News

“New sirens coming for Indian Point”

BUCHANAN — If all goes as planned, Indian Point should have a new emergency siren system in place by the end of the year.

Entergy Nuclear Northeast, which owns the Indian Point nuclear plants, has chosen a Boston company to replace the 156-siren emergency notification system that has been a headache for the company and local emergency officials.

Acoustic Technology Inc. has been awarded the $10 million contract, company officials said, and installation could be completed by the end of October. The entire system will need to be tested and retested until it is ready to replace the existing network and that should take the rest of this year.

Yesterday’s announcement was a formality for local emergency and government officials, who have been working with the company and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to find a system that would not only sound to alert residents of the four counties within the 10-mile Indian Point evacuation zone, but could be adapted to different types of electronic notification.

Local officials praised the choice.

“We can’t wait to get it going,” said Susan Tolchin, chief adviser to Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano. “It gives us things we need to make sure we can alert the public in a variety of ways — with cell phones, text messaging, and tying into our current outbound calling system.”

Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef said it was important that local officials were involved in the new warning system.

“I think it’s good news, and the fact that we pushed hard contributed to it,” Vanderhoef said. “Every little step doesn’t make the problem (of a radiological emergency) go away, but it improves our capability to try and respond appropriately. We should be able to benefit from the improvements in technology.”

The actual number of sirens that will be installed hasn’t been decided, but there are fewer moving parts in the new model and they have backup capabilities for power and sounding that should eliminate the problems that caused frequent failures in the current system over the last few years, emergency and company officials said.

Entergy spokesman Jim Steets said the new sirens also will have the ability to broadcast voice command, and the company is considering asking focus groups and public emergency officials if there’s a sound that is preferred more than the low, steady hum that the sirens now emit.

Features of the planned upgrade

• Two banks of two rechargeable backup batteries — four in all — for each siren.

• Electronic, all-directional sirens that don’t have to rotate, so there is less potential for malfunctions.

• Backup communications to activate the sirens, using radio, telephone and cell phones, with satellite capabilities to supplement cell phone coverage.

• A silent-testing feature that sounds the sirens at a pitch inaudible to the human ear but would show the sirens sounded.

• Will provide to the counties the capability to transmit messages to TVs, radios, telephones, cell phones, pagers, Blackberries®, and computers, even during weather-related events and accidents.

• Currently used successfully at two other Entergy nuclear power plants.

Source: Entergy Nuclear Northeast

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