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Cuomo says NRC to make Indian Point top priority

The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 23, 2011; 8:46 AM

ALBANY, N.Y. -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is making a top priority of reviewing the Indian Point power plant located north of New York City near a geologic fault line, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

"My position has been for a long time that the plant is risky," said Cuomo, who sent a team to meet with the NRC Tuesday. As attorney general he had, in 2007, accused the NRC of being irresponsible as it sought to relicense the plant, even as New York City continues to depend on its power.

"My position hasn't changed," Cuomo said after debriefing his team.

Cuomo said that as much as 6 percent of the U.S. population lies within a 50-mile radius of the plant and "evacuation isn't even a feasible concept."

Opponents of the Westchester plant 35 miles north of New York City have new ammunition following the nuclear crisis in Japan, brought on by an earthquake and tsunami. They also point to recent data from the U.S. Geological Survey about risks posed by a nearby fault line.

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said the meeting yielded several agreements. He said state officials will join NRC inspectors as they review the plant's ability to withstand stronger earthquakes. When the reactors were built in the 1970s, they were intended to withstand the region's most serious earthquake in history. But new seismic data shows greater resilience may be warranted.

Sheehan also said the NRC will share its data with the Cuomo administration as soon as it's available, if there is no legal concern that proprietary information would be released. He said the NRC will make Indian Point the top priority in reviewing plant owners' responses nationwide to the NRC's questions about earthquake scenarios.

Sheehan said that data is expected next year. The relicensing review continues. One reactor's license expires in 2013, the other in 2015.

The owner of New York's Indian Point nuclear power plant says the facility is not susceptible to the kind of earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan.

Entergy Corp.'s vice president, John McCann, told Westchester County legislators on Monday that the earthquake in Japan was much more powerful than any recorded in the region of Indian Point.

McCann said he expected changes to be made in response to the events in Japan, but he didn't say what they would be.

Entergy on Monday took out a full-page ad in The New York Times reassuring the public that the facility is designed to withstand the strongest earthquake anticipated in the area.

"The NRC is the problem, not the solution," said Richard Brodsky, a former Westchester assemblyman still fighting the plant's relicensing. He recently lost a federal case over structural supports that he argued failed to meet safety requirements in the event of a fire. He said the NRC should have been enforcing the issue, rather than provide Entergy with an exemption.

On Tuesday, Brodsky announced that he filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain NRC exemptions to all safety and health regulations at all commercial nuclear plants nationwide.

© 2011 The Associated Press