WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said he's concerned over a report that one of the nuclear reactors at the Indian Point power plant along the Hudson River is on an earthquake fault line, and is checking into the matter.
Cuomo said it was a "surprise" to him that a federal study, first reported on MSNBC, finds Indian Point may be the nuclear plant most susceptible to possible damage from a massive earthquake in the nation.
One of the reactors is built very near an earthquake fault line.
Diane Screnci with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission took issue with the MSNBC report that her agency had actually determined Indian Point was most susceptible to an earthquake. She said the NRC had not produced a ranking.
"The news article ranked the plants," she wrote. "This wasn't a seismic ranking tool, just an effort to screen for plants needing a further look."
She says the currently operating nuclear power plants in the U.S. are safe. "Existing plants are designed with considerable margin to be able to withstand the ground motions that accounted for the largest earthquake expected in the area of the plant."
Throughout the decades, long debate over Indian Point opponents have raised the issue of the close proximity of the Ramapo Fault line to Indian Point, but regulators have not found it a disqualifier.
Episodic quakes have been documented along the fault that runs from Pennsylvania to the northeast through the New Jersey highlands and across the Hudson River by Westchester County where Indian Point is located. Those quakes have been in the 2.0-3.0 plus range with no damage reported.
In fact in the latest round of scientific review as part of Indian Point's re-licensing application, the NRC has already signed off on a 20-year extension for the plant, which first came on-line the 1970s. The NRC has yet to schedule the public hearing date on the re-licensing application.
At a press avail dominated by budget concerns, Cuomo said the MSNBC report had come up in his meeting with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
“One normally doesn’t think of earthquakes and New York in the same breath,” said Cuomo. "So that is a matter of concern."