Tucker and I have made excellent progress on our doc! We visited Peekskill, NY a town which overlooks Indian Point Power Plant. The walkway along the Hudson was quite beautiful, though the nuclear plant looming right over it was quite ominous. Here are some behind the scene pictures from our journey:
iPhone photo of Indian Point presiding over the Hudson River by Georgia Krause.
Tucker checking for tritium.
Tucker overheating in his unnecessarily large jacket as he shoots footage of Indian Point power plant.
Arriving at the Peekskill “Scenic Hudson Park”.
Tucker on the train to Peekskill, stoked about filming the power plant!
Additionally we have officially secured the rights to use the Scott Waldman interview in my last post titled “5 Years After Fukushima, How vulnerable is Indian Point?”
I am also in the process of arranging several interviews. One of the individuals I am speaking with and hoping to record an interview with is Arthur Ginsberg who worked for Indian Point power plant for several years.
I am also arranging an interview with Dr. Irwin Redlener the director of Columbia’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness and Dr. David Brenner, who directs Columbia’s Center for Radiological Research.
We are also hoping to get an activist perspective and someone who is currently employed by Indian Point.
Thus far on our project Tucker and I have done preliminary research on Indian Point, interviewed Alfred Meyer, and Tucker has gone to Peekskill, NY to document the SAPE2016 rally. While Tucker’s documentation is easy to show visually (though cold) my work has been predominantly on the research side. While Tucker’s research is much more hands on, my research looks more like this:
But I have found quite a good deal of interesting archival footage and documents that we can incorporate (once we get permission) into our documentary. Including this WNYC interview with Scott Walderman.
This letter sent from Andrew Cuomo warning energy CEO and Commissioners of the dangers of Indian Point.
Moving forward plan to collect more archival footage and documents pertinent to the Indian Point Energy Facility, and we plan to go shoot at the site itself this Wednesday. We are not sure what to expect, but we will do our best investigative journalism. We are also both working to secure at least two more interviews from experts in the area. Tucker is aiming to make a connection with some of the activists he met at the SAPE rally while I am reaching out to professional medical researchers at the NYU Langone Center for Medical Research. We will update with more behind the scenes action (process photos this time I promise) when we make our trek out to the power plant site itself.
As mentioned, Tucker and I’s interview with Alfred Meyer went very well. We have reviewed the footage and though we will have to cut it down considerably (we have almost 25 minutes of interview for our 5-10 minute documentary) we got a ton of great information. But unfortunately we did not take any production stills. Alfred did wear the same outfit as he did during his talk about Fukushima, so the photo below is good reference. Additionally the bookcase in the second photo is the same one in Alfred’s apartment which used for our interview backdrop.
Alfred Meyer at the “Global Health and Environment in the Post-2015 Agenda Talk.
Alfred Meyer’s reference photo for the Physicians for Social Responsibility webpage.
Additionally my wonderful partner Tucker Pearson was able to attend an event sponsored by Stop the Algonquin Pipeline (SAPE) where protestors addressed a variety of environmental issues. The event particularly revolved around the current implementation of a natural gas pipeline which will be installed less than 105 feet away from Indian Point infrastructure. Alfred Meyer touched briefly on this new development in Indian Point’s dangerous history. Today, concerned citizens and activists alike gathered to draw attention to this pipeline (which many experts have asserted could lead to a nuclear disaster equal to or greater than to Fukushima meltdown of 2011.) At the event Tucker shot B-roll of the Indian Point power plant itself, filmed some of the anti-nuclear power talks, and spoke to local activists. Here is some behind the scene footage of Tucker’s adventure:
The crowd at the SAPE2016 Event.
Indian Point nuclear power plant on the Hudson River.
This cute doggie calls for the shutdown of Indian Point.
“Indian Point safely and reliably provides enough power to light about 2 million homes, thousands of businesses, and hundreds of critical transportation, health and municipal systems,” The website for the toxic nuclear power plant boasts. The website is a part of a larger company, Entergy‘s, page. The company is a billion dollar corporation which funnels vast resources into the extraction of electric energy, no matter what the cost. The plant which this particular section of the site discusses is Indian Point, a plant whose leakage of tritium has caused pollution around many groundwater sources in its area, just north of New York City. Despite Governor Cuomo’s statement acknowledging the fact that samples of wells near Indian Point showed an almost 65,000% increase in tritium levels the PR team for Indian Point continues to assure the public that their practice of harnessing nuclear energy is perfectly safe. They even released a video after their shutdown in December 2015 stating that “safety is their priority”.
Because of the recent shutdown of Indian Point and the consequent call for its permanent decommissioning, we believe the plant — which is in close proximity to our native New York City — would make an interesting and very relevant topic for Tucker Pearson and I’s final project. We plan to make a documentary on Indian Point which focuses on:
The plant’s inception and the reason’s for the use of nuclear power.
Indian Point’s December meltdown (why it happened).
The science behind tritium leakage and the danger it poses to us and future generations.
Why it should be shut down.
Our sources will include online articles from both environmental activists and public statements from the company.
Self shot footage/photos of the plant.
An interview with Alfred Meyer, scientist and anti-Indian Point activist.
Interview with environmental activist against Indian Point.
Phone interview with representative from Indian Point. (Hopefully).
Our project is important because through the media of film we will draw attention to the problems of Indian Point and highlight how it directly affects the New York City area. We will raise awareness and hopefully play a role in the movement of getting Indian Point shut down for good before it ends in:
This weekend in Buchanan, New York, there were reports of a spike in radioactivity in the groundwater near Indian Point Energy Center. Indian Point Energy Center is a nuclear plant 30 miles from New York City that provides electricity of NYC and Westchester County. The plant is 42 years old (NYTimes).
The level of radioactivity in the groundwater jumped 65,000 percent. Entergy, the company that owns the plant, reported the spike to the state, but also claimed it posed no danger to the public (statement below).
[“While elevated tritium in the ground on-site is not in accordance with our standards, there is no health or safety consequence to the public, and releases are more than a thousand times below federal permissible limits,” the company said. “The tritium did not affect any source of drinking water on-site or offsite.”]
After researching the effects of tritium of the health, I was surprised to find that many scientists have deems it not detrimental to human health. In fact, tritium leaks into groundwater are not uncommon. I am skeptical that a radioactive material in unnaturally high doses is not harmful to human health. Nevertheless, this leak in radioactive material is indicative of a more widespread problem.
I have often questioned the safety of nuclear energy. In my home country, France, more than two thirds of the country’s electricity comes from nuclear. However, while I lived in Japan, I experienced firsthand the unforgiving consequences of a nuclear accident.
Nuclear fission reactors are advertised as a major clean source of energy. Proponents of nuclear argue that is cost efficient, clean, and scalable. However, nuclear power also presents many disadvantages. Firstly, while it is true that nuclear energy produces cheap electricity, on average 2.1 cents per kilowatt hour, this does not reflect the increasing cost of constructing nuclear power plants. The cost and time of building new plants has increased dramatically over the years (shown below – from Berthélemya and Rangel). This is because of the increase cost of complying to new safety regulations.
Secondly, while it is true that nuclear energy is clean to generate, it is not completely clean. Nuclear energy leaves behind nuclear waste, a highly radioactive nuclear fuel rod is damaging to human health and the environment for thousands of years. However, there is no sure and safe method of storing these waste products as of yet. Additionally, in the event of an accident, nuclear technology of inflicting extensive and something continuous damage.
And lastly, is nuclear power safe? I am reminded of an apt analogy I heard long ago that explains the risk of nuclear power: Nuclear power is like air travel. The vast majority of times, it is safe and routine. But when something goes wrong, it goes very wrong.
Nuclear energy in the US
Given the rapidly increasing cost of construction, utilities and plant owners are attempting to prolong the life of old plants in order to maintain their profits and avoid additional costs. This disturbing trend means that the average age of a nuclear plant in the USA is now 35 years (US Energy Information Administration). Thus, the US’ energy demand is being met by dilapidated, outdated nuclear plants; an issue that can endanger thousands of people and ecosystems.
Indian Point, in particular, has hosted numerous dangerous incidents, especially in the past five years. The plant’s original 40 year license has already expired. Entergy applied for a 20-year extension and the plant is currently awaiting license renewal (Nuclear Regulatory Commission).
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has the final say in whether the plant’s license will be renewed, or whether it will be shutdown. Ideally, I hope the Commission will base its decision off scientific and professional findings.
It is interesting to note that Indian Point has faced scrutiny over the years, particularly since the Fukushima accident in 2011. Governor Cuomo has long advocated for the shutdown of the plant. However, there is some political opposition. This is unsurprising considering Entergy’s massive lobbying efforts. Between 2005 and 2012, the company spent $31.4 million lobbying the federal government. Within New York State, Entergy has spent $1,666,747 in the 2012 election cycle compared to $706,403 in the 2006. Interestingly, Governor Cuomo has received no money. Former Representative Nan Hayworth, who received $23,200 during the 2012 election cycle, was one of the most vocal advocates for renewing Indian Point’s license (Common Cause, ABC News).