Curtain lowers on nuke plant a stone's throw from Manhattan

FILE - This Feb. 28, 2017, file photo shows Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, N.Y. The 1,020-megawatt Unit 2 reactor at the Indian Point Energy Center along the Hudson River will close for good Thursday, April 30, 2020 and 1,040-megawatt Unit 3 will close in April 2021, as part of a deal reached in January 2017 between Entergy Corp., the state of New York and the environmental group Riverkeeper.  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
FILE - This Feb. 28, 2017, file photo shows Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, N.Y. The 1,020-megawatt Unit 2 reactor at the Indian Point Energy Center along the Hudson River will close for good Thursday, April 30, 2020 and 1,040-megawatt Unit 3 will close in April 2021, as part of a deal reached in January 2017 between Entergy Corp., the state of New York and the environmental group Riverkeeper. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File) (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

ALBANY, N.Y. – With the push of a red button, one of the two operating reactors at an aging nuclear plant serving millions of people in the New York City area will shut down Thursday night as federal regulators consider the owner’s proposal to sell it to a company that plans to demolish it.

The Unit 2 reactor at the Indian Point Energy Center along the Hudson River will close for good Thursday, and Unit 3 will close in April 2021, as part of a deal reached in January 2017 between Entergy Corp., the state of New York and the environmental group Riverkeeper.

The plant generated a quarter of the electricity used in New York City and suburban Westchester County, where the plant is located, in 2017. But the corporation that runs the state's electrical grid concluded the closure won't impair its ability to keep the lights on because new natural gas plants and efficiency measures are picking up the slack.

Operators will press a button that inserts control rods into the reactor adjacent to the nuclear fuel, Entergy spokesman Jerry Nappi said Tuesday. The control rods absorb neutrons, which stops the fission that creates the energy.

Staffing will be reduced from about 800 to 300 workers about 30 days after Unit 3 shuts down next year, Nappi said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, had long sought the shutdown, saying the plant 24 miles north of Manhattan in Buchanan posed too great a risk to millions of people who live and work nearby.

Riverkeeper noted Hudson River fish kills, soil and water contamination, recurrent emergency shutdowns and vulnerability to terrorist attacks. Entergy cited low natural gas prices and increased operating costs as key factors in its decision to close Indian Point.

A year ago, Entergy announced a deal to sell the 240-acre plant to the New Jersey-based decommissioning firm Holtec International, which has submitted a dismantling plan to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The plant is to be demolished by the end of 2033 at a projected cost of $2.3 billion.