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“Debate over future of Indian Point nuclear plants won’t end overnight” by Rita J. King

This is the final article in a series on the nuclear industry

While a growing cacophony clamors for the closure of the Indian Point nuclear power plants in Buchanan, many who work at the facility or live in the communities supported by it are just as fervent about keeping the source of their economic security thriving.

Nuclear power, supporters ardently argue, is a cheap, clean alternative to burning fossil fuels. But many believe the energy can come from other sources to eliminate the hazard of deadly nuclear waste and the possibility of terrorism or accidents.

Scientists and other experts in the middle of the debate study traffic, radiation plumes and escape times. But even former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) James Lee Witt, the top expert in emergency planning in the nation, was virtually ignored when he issued a litany of concerns about the emergency evacuation plans.

Other sources of concern are the age of the plants and the density of the population in the metropolitan New York City area. Combined with the threat of deliberate sabotage or malfunction, many feel the only real solution is to decommission Indian Point.

Indian Point’s slogan, Safe, Secure and Vital, has been vocally challenged in board rooms, classrooms and courts. Environmentalists, legislators and concerned citizens have adopted a dark-mirror mantra of their own: Unsafe, Unsecure and Fatal.

But no matter which side is ultimately right or wrong, the fact is nobody can flip a switch and shut down a nuclear plant overnight. Many issues related to nuclear power and Indian Point have been passionately debated in a variety of forums, and now a study is being conducted so Westchester County can look at some of the practical issues of shutting down Indian Point permanently.

Indian Point Retirement Options
In 1978, the Republican majority on the Westchester County Legislature blocked a two-part referendum from appearing on the ballot. The referendum would have permitted the county to set up a utility agency, and to sell revenue bonds totaling up to three quarters of a billion dollars to fund the takeover of Con Edison’s electric distribution system in the county, including Indian Point.

The following year, voters did have the opportunity to approve a county utility, but 55 percent shot it down, owing largely to the staggering price.

Now, almost 25 years later, Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano is awaiting the results of a new study that will decipher some of the more pressing intricacies surrounding the permanent closure of Indian Point, such the as the cost of buying the facility from Entergy and the economic impact on local communities.

In April 2003, Spano started looking for an independent firm to study the county’s options. A month later, the Boston-based firm Levitan & Associates, Inc. (LAI), a consulting firm specializing in the energy industry, responded to the call.

Tentatively entitled “Indian Point Retirement Options and Issues,” the study will focus on options for closing the plant, the issue of replacement power and local economic impacts that could result from the loss the facility.

Several months into the study, LAI Vice-President and Principal Seth Parker, along with other consultants working on the project, gave a press conference at the Westchester County Center. Unlike other heavily attended meetings where emotionally charged speakers railed against emergency evacuation plans and other perceived hazards, few were scattered in the empty seats.

“Today’s meeting isn’t emotional, it’s analytical,” Westchester County Legislator Michael Kaplowitz (D) said at the time. “It’s a cold, hard look at the energy market.”

The $300,000 study was commissioned by the County of Westchester Public Utility Service Agency (COWPUSA).

Former Westchester County Attorney Alan Scheinkman, a consultant for the study, said the scope of the project doesn’t include “evacuation plans or terror strikes.”

“Those are important issues,” he said, “but this study is intended to develop conclusive data in support of a rational policy decision.”

Parker, interviewed this week, didn’t want to say much about the report, which isn’t due until the first quarter of 2005, at the earliest. He did say Westchester County only has two real options: condemnation or negotiation.

Should the county choose condemnation of the aging facility, a judicial proceeding would be required, Parker explained. Negotiation is a different matter.

“The county would have to see if Entergy would be willing to work out a deal,” Parker said.

When looking at replacement power, the LAI study will focus strictly on conventional power sources, such as the viability of a natural gas pipeline, and not renewable or alternate energy. Parker said he’s a “strong believer” in such sources, but the county didn’t include them in the scope of the project because of funding limitations, according to Westchester’s Director of Communications Susan Tolchin.

“Some people are saying shut it down, some are saying keep it open,” Tolchin said. “The county executive has said we need a study to determine the effects of those decisions.”

Spano has repeatedly expressed his desire to see Indian Point decommissioned. Tolchin said his feelings about the nuclear facility changed after September 11, 2001, as he supported the facility prior to that day.

The county has been swimming upstream since then. Two years ago, Spano and his colleagues from three neighboring counties, Putnam, Rockland and Orange, refused to sign off on checklists verifying emergency preparedness, believing the move would leave the FEMA no choice but to find the plans inadequate.

“We’re suing FEMA,” Tolchin said. “For two years, they haven’t provided us with any information. FEMA now says they don’t need our information to approve the plans. They hold all the cards. From our point of view, they set rules and regulations and when we didn’t provide ‘reasonable assurance’ they broke their own regulations. We asked them to tell us why, but they haven’t provided us with anything other than, ‘It’s fine.’ We’re so angry.”

The federal government’s management of the evacuation plan debacle embodies the frustration of legislators trying to get information.

Congresswoman Nita Lowey criticized NRC, the agency responsible for regulating the nuclear industry, on September 3, 2003.

“Once again, NRC has put the cart before the horse,” said Lowey. “It took the agency less than a day to rubber-stamp approval of the emergency evacuation plans for Indian Point without an independent review. Now, it is declaring emergency response plans for all our nuclear facilities adequate before a review is complete. These kinds of presumptions and outright negligence have no place in post-September 11th security procedures.”

NRC Chairman Nils Diaz sent her a letter in response. “Although the studies will not be fully completed until the fall of this year,” he wrote, “it is already clear that the planning basis for off-site emergencies remains valid in terms of timing and magnitude for the range of potential radiological consequences of a terrorist attack upon the reactors or spent fuel pools.”

The evacuation plans will not be included in the LAI study, but other, more tangible aspects of life near Indian Point will be put under an economic microscope.

“This is a challenging assignment,” Parker said of the project.

The study will employ “sophisticated modeling,” Parker said, to determine various scenarios and the ramifications of each on the local economy.

Westchester County is also trying to see if a buy-out of Indian Point might be possible.

NRC has never ordered the decommissioning of a plant, according to their spokesman, Neil Sheehan. A utility must make the decision and inform the NRC of its intentions.

According to the Nuclear Energy Institute’s statistics, 18 plants across the nation are either closed or in the process of closing down. Sheehan said utilities like Indian Point 1 have chosen in the past to shut down permanently for several reasons.

“Some realized they couldn’t meet safety standards,” Sheehan said.

But wouldn’t the NRC already be aware of the failure to meet standards and force a plant to close down in the absence of volunteerism?

It hasn’t happened yet, Sheehan said, although the NRC has the authority to “order a decommissioning when there’s clear evidence a plant can’t operate safely.”

“If we saw evidence that safety standards weren’t being met, we would discuss it very seriously,” he said.

When the LAI study was discussed at a press conference this fall, watchdog environmental group Riverkeeper’s former Senior Policy Analyst Kyle Rabin started to discuss environmental hazards, such as accidental radioactive leaks, a recent spate of unplanned shutdowns and fishkills on the Hudson River.

“Spent nuclear fuel storage is one of the greatest environmental dilemmas this country has ever faced,” Rabin said.

“Nobody would deny those are terrible things,” Parker said, “but they’re outside the scope of our study.”

“You can only cram so many factors into the bouillabaisse of decision-making,” Kaplowitz said. “That’s what makes this an art as much as a science.”

In the Shadow of Indian Point
The “Not in My Backyard,” philosophy doesn’t apply to Buchanan Mayor Dan O’Neill. Now that the leaves have fallen, he can see the double domes of Indian Point from his bedroom window.

“I’m not losing any sleep worrying about it,” said O’Neill, who has two children, ages 9 and 11.

When Rory Kennedy, sister of Riverkeeper’s Senior Prosecuting Attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., produced a short film for HBO, “Indian Point: Imagining the Unimaginable,” O’Neill said he was interviewed for nearly five hours.

When O’Neill saw a newspaper article in which Kennedy had been quoted with what he perceived to be an “obvious bias,” he sent her, and the media, a letter demanding to be removed from her film prior to the release date.

It didn’t matter at all, because Kennedy had already opted against including O’Neill in the film.

He said the film was based on “fear-mongering” and “incredible self-promotion.””The biggest challenge I face as mayor of Buchanan is correcting misinformation in the media,” he said, adding the most substantial and consistent misperception is that “Indian Point is dangerous and not good for the environment.”

“The idea that hundreds or thousands can die is pure nonsense,” he asserted.

O’Neill doesn’t want to see the local economy get crippled by the loss of the plants. The Village of Buchanan’s operating budget and the Hendrick Hudson School District are largely funded by the facility.

On top of “tax rates tripling,” O’Neill fears seniors would be driven from their homes, hundreds of local jobs would be lost and electric rates would skyrocket by 40 percent, in his estimation. The LAI report will likely prove these statistics fact, fiction, or in between.

“When Indian Point 2 shut down for six months in 2000, electric rates went up nearly 20 percent,” O’Neill said.

Because Indian Point 3 provides the power for “all government buildings in New York City and Westchester, as well as Metro-North,” O’Neill said taxes and train fares would also increase to cover the additional costs of energy on both counts.

When asked if he favored the industry simply because of the local perks or whether he sees it as an inherently positive asset, O’Neill didn’t hesitate to support the construction of more plants, a project already in the works with the blessing of President George W. Bush. Indian Point’s parent company, Entergy, is currently one of three groups looking to construct the new wave of American nuclear plants.

O’Neill said the burning of fossil fuels is already known for devastating environmental consequences, and cites the millions of pounds of coal ash that he envisions being pumped into the air as a result of losing Indian Point’s power.

While many legislators have called for the closure of Indian Point, some, like Spano, have vocalized a desire to replace the lost energy with a natural gas pipeline, which would keep the facility viable and preserve many of the jobs O’Neill imagines locals losing.

The LAI report will address whether a natural gas pipeline facility could compensate on the tax rolls for the loss of Indian Point, provide the lost power and keep jobs in Buchanan.

O’Neill suggested shutting down fossil fuel plants along the Hudson River and studying the possibility of pairing nuclear power with wind and solar to meet the needs.

“Nuclear plants are, in my opinion, alternative energy sources. They help us become less dependent on foreign oil,” O’Neill said.

He said the anti-nuclear critics rely on “scare tactics and misinformation” to whip up a public frenzy, and used the example of dry cask storage, which is now taking place at Indian Point as the spent fuel rod pools meet their capacity.

“The anti-Indian Point crowd used to call for it,” he said, “but now that it’s become a reality, they’re backing away from it.”

Nuclear expert Gordon Thompson wrote a report, “Robust Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel,” for the Westchester County chapter of Citizens Awareness Network (CAN), in which he recommends dry cask storage.

Thompson, director of the Institute for Resource and Security Studies in Cambridge, Massachusetts, studied science and mechanical engineering and holds a doctorate in applied mathematics from Oxford University. He has spent decades assessing hazards associated with nuclear facilities and identifying alternative designs and modes of operation that can reduce risks.

He recommended hardening the storage casks with additional layers of concrete and other materials, and dispersing them so a single incident or accident wouldn’t simultaneously affect an entire cache of stored fuel.

But Indian Point’s casks, stored at the Indian Point site, will be kept in one place, stacked on top of one another, visible from the sky. Additionally, groups like the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition (IPSEC) and Riverkeeper, have argued the casks chosen by Indian Point’s parent company, Entergy, are of questionable quality.

“Entergy must use a more robust cask that will be less vulnerable to acts of terrorism,” Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition (IPSEC) contended in a July 14, 2004 statement. “The Holtec Hi-Storm 100 cask that Entergy proposes to use is one of the cheaper and least robust models. In addition, critics within the NRC and the industry have warned that the Holtec’s quality assurance program is shoddy and their casks fraught with manufacturing and design flaws that can be particularly problematic at the time of transport.”

O’Neill said he’s “happy with the casks,” and that his views on Indian Point are based on “scientific and empirical evidence.”

When asked how Buchanan is preparing for the possibility of a shutdown now or in the future, O’Neill replied optimistically.

“We just don’t see it happening. We’ve thought long and hard about safety because we live here. I just don’t see Indian Point being shut down in my lifetime,” he said, ” or during the lifetimes of my children, or grandchildren.”

He’s far more concerned about a terrorist attack on the New York City subway, or even on one of the Hudson River’s fossil fuel plants. He’s not worried about Indian Point, he said, because the federal government seemingly isn’t anxious.

“If there was serious concern,” he said, “the Federal Aviation Administration and the NRC would have imposed a no-fly zone over the plant by now.”

Deregulation of Low-Level Radioactive Waste
When nuclear plants are decommissioned, the radioactive waste doesn’t just disappear. Experts might take decades handling and storing high-level radioactive waste, such as spent fuel and certain internal components of the reactors, Sheehan said. Everything else is considered low-level radioactive waste, meaning that every part of the plants exposed to radiation will either be contained at the facility or eventually moved to a waste site.

The sheer volume of the material commands a staggering fee when being processed.

In 2002, NRC entertained the idea of eliminating various restrictions on the handling of some low-level radioactive waste.

The Nuclear Information Resource Service (NIRS) of Washington, D.C. urged the public to send comments in July 2002 when the organization became aware the NRC had paired with the United States Department of Transportation in an effort to “weaken radioactive transport regulations…at a time of terrorist threats and potential massive increases in nuclear waste shipment.”

NIRS’ radioactive waste project director, Diane D’Arrigo, said the agencies were planning to “exempt various amounts of hundreds of radioactive isotopes from regulatory controls, when we are already threatened with dirty bombs; weaken or fail to improve high level radioactive waste cask design criteria…and reduce the existing requirement to ship plutonium in double containers to allow single containers.”

“If the regulations are changed, radioactive wastes and materials under various levels would be considered no longer radioactive and free to be shipped as if uncontaminated,” D’Arrigo said.

Such a change in regulations could have meant that material contaminated with low-level radiation, such as tons of scrap material from a decommissioned plant, could have been recycled back into public use, D’Arrigo said, because landfills not previously authorized to handle the material would unwittingly have mixed it in with non-radioactive counterparts.

Judith Johnsrud, Ph.D is on the board of directors of NIRS and is the former chair of the Sierra Club National Energy Committee and Nuclear Waste Task Force. Johnsrud is also a member of the United States Department of Energy (DOE) Advisory Committee for the Low-Level Radiation Research Program, and serves as an advocate on several NRC and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) panels.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the United States had six facilities authorized to handle low-level radioactive waste, according to a report, “Comments on U.S. Control and Management of Radioactive Wastes,” written by Johnsrud. Three closed down due to leakage concerns, and governors in the states where the other three facilities remained protested the presence of radioactive dumps on their turf.

All of the nation’s low-level radioactive waste, which has a cumulative impact on the bodies of those exposed to it, is still handled at three facilities, in the respective states of Washington, Utah and South Carolina. In the 1980s, according to Johnsrud, the cost of disposing of a cubic foot of waste was $5. Since then, the price has skyrocketed to more than $1,000 for the same amount of material, according to some estimates.

Johnsrud said the joint agencies’ efforts to deregulate are “driven by disposal costs.” The Steel Workers’ Union vigorously protested an attempt to deregulate some radioactive materials in 1980 and 1981. Steelworkers would be left to unwittingly handle the material, which would be unmonitored and unlabeled, so they fight every time deregulation is proposed.

“There has been some talk about allowing landfills to handle low-level radioactive waste,” Sheehan said this week, “but nothing has come of it.”

According to Sheehan, there are three types of closure for nuclear plants, and once a utility chooses to embark on decommissioning, a deadline of 60 years is imposed on the process.

Utilities can choose to immediately remove all spent nuclear fuel from storage pools, put it in dry cask storage, decommission the pools and have all radioactive materials removed to one of the three sites specializing in the handling of radioactive waste, Sheehan said.

A second closure option is more common, Sheehan said, at multi-reactor sites.”A utility might choose to ‘mothball’ the site and take it apart later,” Sheehan said. Mothballing entails closing off a reactor while other reactors at the same site continue to operate.

“When reactors are closed off, radioactivity begins to decay fairly rapidly, as soon as the reactors are no longer splitting atoms,” Sheehan said.

The third option, which has never yet been chosen by a utility in the United States, is “entombing,” which requires the construction of a “concrete sarcophagus, such as that at the Chernobyl plant,” Sheehan explained.

In the absence of a national repository for spent fuel, such as the proposed and hotly contested Yucca Mountain facility in Nevada, the toxic material must remain on-site, Sheehan said.

“It’s hard to say if Yucca Mountain is going to happen,” Sheehan admitted. “There are a lot of issues.”

Getting Closure
As part of the protest against Long Island’s Shoreham, a plant that never officially went online, emergency planning couldn’t be accomplished due to refusal to participate at the local and state levels. The lack of data then made it possible for then-Governor Mario Cuomo to negotiate a solution. That hasn’t been the case with Indian Point.

“My understanding,” said Sheehan, “is that the state and counties never refused to take part in emergency exercises or in revising emergency planning procedures for Indian Point. All of the parties certainly took place in the emergency exercise for Indian Point conducted earlier this year. What they did do was refuse to certify an annual checklist of emergency response capabilities.”

Sheehan drummed the point that NRC is responsible for on-site emergency planning, while the FEMA carries the burden of off-site planning.

“FEMA will tell you the certification is not a requirement and that through reviews and other means, the agency has been able to determine that there is still ‘reasonable assurance’ that the emergency plans could be successfully carried out,” Sheehan explained.

Regardless of the split between the two agencies’ responsibilities, NRC is still the ultimate authority on the matter, and once FEMA chose to rubber-stamp the plans despite opposition, NRC could have rejected the preliminary approval.

“Ultimately, we have to say yes or no,” Sheehan conceded, “but they are the experts. We trust their judgment.”

On July 25, 2003, FEMA’s Director of the Preparedness Division, R. David Paulison wrote a letter to Governor George Pataki to assure him Westchester could fulfill the emergency plans despite a refusal to submit detailed information to FEMA.

“I am writing,” Paulison began, “to transmit FEMA’s determination of reasonable assurance that the off-site preparedness for…Indian Point is adequate.”

Paulison went on to “outline the additional actions FEMA is prepared to take to help make the region a model of preparedness for the nation.”

“Emergency planning for Indian Point is an on-going, cyclical process,” Paulison said. Putnam, Orange and Rockland had updated their plans at this time, but the lone holdout, Westchester, sought the assistance of “outside contractors…and refused to provide FEMA with a copy of those detailed plan updates.”

By actively exercising their plans and continuing to participate in drills and other planning and training events, Paulison said Westchester had proven capable of handling an evacuation. The county, he wrote, has “successfully demonstrated their ability to respond to the scenarios presented.”

The “scenarios presented,” however, don’t include a fast-breaking release of radiation, or a situation in which key infrastructure is completely disabled during a slow release.

In 1988, after the state refused to participate in emergency planning for Shoreham, Cuomo negotiated on behalf of the state with the Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO) to reach an agreement to decommission the Shoreham nuclear power plant at a cost of $5.3 billion. The cost was absorbed by federal taxpayers, the utility’s investors and electricity customers on Long Island.

“There were concerns that because of the location of the Shoreham plant, it would be difficult to evacuate the population, that it couldn’t be effectively pulled off,” Sheehan said.

Populations around many of the nation’s 103 nuclear plants have boomed into urban sprawl, Sheehan said, but that doesn’t mean populations can’t be safely evacuated despite drastically different circumstances than when plants were first slated for construction.

The fight to close Shoreham was forceful not only at the local level, but at the state level. Governor George Pataki, formerly mayor of Peekskill from 1981 to 1984, has never taken a stance like Cuomo’s.

The circumstances surrounding the two plants are radically different. In August 2002, Pataki did commission a study of the evacuation plans from Witt, considered to be the top expert on emergency planning in the nation.

Even Witt’s litany of concerns regarding the emergency evacuation plans hasn’t resulted in anything close to the successful actions taken by the state of New York when looking to decommission Shoreham.

Shoreham, stigmatized from the start, ended up being the most expensive plant that never operated commercially, as the 1989 buyout took place before the plant ever fully went online. Indian Point, on the other hand, is a firmly entrenched power player in the New York metropolitan energy scene.

“In the case of Indian Point, the emergency plans have been subjected to more scrutiny than any others in the country,” Sheehan said. “FEMA and NRC have seen no reason to believe the plans wouldn’t be adequate.”

NRC, as Sheehan said, doesn’t consider it “within their jurisdiction” to tell a plant to close down permanently. When asked why the emergency evacuation plans don’t take major sabotage, such as the intentional destruction of transportation corridors, bridges or other equipment into account, Sheehan said security concerns preclude agencies from sharing that kind of information.

“A lot of things are going on behind the scenes,” he said, explaining the NRC collaborates with the Department of Homeland Security and other intelligence agencies for such private discussions.

“In a catastrophic scene like 9/11, all tools at the government’s disposal would come to pass,” he said. “You can say ‘What if the Bear Mountain Bridge and the Tappan Zee Bridge are blown out and there’s a plane crash into the domes at the same time?’ You can do that do a limitless degree but really, what are the odds of that happening?”

The Chicken Little Complex
After the accident at Three Mile Island in 1979, President Jimmy Carter mandated emergency evacuation plans and booklets explaining them to residents living within 10 miles of nuclear power plants. Carl Patrick of Putnam Valley was responsible for organizing Indian Point’s booklet, the nation’s first of its kind.

With no model on which to base the intrepid project, Patrick said the plans and booklet were “approached with caution.”

The real problem with the evacuation plans isn’t the population boom in Westchester and New York City, he said, and it isn’t the possibility of terrorism. It’s the “misperception created by the media,” resulting in criticism and the possibility of panic that could created during an actual evacuation.

“The publicity that surrounds Indian Point means a whole bunch of people might pour out onto the roads, but if you’re upwind, you don’t have to worry,” he said, adding the evacuation plan is based on moving those closest to the plant out first. “It’s not a plan to move hundreds of thousands of people.”

The evacuation plans don’t involve the threat of terrorism, he said, because it’s “unrealistic that terrorists will bomb or disable roads.” Additionally, alternate traffic routes are considered in the plans.

Far more frightening to Patrick than the idea of terrorists are those people with a “Chicken Little Complex,” those who believe everyone between New York and Albany would need to hit the road if a radioactive plume hits the sky.

“Those people,” he said, “could jeopardize the lives of those who need to get out.” He cited a train derailment in the 1970s in Toronto involving “nasty chemicals.””They moved a quarter of a million people out in 24 hours with no evacuation plan,” he noted.

Patrick said he “backed into the nuclear industry” during a career as a teacher 30 years ago. With no communications experience, his demeanor and other skills scored him the job of communications manager for the New York Power Authority (NYPA), then owner of Indian Point 3 and the Fitzpatrick plant near Oswego, New York.

“From a technological perspective, nuclear plants are a safe, efficient and environmentally acceptable way to make electricity,” said Patrick, who is now semi-retired and continues to write reports as a strategic communications consultant.

The industry’s public approval rating is similar now to when he first started out, but he noted the accident at Three Mile Island, followed in 1986 by the Chernobyl disaster, caused a crisis of public faith for a time. He called this reaction “reasonable,” and said it led to an exponential increase in safety at all nuclear plants. This attention to safety was generated by the industry, not by the NRC, he said.

“If the industry hadn’t taken such steps, the NRC surely would have,” Patrick explained.

Three major changes included hardware upgrades, personnel changes and a new look at procedures, since all three factors played a role in the Three Mile Island accident. “The plants operate so much more reliably than before Three Mile Island,” he said.

When asked about obvious failures, such as the decay of a reactor head at the Davis-Besse plant in Ohio, Patrick said that was “the result of a bunch of guys who failed to recognize obvious signs.”

On December 4, 2001, the NRC didn’t force the Davis-Besse plant to shut down, even temporarily, despite concerns about possible cracks of nozzles passing through the reactor lid. In February, the plant was shut down for routine refueling, and plant operators announced five cracks in the nozzles. A month later, NRC announced that acid had leaked from the nozzles to decay six inches of steel.

On January 3, 2003, the New York Times reported NRC’s Office of Inspector General found top agency safety officials delayed shutdown because it didn’t want to hurt the plant owner financially. Small cracks had been detected at other plants around the same time.

The NRC had drafted a letter on November 16, 2001, requiring the 25-year-old Davis-Besse plant to shut down, but the Inspector General’s report said the “agency backed off when plant owner FirstEnergy Corporation said such a shutdown would be costly and could cause wintertime power shortages in northwest Ohio.”

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) was quoted in the article: “The report shows that FirstEnergy and the NRC worked together to put profits above public safety. It’s unacceptable.”

NRC Chairman Richard Meserve defended the agency’s actions with regard to Davis-Besse.

Patrick said the answer to such challenges lies in understanding that profit is derived from operating a safe plant. “Continual vigilance is required,” he said, “the same way you keep airline pilots from falling asleep in the cockpit, the same way you deal with any situation that’s potentially hazardous.”

The fight to close down Indian Point has been evolving for decades, he said, and the battle isn’t likely to come to and end anytime soon.

“Indian Point has always been controversial,” he said, crediting the proximity to New York City, the media capital of the world, for most of the attention.

The Hudson River Valley has long been the focus of “an environmental movement of the leisure class,” he said, “with enough time, money,” and intelligence to mount an attack.

Despite the fear of terrorism and the vocal perseverance of passionate critics and environmentalists, not to mention hundreds of legislators and countless residents and organizations, Patrick envisions Indian Point humming along on the Hudson River for years to come, maybe even 25 or 30, he said.

Indian Point 2’s license to operate will expire in 2013, and Indian Point 3 will be close behind in 2015. Entergy will need to apply to NRC soon if the utility intends to continue operating because the process of re-licensing takes years.

Entergy hasn’t stated its intentions either way, nor have they yet applied for a new permit, but the clock is ticking. With so much to do on both sides, and so many questions still to answer, killing time is no longer an option.“

 

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