right now, we have no such assurances.”
According to another FOIA of until-now-private NRC emails, a rupture of a gas pipeline of this pressure and diameter, would release about 4 kilotons of energy a minute. To put this in perspective, the nuclear blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were about 15 kilotons. While this energy release wouldn’t cause the same type of damage, it could cause continuous explosions, which could destroy systems required to shut down the Indian Point reactors, which could cause major release of radioactive material that could impact a 50 mile radius (like Fukushima). Yet, the NRC continues its claim of “no additional risk.”
The risk analysis performed by Entergy and confirmed by the NRC states that if the pipeline ruptures, Spectra Energy’s operators in Houston would be able to shut down the gas flow in 3 minutes. Most gas line ruptures require field verification, which takes additional time. When a pipeline in San Bruno, CA ruptured, it took hours to get it under control.
If the NRC had used accurate information concerning the dynamics of a pipeline rupture, the impact radius of the explosion and heat flux would have been dramatically expanded. This would have demonstrated that a rupture could lead to a total electrical failure including back-up systems regardless of whether they shut the valves in 3 minutes or 1 hour.
Had the NRC provided accurate information to FERC and the involved agencies, the siting of the pipeline alongside Indian Point would most certainly not have been approved. While Fukushima was caused by an unforeseeable tragedy, putting the AIM pipeline next to Indian Point creates the potential for an avoidable tragedy.
 NRC FOIAs 2015-00176 and 0246 include an NRC internal email that discusses gas release rate of 376,000 kg per minute, which is nearly 1 million pounds per minute of explosive gas. Natural gas contains 10 times the energy per pound than TNT.
RESCIND FERC’s APPROVAL OF THE SPECTRA ALGONQUIN PIPELINE
Our elected officials must use the power of their office to publicly demand that FERC rescind its approval of the AIM pipeline expansion project. They must insist on an independent, transparent and comprehensive risk assessment of the AIM pipeline’s siting next to Indian Point.
Please use this script when calling elected officials:
I urge you to publicly demand that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rescind its March 3, 2015 approval of the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) gas pipeline project because siting a new 42” diameter, high pressure pipeline next to the Indian Point nuclear facility poses an unacceptable risk to the lives and property of the over 20 million people living within a 50 mile radius. Even if Indian Point’s two aging reactors are shut down and decommissioned, the highly radioactive, long-lived spent nuclear rods remain on site, making this an untenably dangerous location for AIM.
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: 212-688-6262 (NYC); 202-224-4451 (D.C.); 845-875-4585 (Hudson Valley)
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer: 212-486-4430 (NYC); 202-224-6542 (D.C.)
Congresswoman Nita Lowey: 914-428-1707 (White Plains); 202-225-6506 (D.C.)
Governor Andrew Cuomo: 518-474-8390
Mayor Bill de Blasio: 311 in NYC; calls from outside of NYC, dial 212-New-York
New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito: 212-788-7210
Public Advocate Letitia James: 212-669-7200
“I’ve had over 45 years of nuclear experience and [experience in] safety issues. 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.”
-Paul Blanch, Truthout, April 15, 2015
Please read Ellen Cantarow’s article in Truthout, “Doing the Unthinkable: Giant Gas Pipeline to Flank a New York Nuclear Power Plant,” and Alison Rose Levy’s article on AlterNet “Why on Earth did the Feds Approve a High-Pressure Gas Pipeline Near a Nuke Plant?“
Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (SAPE) is a grassroots organization with a mission to educate our fellow citizens and elected officials about the negative impacts associated with Spectra Energy Corporation’s Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) Project. SAPE opposes the AIM gas expansion project because it may exacerbate climate change, endanger our safety and quality of life, contaminate water, air and soil, cause harm to domestic animals and wildlife, and threaten farmland and property values.
Imminent Danger to Safety, Health and Property!
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is reviewing a proposed major expansion to Spectra Energy Corporation’s Algonquin natural gas pipeline and compressor stations (Algonquin Incremental Market AIM Project).
- High pressure large 42” diameter transmission pipeline near Indian Point is at least 200% larger in capacity than the current pipe.
- Dangerous route! (See work area map of Westchester, Rockland, Putnam/Fairfield counties)
The proposed new pipeline would cross the Hudson River from Stony Point, Rockland County under the proposed Champlain Hudson 1000-megawatt electric transmission line. It would also intersect underground in Verplanck with another proposed West Point Partners 1000-megawatt electric transmission line just a few hundred feet from the Indian Point Nuclear Facility and its 40 years of spent nuclear fuel rods, near the Ramapo and Stamford faults. It will continue through Westchester and Putnam Counties and into Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
- Public safety risk! Explosions have occurred in both compressor stations and gas pipelines. An explosion at or near Indian Point would be an unimaginable catastrophe.
- High levels of radon, the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers in the U.S., will be transported through the pipeline from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale.
- Noisy, polluting compressor station expansions proposed for Stony Point and Southeast expose people, pets and wildlife to many tons of highly toxic emissions per year.
- Health effects associated with compressor stations emissions: nosebleeds, headaches, dizziness, skin rashes, respiratory, developmental and neurological problems, breast, kidney and liver cancer.
- Risk to home values! The proximity of the high pressure pipelines and potential for an explosion could negatively impact your property, diminish its value, and reduce your quality of life.
Action Steps You Can Take!
- Sign the Petition
- Contact your local, state, county and federal elected officials to request they secure the risk and health assessments called for in the resolutions before any permits are issued by Involved Agencies or FERC. Refer to our Elected Officials section for contacts.
- Read the Energy Brochure and learn about incentives and ways that homeowners and businesses can invest in conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable forms of energy.
- Write a Letter to the Editor of your local paper.
- Look at our Resources
- Join SAPE and volunteer to help with our efforts.
Two very successful educational forums were held on December 12, 2013 in Montrose and December 13, 2013 in Mahopac. Expert speakers Wilma Subra of Subra Company, Rick Kuprewicz of Accufacts, Matt Walker of Clean Air Council and Nadia Steinzor of Earthworks presented critical information about pipeline safety and health impacts from pipelines and compressor stations. Gary Shaw of Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition presented the dangers of siting the expanded pipeline near the Indian Point nuclear facility and on two fault lines. We encourage you to watch the speakers’ presentations on the video link below, read the speakers’ power point presentations and visit their websites as well as the Resources tab on this website. Please Contact Us if you have any questions about the presentations. We encourage you to ask questions of Spectra, FERC and your elected officials in order to understand the implications of the AIM project on the air, water, health and safety of Rockland, Westchester and Putnam residents, as well as those in the New England states that are proposed recipients of the gas.
- Algonquin Incremental Market Project (AIM Project) Spectra Energy Corp. (Wilma Subra)
- Pipeline Safety Operations on Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) Project (Rick Kuprewicz)
- Air Quality and Climate Impacts of Shale Gas Operations (Matt Walker)
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