* NY Gov. wants Indian Point shut in 2013 and 2015
* Entergy wants to run reactors for another 20 years
* NRC to take years to decide on new reactor licenses
By Scott Disavino
NEW YORK, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Two environmental groups said on Monday the giant Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York could be replaced with cleaner, safer energy sources.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Riverkeeper said the region had surplus energy to replace the 2,065-megawatt Indian Point. The groups said the energy could be tapped by running existing generators at modest additional cost, with no impact to reliability of the electric supply until 2020.
The group responsible for New York's power grid disagreed, saying a shutdown of Indian Point could result in blackouts.
Indian Point is in Westchester County along the Hudson River, about 45 miles north of midtown Manhattan. The plant, which can power about 2 million homes, supplies about a quarter of the power used in New York City and Westchester.
"We have a wealth of safer energy sources ready to go that can fully replace the power from Indian Point. When we consider the human and economic costs of a nuclear crisis in New York, and the host of benefits from investing in clean energy, the solution is common sense," NRDC President Frances Beinecke said in a release.
Entergy , the second biggest nuclear power operator in the United States and Indian Point's owner, wants to keep running the plant for another 20 years and has filed with federal regulators to renew its two reactors' operating licenses before they expire in 2013 and 2015.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he wants Indian Point shut when its licenses expire, due in part to concerns for safety in having two nuclear reactors in the New York metropolitan area, home to about 19 million people.
NRC SAYS INDIAN POINT SAFE
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff has determined the two Indian Point reactors are safe to run for another 20 years.
It will likely take years before the NRC commissioners decide whether to renew the reactors' licenses. Before the commissioners decide, the agency's judicial board must air the concerns of opponents. Any decisions can also be appealed to the agency or potentially to federal court.
The new report, prepared for the NRDC and Riverkeeper by economic consulting firm Synapse Energy Economics, found that even if the Indian Point units both closed by 2015, there would be no need for new electric capacity until 2020.
The report identified several replacement power options that could be implemented well before 2020, including about 1,500 MW in savings from new energy efficiency, nearly 600 MW of renewable energy, 8,000 MW from new proposed transmission lines and more than 1,000 MW from repowering old existing natural gas plants in New York City.
The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) has warned the shutdown of Indian Point would leave the city vulnerable to blackouts and other reliability problems.
"It is clear that alternatives to Indian Point's power would result in serious environmental and economic consequences for New York City and Westchester residents," Jerry Nappi, a spokesman for Entergy, told Reuters.
New York's power company, Consolidated Edison , has said the shutdown of Indian Point would boost the already high cost of power in the Big Apple.
Power prices in New York are already among the highest in the nation. The average retail price of power in New York is about 15.5 cents per kilowatt hour versus 9.8 cents for the national average, according to federal data.
The environmental groups estimated the shutdown of Indian Point would only add about $1 to $5 per month to consumer's monthly bills. Other studies however have found that power costs in New York City and Westchester would rise much more if Indian Point were shut.