Governor Kathy Hochul of New York State has taken a decisive and commendable step to protect the environment by signing the “Save the Hudson” bill. This bill, which was unanimously passed by the New York State Senate, aims to ban the discharge of radioactive liquid waste into the Hudson River. The move comes amidst the ongoing controversy surrounding Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and its release of contaminated water into the sea, which has raised concerns among neighboring countries such as Korea and China.
The Indian Point nuclear power plant, also known as ‘Chernobyl on the Hudson’, played a significant role in triggering this measure. Consisting of three units, this power plant has provided 25% of New York’s electricity for the past six decades. However, frequent incidents of radioactive material release since 2000, coupled with the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Fukushima nuclear disaster, fueled substantial public support for the complete closure of the plant. As a result, the New York State government made the decision to permanently shut down the plant in 2017, with the closure process commencing in 2021.
During the decommissioning process, the company responsible for dismantling the plant, Holtech, intended to discharge 1.3 million gallons of cooling water into the Hudson River. However, this proposal faced strong opposition from environmental groups such as Riverkeeper, who protested against the cooling water discharge. Taking the lead, Democratic Party lawmakers presented the bill to ban this practice.
Concerns regarding the release of tritium, a radioactive substance present in the cooling water, served as the primary driver behind this opposition. Environmental groups advocated for the storage of the cooling water on land for a minimum of 12 years, until a safer alternative could be found. Tritium has a half-life of 12.3 years, meaning that after this period, half of it decays into helium. However, the scientific consensus suggests that cooling water, including tritium, poses no significant danger.
In response to Holtech’s plan, the New York State government passed a law prohibiting the discharge of radioactive liquid waste. The quantity of cooling water intended for release, approximately 4.9 million liters, is significantly lower than the initial amount discharged by TEPCO at Fukushima. Moreover, the cooling water does not come into direct contact with the nuclear fuel, making the risks incomparably lower than the contaminated water from the Japanese nuclear power plant.
Interestingly, many countries with nuclear power plants, including Korea, choose to discharge cooling water into the sea or river without major concerns. This raises questions about the fairness of penalizing Holtech for its proposed method of disposal. In a statement, the company emphasized that the release of properly treated and chilled water would not compromise public safety.
In a separate development, the United States officially expressed its support for Japan’s management of the contaminated water leak at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The State Department’s spokesman, Matthew Miller, commended Japan for its safe, transparent, and science-based approach to addressing the issue.
Governor Kathy Hochul’s decision to sign the “Save the Hudson” bill marks a significant environmental victory. By banning the release of radioactive liquid waste into the Hudson River, New York State has taken a proactive and responsible stance in protecting its natural treasures. As the decommissioning process continues, it is crucial to prioritize the safety and well-being of both the environment and the public.
A radioactive material warning sign is attached to the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, north of Westchester County, New York, USA. 2021.1.26 AP = Yonhap News Amid the controversy surrounding the recent release of contaminated water from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, including the neighboring countries of Korea and China, pros and cons remain, the United States released, which supported the Japanese government’s decision , its own radioactive cooling water It is attracting new attention by enacting a law to ban it.
According to the Associated Press, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul signed the “Save the Hudson” bill on the 18th of last month to ban the discharge of radioactive liquid waste into the Hudson River. The bill, which was first proposed by a member of the ruling Democratic Party, was unanimously passed by the New York State Senate, and the Republican members of the opposition party also unanimously welcomed the ‘opposition to water cooling’.
Senator Hackham, a Democrat who initiated the bill, called the bill’s passage “one of the greatest environmental victories in history,” while Republican Congressman Mark Molina called it “a common sense step to protect America’s natural treasures.” .
The measure was initiated because of the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan on the lower Hudson River in New York state. Also known as ‘Chernobyl on the Hudson’, this nuclear power plant comprises a total of three units and has been responsible for 25% of New York’s electricity for the past 60 years. At the mouth of the Hudson River is Manhattan, New York.
However, since 2000, radioactive material release accidents have often caused trouble, and finally, as the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident in 2011 happened one after the other, public opinion about the full shutdown even within the region. In the end, the final closure was decided in 2017 by the state government, and the closure started in 2021.
Holtech, the company that took over the nuclear power plant and was responsible for dismantling it, used 1.3 million gallons of river water to cool the spent fuel rods in the process, and planned to discharge it into the Hudson River as . Then, environmental groups in New York, including Riverkeeper, were strongly opposed to the discharge of the cooling water and went on to protest, and eventually, the ruling Democratic Party lawmakers came forward to propose the bill in direct.
▲ On August 16, 2023, New Yorkers gathered at the Westchester County Center urged New York Governor Cathy Hocheol to sign a bill to ban the discharge of contaminated water from nuclear power plants into the Hudson River. US Senator Shelley Meyer seized Facebook. These environmental groups also demanded that Holtech not discharge the cooling water into the Hudson River, but store it on the ground for at least 12 years. As the danger of tritium, a radioactive substance contained in cooling water, has not been scientifically confirmed, the release should be delayed until a better alternative is found. Tritium has a half-life of 12.3 years, after which half of it spontaneously decays into helium.
Then, Holtec’s plan to cheaply dispose of the coolant was blocked by a New York State law to prohibit the discharge of radioactive liquid waste. The amount of cooling water they were trying to release is about 4.9 million liters, less than the amount that TEPCO first released from the 24th, and it does not come into direct contact with the nuclear fuel of the nuclear power plant, so the risk is incomparably lower than the contaminated water produced at the Fukushima nuclear power station.
In fact, cooling water is not scientifically dangerous, so most countries operating nuclear power plants, including Korea, discharge it into the sea or river. Holtech, which took the lead with the nuclear power plant when considering business feasibility, may be unfair. Holtec said in a statement that “it will not affect public safety by releasing chilled water that has gone through a specific process into the river.”
On the other hand, on the 25th, the United States issued an official statement supporting ‘Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant contaminated water leak’. “The United States is satisfied with Japan’s safe, transparent and science-based process,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.
▲ Cathy Hochul, Governor of New York, USA. 2023.6.7 AP=Rapid news
Reporter Choi Jae-heon
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