The staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission yesterday recommended that a permit to construct a nuclear plant at Cementon, N.Y., in the Hudson River Valley be denied because it would destroy one of the most scenic vistas in the United States.
The recommendation is the first NRC opposition to a nuclear power plant site on aesthetic grounds. It has the full backing of the New York State Public Service Commission and the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The application to build the plant came from the autonomous Power Authority of the State of New York.
NRC's objections were not so much to the plant itself as to the 450-foot-high cooling tower that would have to be built alongside it to discharge water at the right temperatures to the Hudson River. The agency said the cooling tower together with its visible plume of steam, would ruin the view up and down the river, which was described by novelist James Fenimore Cooper as a "panorama of all Creation."
Located east of the Catskill Mountains, the plant site lies at a bend in the Hudson River Valley near the Rip Van Winkle Bridge north of West Point. The site is six miles from Olana, the estate of Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church, who called the view the "bend in the river" and painted it at least 35 times.
The NRC staff also said that a plant at Cementon might hurt the town's economy, which now depends on a cement plant operated by the Lehigh Portland Cement Co. The company told the NRC that the plant would be on land Lehigh needs to expand and if denied the land, Lehigh said it would move the plant elsewhere.