By Michael Mariotte

NY Governor Cuomo thinks Indian Point is too dangerous to operate. He’s right. But why are upstate reactors any different?

In mid-1986, New York Governor Mario Cuomo was asked about the future of nuclear power. The future of nuclear power, he replied, “is Chernobyl.” He understood that nuclear power is dangerous, and he understood that it could never become safe enough to use. He made good on that statement too: he decided to prevent the Shoreham reactor on Long Island, for which construction was basically completed and it had even been tested at very low power, from ever operating.

While he made a futile attempt at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to get them to deny a license to Shoreham, on the grounds that Long Island could never be evacuated in the event of a nuclear meltdown, he also created the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) and made the much-criticized local utility LILCO an offer it couldn’t refuse: the Authority bought Shoreham for a dollar and agreed to cover the decommissioning costs. The story is much longer and more complex than that, of course; for those who want to know more, Karl Grossman’s book Power Crazy covers the entire Shoreham saga, a boondoggle from the beginning whose bizarre story seems almost unimaginable today.

But while Cuomo stopped Shoreham, he didn’t go after Indian Point in the same way. It’s true that he had less leverage there–those reactors already were built and operating–but if he could create LIPA out of thin air, why not another authority in Indian Point’s region? After all, even Cuomo didn’t believe the Indian Point area, so close to New York City, could be evacuated either.

Imagine, by the way, trying to evacuate that area during an event like last week’s blizzard.

And Gov. Mario Cuomo said virtually nothing about New York’s upstate nuclear reactors, even though, if the future of nuclear power was Chernobyl, that would seem to apply everywhere, not just on Long Island.

A generation later, Mario Cuomo’s son Andrew is now Governor Cuomo. And this Gov. Cuomo has made clear he wants Indian Point closed. It’s unsafe, he says, and the area cannot be evacuated. And this Gov. Cuomo is, by any honest assessment, doing just about everything a Governor can do to close those reactors.

On those grounds, Gov. Andrew Cuomo would be a hero to the clean energy movement.

And there’s more. Gov. Andrew Cuomo also wants to end the use of coal in the state, and he is insisting on a clean energy plan that New York attain 30% of its electricity from renewables by 2020, less than five years from now, and 50% renewables by 2030. For a large, industrial state, that is by any measure an aggressive plan.

But where Gov. Mario Cuomo essentially ignored New York’s upstate reactors, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has embarked on a new crusade–not to close them, but to ensure they continue operating at any cost. And that cost, which is part of a new Clean Energy Standard proposal released this …read more

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