Editorials

“Exec. Spano tackles Indian Point the right way” by Phil Riesman

When it comes to Indian Point, it’s time to say goodbye to the eggheads.

It’s time to approach the radiological experts, the behavioral scientists, the vast legion of seers and predicters of alternate calamity and calm and politely say, “Thank you.” Thank you for your testimony, your expertise and your logic.

But as the boxer Roberto Duran famously said after a battering, “No mas.”

Enough.

In the wake of 9/11, there have been more than enough public hearings, studies and spin doctoring about the safety and security of the nuclear power facility in Buchanan, and more than enough debate about its capability to withstand a terrorist attack from land, water or air.

Pick your policy wonk. Take a position as a free and independent American citizen.

But after a while, the talk starts to implode into white noise. It’s time for the talk to be translated into policy and strong leadership.

Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano said as much during a WNYC radio forum on Indian Point that was taped Tuesday night at Manhattanville College and was aired yesterday.

“I have a saying,” Spano began. “For every Ph.D., there’s an equal and opposite Ph.D. So when I try to make a decision, I at least try to listen to both sides, and I am totally confused on an ongoing basis about Indian Point.”

That line got a laugh from the live audience of about 300 people. But this was Spano at his best.

He was frank, plain spoken and clearly taking the lead on an immensely difficult issue that had beleaguered him in the past. For a while, Spano seemed completely caught off guard by the post-9/11, world, particularly when he found himself defending an emergency preparedness plan that was comically inadequate.

Now, Spano is on his game. He has descended from the ivory tower of the Michaelian Office Building, with all its imperial trappings, to become the leader he was elected to be.

He’s heard from the Ph.D.s, he said, “so I’ve come to my own decision based on what I think is logic and common sense.”

Spano said his mission was to find a way of providing both safety and 2,000 megawatts of electricity to his constituents.

“What you have here is a nuclear power plant that could be extremely dangerous,” he said. “That’s logic. No one here said that if there’s a catastrophic scenario, nothing is going to happen at Indian Point. There is a possibility of that happening.”

Another reality, he said, is terrorism, “the bad guys.”

“They’re not going away,” he said. “They’re gonna be around. They’re gonna sit back. They’re gonna wait ā€” and this is a great target.

“And I say to myself ā€” I say, ‘Andy, if you can replace the energy for Indian Point, why do we need this thing here? Why do we need this threat in the middle of this population when it’s not necessary?’ “

Yesterday, Spano formally announced that the county will seek bids for a consulting firm to analyze the ways and means to take over the Con Edison transmission lines, condemn and shut down the nuke plants once and for all, and find other sources of energy.

He estimated the cost of condemning the Indian Point facility at about $2 billion, though he expected Entergy, the plant owner, to demand $4 billion. Jim Steets, an Entergy spokesman, said at Tuesday’s radio taping that $5 billion or $6 billion was more realistic.

Whatever happens, money will certainly be a deciding factor for Indian Point. But what price safety?

We just fought a war on a blank-check basis because the president said you can’t put a price on security and freedom. That supposed threat was halfway around the world. Indian Point is only down the road.

Politics is about creating choices. For months, the Indian Point debate provided no choices, only a lot of talk and hand wringing.

Spano has taken a step in the right direction. He’s not alone out there, but hey, has anyone heard from Gov. Pataki lately?

This editorial originally appeared in the Journal News

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