News

“NRC meetings to draw officials, activists from region” by Greg Clary

gclary@thejournalnews.com

THE JOURNAL NEWS

The Indian Point nuclear power plant will be the focus of area emergency
coordinators, public health officials and environmental activists who plan
to attend Nuclear Regulatory Commission meetings in Maryland today and
tomorrow that will address security at nuclear plants across the nation.

The meetings, which are open to the public, will be run by the agency’s
Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response and will deal with issues
such as spent fuel pools and backup power for emergency alert systems, two
areas that have been integral to the region’s debate over Indian Point in
Buchanan.

Participants will include officials from the Department of Homeland Security
and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Anthony Sutton, Westchester’s commissioner of emergency services, said he
would attend the sessions primarily to remind regulators that, while overall
guidelines are important, so is the ability to assess each nuclear plant
individually.

“There are many plants that they deal with where, quite honestly, there are
more prairie dogs than there are people,” Sutton said of the federal nuclear
regulators. “They really need to treat sites, particularly like Indian
Point, as individual sites and not try and use a cookie-cutter approach to
emergency planning or response or guidelines.”

Sutton said the New York metropolitan area was not a typical emergency
planning zone for a nuclear power plant, mostly because of the estimated 20
million people who live close enough to Indian Point that they could be
affected by an emergency at the site.

Rockland and Orange counties also will send representatives to Maryland.
Putnam County is not, though the four-county coordinator for emergency
preparedness will attend, Sutton said. The four counties fall within the
10-mile evacuation zone around the plant.

“We’re sending people from our Health Department and emergency services,
including our radiological expert, because this a very important issue,”
said C.J. Miller, a spokeswoman for Rockland County Executive C. Scott
Vanderhoef. “This is an opportunity for us to learn more and be part of the
regulation review process. In the post-9/11 world, it’s very important that
these regulations are revisited and redefined.”

Jim Steets, a spokesman for Entergy Nuclear Northeast, Indian Point’s owner
and operator, said the company was sending a security official to the
meetings.

In the two days, federal officials hope to hold round-table discussions on a
variety of topics, including protective actions taken on and and off the
sites of the more than 100 nuclear plants the NRC regulates. They include
drills and other preparation exercises, how quickly the NRC and local
officials are notified in the event of a problem, and alternatives for
alerting the public.

Members of the environmental group Riverkeeper, a leading opponent of Indian
Point, will attend the meetings to emphasize recent problems with Indian
Point’s emergency siren system, among other issues.

“We want to have immediate action on the backup siren issue,” spokeswoman
Lisa Rainwater said. “We want a direct answer from the NRC on the record as
to what they’re going to do to address the problem.”

Indian Point’s owner, Entergy Nuclear Northeast, has vowed to install backup
power to the sirens or to replace the entire system within 18 months to two
years, a schedule Rainwater said was troubling.“

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