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High court hears nuke power plant case

Marketplace Staff Dec 1, 2008
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High court hears nuke power plant case

Marketplace Staff Dec 1, 2008
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KAI RYSSDAL: No matter how long people linger in their morning showers or leave the water running while they brush their teeth, consumers have a long way to go to before they become the biggest water users in this economy. Which is not to say it’s OK to waste it.

But when it comes to water, factories and power plants are huge consumers. Power plants, in particular, use water mostly to keep things from getting too hot. Problem is, that kills a lot of fish. So tomorrow the Supreme Court will take up a case that could force expensive retrofits.

From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Sam Eaton reports.


SAM EATON: The case pits the New York environmental group, Hudson Riverkeeper, against Entergy Corp., owner of the Indian Point nuclear power plant on the Hudson River. But its ruling, says Riverkeeper President Alex Matthiessen, would affect more than 1,000 power plants and factories drawing water from U.S. lakes, rivers and oceans.

ALEX MATTHIESSEN: These companies have gotten a free ride. They have profited enormously from not having to protect the environment. And now it’s time to pay the piper.

Matthiessen says the costs to the environment have been huge. In the case of the Indian Point nuclear power plant, more than a billion small fish and eggs die every year after being sucked into its immense cooling system.

MATTHIESSEN: This one plant withdraws 2.4 billion gallons of water each day from the Hudson River. That is nearly twice as much as all of New York City consumes each day.

According to the Clean Water Act, industrial polluters are required to use the best technology available to avoid environmental damage. Newer power plants already do this. But Entergy says installing the same technology on an older plant like Indian Point, built before the act, would cost $1.5 billion — more than enough to warrant an exception, says spokesman Jim Steets.

JIM STEETS: It simply doesn’t make sense for us to be forced to install cooling towers when there’s very little benefit to be gained.

Steets says estimates of fish kills are exaggerated. The Hudson Riverkeeper’s Matthiessen says Entergy is the one with the fuzzy math. He says the cost of upgrading would be closer to a quarter of a billion dollars — a small price to pay, he says, when it comes to protecting an entire ecosystem.

I’m Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

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