Indian Point Nuclear or LNG

The Indian Point nuclear facility in Westchester has long been controversial. Fears of a Chernobyl or Three-Mile-Island accident near one of the nation's most densely populated areas has long been a source of anxiety for nearby residents and elected officials. Then, following the attacks of 9/11, when one of the planes that hit the Wolrd Trade Center flew almost directly over the Nuclear facility, the calls for the closure increased to a fever pitch. The frontrunner for the Governorship of NY, Eliot Spitzer, has joined this chorus of protest to call for the permanent closure of the 2 nuclear facilities upon the expiration of their permits in 2011 and 2013.

However, everyone realizes that replacing them will be quite difficult since they currently supply about 10% of NY State's total electricity demand. A new study released this week and reported in the NY Times points out the obvious trade-off between nuclear and fossil fuels to generate electricity. One of study's main conclusion is that New York may have to build a Liquified Natural Gas terminal nearby to secure its access to natural gas. Why is that? Because North American Supplies of Natural gas are already tight, more nuclear is unpopular, coal is seen as too dirty and renewables are going to need a long time to ramp up.

Can't we just revamp some of the existing plants to produce more efficiently or run for long periods of time?

The amount of generating capacity under construction now is inadequate to meet peak demand in 2009, and the shortfall will be far larger if Indian Point closes, the report said. In seven to nine years, the area will need 3,000 megawatts of additional electric capacity if Indian Point is running, and 5,000 megawatts if it is not, the report said.

Well, what about conservation? What about trying to decrease the amount of demand to save the electricity Indian Point puts out?

One of the authors, Parker D. Mathusa, said in a telephone interview that there were big opportunities for improving efficiency of electric use and expanding electric production. But Mr. Mathusa, a member of the board of directors of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, said that "to replace 2,000 megawatts of base-load power, very low-cost power, in a critical part of the country that is growing, with air quality that is some of the worst in the country, one would have to pause."

I basically agree with this statement. As much as potential there is to reduce demand for electricity, it's going to be very hard to replace 2,000 megawatts of power.

So that's where LNG comes in...

The report said one alternative to Indian Point was something else that environmentalists do not like: ports for tankers carrying liquefied natural gas. In fact, natural gas, which now sells for more than double its price in the late 1990's, is the only fuel practical for large-scale plants in the New York City area, according to experts, because coal or new reactors are not politically acceptable.

Based on the analysis I did of NY State's electrical generation source, I cannot see how we can cut out nuclear from the equation. Also given the choice between LNG and burning dirty coal, LNG is clearly better in terms of environmental impact. Where to site that LNG terminal will be a nightmare, but I suspect there are some suitable sites in Long Island or New Jersey.

And so the debate continues...

Great post Peakguy.  Here's a rambling, stream-of-consciousness thoughts on LNG, which I think is a good idea for the region actually.  

Why is siting them so hard?  It's a dangerous process, right?  Long Island's harbors I don't think are that great, particularly on the South Shore.  I'd say a better bet would be the Connecticut coast.  A city like Bridgeport with a long history of having an industrial waterfront might be a logical place to put it.  It's got a great habor and they need jobs there for economic revitalization.  But Bridgeport is the largest city in Connecticut.  If it is too dangerous then that is the last place in the state to put it.  Other great harbors in Connecticut are at Stamford (no way the financial services sector would ever allow a LNG terminal and it doesn't need jobs, so that's out), New Haven and New London.  Those last two might be O.K. as well.  New London (Actually Groton, across the river) has a Navy submarine base, which might make it impossible, but it has a relatively low civiliation population to expose to hazards.  Jersey's best shipping ports are at Newark and Elizabeth, but these are heavily used for containerization.  Off the top of my head, I'm thinking the most logical places are Bridgeport and New Haven.  So long as these things are safe.  What does anybody know about LNG safety issues?

I used to live in CT and I think the New London Naval Base could be a good site for it. Or Bridgeport. I think most of the risks are imagined, but there is a potential for a large explosion is mishandled.

When given the choice between LNG and Nuclear, I'm starting to side with LNG. Even if you assume the worst, which probably has a very small chance - like less than .001% in either case, at at least the LNG explosion would be localized and have no lingering environmental effects. NG is much cleaner than coal or oil making it more environmentally friendly (among the fossil fuels). With Nuclear, a leak or explosion would have increased radiation levels for decades or centuries.

Frankly, though I think we need both. And we really need to do everything we can to increase renewables and get demand growth under control.

An LNG "explosion" would actually be a BLEVE, one of the scariest things to witness.  I saw one from 6 miles away and it was the loudest thing I ever heard (I felt the shockwave before it registered with my brain the 125+ dB that would have my ears ring for the next 8 hours.  The overpressure wave and the thermal radiation damage radius can be impressive.  The only thing missing is the pervasive radioactivity.

While a spill in a harbor would temporarily freeze the water around the spill, the huge heat sink of the water would eventually contribute to the flashing of the LNG to mix with air.  Add a source of ignition and you are toast (literally).  What isn't cooked can be "liquified" by the blast wave.  

The acronym stands for Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion, but for those with a dark sense of humor in a plant environment where such things can occur it also stands for Blast Leveling Everything Very Effectively.

Haven't you guys heard of the LOOP, the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port. Essentially a big bouy where supertankers dock instead of trying to maneuver in the Mississippi.  Put a platform in Long Island Sound with storage barges and regasification out there to.
Is anyone aware that there are three LNG terminals under consideration for LI Sound and Rhode Island: Broadwater, KeySpan Providence and Weaver's Cove (Fall River, MA)? There's also a proposal for the south Shore of LI.

The Broadwater project (if approved) would be a floating terminal in the middle of the Sound. All three propoosals have generated considerable controversy. Connecticut would never allow an LNG port if they controlled the approval process.

You're also aware that there is a moratorium on the siting of any LNG facility in New York State? There are three LNG storage facilities (2 in NYC, one on LI) that existing before the moratorium was enacted in 1976.

Happy to discuss and provide details/links if you want. The issue of LNG vs. nuclear will be very devisive in the environmental community.

Please do - you can either email me (click on my name for the address) or post them here. If you would like to do a guest post, that could probably be arranged.
Here's a quick summary of LNG issues and their relationship to NYS as I see them.


Broadwater is a floating LNG terminal that Shell is proposing to install 9 miles north of Wading River in LI Sound (LIS). This puts it in the middle of LIS but just within the NYS border that runs down the middle. Pre-application documents were filed with FERC in early 2005. Formal application was filed this year (FERC Docket #CP06-54). FERC is reviewing the EIS for the project, which has garnered significant opposition on Long Island and in CT.

The main organizer of the opposition is the Anti-Broadwater Coalition. Most local environmental and civic groups as well as most local and state reps have come out against the project. The project is supported by industry groups, specifically, hospital and construction-industry organizations and other business groups. The federal Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) give the NYS Department of State the say in whether the project is consistent with the coastal policies developed by NYSDOS for LIS. If NYSDOS says that the project is not consistent, Broadwater has the right to appeal to the Secretary of Commerce; otherwise, the project dies. The decision on consistency determination is expected later this year.

KeySpan Providence

KeySpan had applied to FERC (Docket #CP04-223) to convert an existing LNG storage tank in Providence to tank that could be supplied via a marine terminal. The existing tank stores pipeline NG that is trucked as LNG to locations that need supplemental NG. FERC denied approval to KeySpan late last year because KeySpan did not propose to upgrade the tank to be compliant with the current code. KeySpan argued that they didn't have to do the upgrade because they weren't altering the tank, just making the provision for taking deliveries from LNG tankers. I believe that KeySpan is pursuing legal action to get the FERC ruling overturned. This project also garnered significant local opposition. It's possible that KeySpan could prevail and force FERC to approve it. I'm not sure what implications, if any, viz. CZMA.

Weaver's Cove

Weaver's Cove was approved by FERC (Docket #CP04-36) late last year. This project is a new marine terminal proposed by Hess for Fall River, MA (which is less than 25 miles from Providence). Because this project is new, it was designed to meet current code (ignoring any argument as to whether the current code is adequate). What has stymied this project is some language written into a federal bill that prevented the demolition of an historic bridge under which LNG tankers would have to pass on their way to Fall River. When Weaver's Cove submitted their application, they based it on the use of larger tankers (and fewer tanker trips) because they anticipated the demolition of the bridge. Once the bridge was "protected", they had to revise their project to use smaller tankers, making more frequent trips. The opponents of Weaver's Cove claim that this change in scope invalidates the EIS and FERC's approval. They are seeking to have FERC start from scratch and review the revised appication.

There is no collective opposition attacking these three projects together (and LNG in general) as far as I can see. Partly due to the timing of each application, local opposition arose independently in response to each one. KeySpan and Fall River do have overlapping opposition because of their proximity. The Attorneys General of MA and CT have been active against both projects. The anti-Broadwater groups have been fighting their own battle. For some reason, they've chosen to ignore the projects in Providence and Fall River, while the opposition to those projects have implicitly argued that Broadwater, being in the middle of LIS and away from population centers, would be a better choice than the land-based proposals.

NYS LNG Moratorium

In 1973, a land-based LNG tank on Staten Island was undergoing some work. The tank had been emptied of LNG and welders were working inside. My understanding is that the styrene-based insulation caught fire and began to collapse on the workers. Other workers rushed in to save them but all were trapped. Approximately 40 workers died in the accident. There was some thought that LNG had seeped into the insulation and vaporized while the work was being performed. Other than that hypothesis, this tragedy was not a "classic" LNG disaster and did not directly involve the buring of LNG. Nonetheless, local legislation banning the siting of LNG facilities in NYS was passed in 1976.

The moratorium was to last only until NYSDEC wrote rules to address the siting of LNG facilities and was expected to take two years. DEC didn't want to write the rules back then and, jump ahead 30 years, DEC still doesn't want to write the rules (claiming that they don't have the expertise to deal with it). The moratorium lived on, having been renewed every so often as DEC avoided rule-writing. One of the main reasons it lasted so long is that the person responsible for the original moratorium, State Sen. Marchi from Staten Island, remains in office as one of the longest (the longest?) office holder. My understanding is that he will never allow LNG in NYC as long as he has a say in the matter.

The moratorium was not renewed last year, leaving NYS in limbo (a la Article X). DEC is making some effort to write the regulations. At the same time, there is a great interest on the part of utilities and transportation intestest (e.g., USDOE Clean Cities Campaign) to get LNG going in NYS. There are stranded gas wells in upstate NY that would be accessible if they could be converted to LNG and trucked. As an alternative to diesel fuel, LNG has six times the range of CNG for a given volume, so NYSDOT is apparently interested in LNG as a "clean" alternative to diesel fuel. In response, some utilities have tried to get LNG legislation passed in NYS.

As I understand it, many states have rely on NFPA 59A and 70 as the code for LNG facilities. Some states, I believe, have also adopted some of their own rules in addition to NFPA. Still, there is concern among the local environmental community that the current rules are not sufficiently protective, or have not been updated to reflect the "post 9/11" world. For this reason, many would like to see NYS write its own rules. The utilities would rather have NYS rely on NFPA.

These are the issues as I see them. I'm more familiar with Broadwater and NYS issues, hence, there are more links. I may have some of the details wrong, so I invite corrections and clarifications. I also suggest checking the blog Sphere to get more information on Broadwater and other evironmental issues around LIS.

Thanks, lots of good info here. unfortunately the environmental movement made itself based on local NIMBY stuff, not making the hard choices between two perceived evils.
CliffDweller, great information.  I obviously had no idea about any of that.  Broadwater sounds like the LOOP.  I think that probably makes the most sense.
I think, if we're definitely going to be building new facilities one way or the other, I'd rather have nuclear.  From what I understand, with modern plants safety is a much smaller concern.  For example, pebble bed reactors don't use water, eliminating a complex steam management system.

Nuke power is probably also cheaper in the long term. Oil, LNG, and NG prices will probably fluctuate like crazy. Uranium lasts longer and stronger and doesn't require such frequent transport unlike fossil fuels.  Plus modern plants can also reprocess and reuse spent fuel, further extending the life of already mined materials.

Not to mention getting away from the petrochemical industry... to another energy industry, sure, but...

Given LNG or nuclear, I take LNG any day. They can be handled offshore. The lingering effects of a problem are short term versus the potential locally catastrophic effects of nuclear.

(Remember war and terrorism in nuclear risks as well, not just plant safety performance. The safety performance of the new designs has not in practice been validated by the way and many reports raise safety issues with the new designs like lack of containment for some, graphite pebble fire hazards in case of pebble bed, etc. etc. They appear to solve the meltdown problems but as with many man made complex systems, new issues have this nagging habit of emerging when operational experience is gained.)

Don't forget the waste handling issues, even in the case of breeders and reprocessing. For instance, Sellafield in the U.K and La Hague in France are among the biggest sources anthropogenic radioactive pollution in Europe. Only uranium mining approaches their pollution.

It is unlikely that nuclear will be cheaper than the myriad renewables and efficient distributed cogeneration use of natural gas in the near future assuming LNG goes ahead when all the post operational costs and effects are accounted for.

There are a mere 39 additional LNG terminals on the books in addition to the 4 that currently exist.  With limited shipbuilding of oil tankers and much of the energy shipbuilding being devoted LNG, somebody knows something about the oil and gas future for the US.

I would not call it good.  

There is an assumption here which I do not think is valid.  That NY can source enough LNG to replace Indian Point nukes AND be able to pay for it.

Japan gets half of it's LNG from Indonesia.  They have been told that existing contracts will not be renewed in 2008 & 2010 since NG is needed domestically in Indonesia.

UK is facing an electricity/NG crisis of epic proportions.  TOD-UK sees 2014 (+ or -) as the "crunch time" when the UK cannot afford/get the LNG it needs.

East Canada is talking about importing LNG from Russia.   We will need what we LNG we can import for home heating and high value manufacturing.

Peak World Gas is looming.

The dollar's value is "not certain" going forward due to our massive trade deficits (-$300 billion for oil today, -$800 billion overall, add LNG, higher oil prices, etc.)

Think 2020, 2025.  Do you want Indian Point on or off-line then ?

I think we will want the option to turn it up (or maybe just turn it back on) when and if necessary. I think we should have as many different options that could scale-up if necessary. I see starting LNG as a pretty good way of expanding that portfolio.

I think NY is going to need some nuclear long into the future, just maybe not so close to 25 million people.

Unfortunately if we do neither, we are just going to burn more coal or face rolling blackouts.

Maintaining a nuclear power plant in a "Ready" condition is fairly expensive.  "Ready" as in operational within, say, 6 months of a decision to go ahead.  Staff need to be kept ready, equipment tested, inventory in good shape and so forth.
This is the most credible statement in this entire thread.  Remember, most political buzzwords today regard freeing the US from it's dependence on foreign oil.  Ok, so how does switching off Indian Point and importing LNG accomplish this goal?  Not to mention the fact that like this poster says, it will be just as expensive if not moreso to import LNG going forward as transportation costs go up and supplies go way down.  No, LNG is not going to save NY by any means.  It just delays the inevitable and is a very poor investment which keeps us dependent on foreign energy sources.  The only investment worth making is in homegrown nuclear or renewable solutions.