Future City Lab: Indian Point Energy Center Retirement

Grade Level: 6-9
Keywords: nuclear energy, alternative energy, pollution, energy conservation, energy efficiency
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Source: www.flickr.com/tonythemisfit

Time Estimate: 45 minutes 

Connection to Future City LabLiving with Nature: How can New York City enhance its natural environment and cope with climate change? 

Connection to World CityOn the Brink, 1970-1980 

Objectives

Students will

  • be able to describe what Indian Point is 

  • be able to discuss some of the positives and negatives of retiring the Indian Point Energy Center 

  • be able to discuss some of the options available to replace the Indian Point Energy Center 

Materials

Standards

  • Science Scope and Sequence PS. Key Idea 4: Energy exists in many forms, and when these forms change, energy is conserved. 

    • Electrical energy can be produced from a variety of energy sources and can be transformed into almost any other form of energy. (4.4d)  

  • Science Scope And Sequence LE. Key Idea 7: Human decisions have had a profound impact on the physical and living environment. 

    • Societies must decide on proposals which involve the introduction of new technologies. Individuals need to make decisions which will assess risks, costs, benefits, and trade-offs. (7.3a)  

  • RST.6–8.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.  

  • RHST.6–8.2: Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.  

  • RHST.6–8.4: Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in specific scientific or technical context relevant to Grades 6–8 texts and topics.  

  • RST.6–8.8: Distinguish among facts, reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in a text.  

  • WHST.6–8.9: Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.  

Guiding Questions

  1. Should New York retire the Indian Point Energy Center? 

  2. What important factors need to be considered when discussing energy use? 

    Procedures

  1. Do Before
  2. Review the following sources before class discussion so you’re familiar with Indian Point (IPEC), its location, and the two opposing sides in the fight over whether to re-certify it for continued use.  

    Image of Indian Point (via flickr.com/tonythemisfit): https://www.flickr.com/photos/tonythemisfit/2755502911/

    Entergy’s lobbying website, “Safe, Secure, Vital,” for a pro-IPEC viewhttp://www.safesecurevital.com/ 

    Anti-IPEC Subpage of Riverkeeperhttps://www.riverkeeper.org/campaigns/stop-polluters/indian-point/ 

  3. Introduction: Where does New York get its energy from?
  4. Students can try to guess or deduce who or what provides energy to the largest city in the United States. 

    If able, project image from page 7 of City of New York Inventory of New York City’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions, April 2016, by Cventure LLC, Cathy Pasion, Mikael Amar, and Yun Zhou, Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, New York, 2016: http://www.nyc.gov/html/gbee/downloads/pdf/NYC_GHG_Inventory_2015.pdf 

  5. Indian Point Introduction (10 minutes)
  6. Introduce students to the IPEC debate, perhaps using Flickr image above and map of Indian Point’s location in Buchanan, New York to give a sense of distance and scale. 

    See https://www.nei.org/Knowledge-Center/How-Nuclear-Reactors-Work for a summary of how nuclear reactors work and a helpful graphic that shows how nuclear power plants heat water to create steam and drive turbines for electricity generation. 

    From the NEI site: “Nuclear power plants split uranium atoms inside a reactor in a process called fission. At a nuclear energy facility, the heat from fission is used to produce steam, which spins a turbine to generate electricity. There are no emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide during the production of electricity at nuclear energy facilities. Nuclear energy is the only clean-air source of energy that produces electricity 24 hours a day, every day.” 

    Once students are familiar with Indian Point and how nuclear power plants generate electricity, note that nuclear facilities have had disasters that have led to contamination and evacuations – the two worst being:  

    1.) The 1986 Chernobyl Reactor meltdown in the Ukraine, which caused radioactive material to spread over large areas of Europe. 

    2.) In 2011, a tsunami flooded the Fukushima Daiichi Reactor in Japan, causing damage and evacuations. 

  7. Information gathering: Should Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC) be shut down? (20 minutes)
  8. Explain to the class that New York City is considering shutting down Indian Point (without revealing that a deal has been made) and that each group will do a little research before the class as a whole discusses the decision. Divide the class into three groups. Each group will get a different reading. One group will get the anti-shutdown CRA report, the second group will get the pro-shutdown Synapse analysis, and the third group will get The New York Times article that discusses the recent events that a deal has been reached in regards to Indian Point. Give the students 20 minutes to dissect the readings and decide what information they found useful. Give students Post-it notes to help them organize and order the information according to relevancy.  

  9. Sharing Out: Groups One and Two (Pros and Cons – 10 minutes)
  10. Create a T-chart on the board and ask each group to contribute important information they discovered that that could be used to help decide whether Indian Point should be shut down. (Don't ask Group Three to go yet – leave the decision in doubt.) After the first two groups share, ask them what they think should happen. 

    Consider reviewing the two reports in full in advance so you can show the students key graphics from each that can illuminate their arguments and discussion unfolds. 

  11. Sharing Out: Group Three (The Result – 5 minutes)
  12. Students in Group Three will share out with the rest of the class about what they learned regarding the future of Indian Point. 

  13. Conclusion
  14. Ask the students: Is this an easy decision to make? Discuss risks and complexity. How do you decide what is a worse scenario? Is there any uncertainty? Were there factors that couldn’t be predicted? 

    Consider ending with this note from the Charles River Associates report: 

    “Articulating planning objectives is critical in the public debate, as the decision of how to address IPEC’s retirement can be viewed as a tradeoff between increased consumer cost, increased emissions, and increased development risk. There is no option, including plausible increases in energy conservation, which achieves low increases in cost, low increases in emissions, and an easy development process. The decisions regarding these tradeoffs will lie in the realm of public policy. Those who assert that there are ‘cheap’ and ‘simple’ solutions simply fail to acknowledge these tradeoffs” (p. 19). 

Additional Resources 

For another perspective on Indian Point shutdown, see the New York Post’s take: http://nypost.com/2017/01/09/new-york-will-pay-big-for-cuomos-indian-point-shutdown/ 

What is Nuclear? Website: https://whatisnuclear.com/index.html 

Fieldtrips: This content is inspired by the World City, 1898-2012 and Future City Lab galleries in the Museum’s flagship exhibition, New York at Its Core. If possible, consider bringing your students on a fieldtrip! Visit http://mcny.org/education/field-trips to find out more. 

Acknowledgements

This series of lesson plans for New York at Its Core was developed in conjunction with a focus group of New York City public school teachers: Joy Canning, Max Chomet, Vassili Frantzis, Jessica Lam, Patty Ng, and Patricia Schultz.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in these lessons do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.