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AG Schneiderman Calls on Feds to Review Risks at Indian Point Nuclear Plant

Friday, March 18, 2011

WNYC

Add the state's top law enforcement officer to the list of elected officials voicing concerns over the safety of the Indian Point nuclear power plant in upstate New York.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Friday the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must take another look at the Westchester County plant in light of the events in Japan and new research on seismic threats in the plant's area.

The attorney general released a letter he wrote to the federal regulatory body demanding an immediate assessment of the risks posed by the Indian Point plant.

The licenses of the two reactors now operating at Indian Point are set to expire beginning in September 2013, and plant operator Entergy is applying for a 20-year extension for the complex's operation.

"This is coming up. There is enough time for the NRC to conduct a full, fair and open assessment [of] the danger posed by seismic activity," Schneiderman told reporters on Friday. "But the time is now."

Schneiderman said his move comes after an NRC report saying that 27 atomic power plants in the U.S., including Indian Point, are more earthquake prone than previously believed. In his letter, Schneiderman also demanded the NRC to address the risk posed by Indian Point Unit 1, which, although not currently in operation, has components conjoined to the two active units. Unit 1 was built in the 1950s before any specific requirements for earthquake protection. It was shut down in 1974 but active decontamination and decommissioning is not planned until 2013.

The NRC said it is reviewing Schneiderman's letter. A spokesperson said this week that existing power 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."

Entergy, in a statement this week, said that the risk is low for Indian Point because it is "neither susceptible to the type of earthquake that occurred in Japan, nor the tsunami that followed" but that it would nevertheless perform over the next 30 days "a comprehensive review of the plant's ability to respond to catastrophic events."

The attorney general's office last month sued NRC for approving a regulation, without the mandated environmental review, that would allow nuclear power facilities across the nation store radioactive waste for at least 60 years after their closure.

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