Nearly absent from both meetings was the critics’ usual visual shtick. In the past, gigantic yellow rubber ducks have been used as a symbol of protest. This year’s emblem—detective hats and magnifying glasses—was far more subtle and less pervasive.
The first meeting was boycotted by key environmental groups that held a press conference of their own on the bank of the Hudson River with a huge WHITEWASH stamp and a large piece of paper with the same word stamped across it.
“Enough is enough,” said Lisa Rainwater van Suntum, Riverkeeper’s Indian Point campaign director. “We’re no longer playing their game.”
At the second meeting, Rainwater van Suntum stood before the panel of Entergy officials and NRC representatives and read NRC’s mission statement: “…to regulate…to ensure adequate protection of public health and safety and security and…protect the environment.”
“You [NRC] are shielding the owner/operator [Entergy] from scrutiny at best. You don’t know anything with certainty. At worst, you’re misleading the public. I’m standing here tonight to call your bluff. We don’t believe you anymore.”
No matter what calamity befalls Indian Point, she said, from radioactive leaks to unplanned shutdowns, NRC “repeats the same mantra over and over again to lull the public to sleep.”
“We’re here to keep you on your toes,” Rainwater van Suntum said.
NRC officials repeated throughout the day that while the first leak was confirmed eight months ago during excavation, they don’t have any definitive answers yet because an investigation is still pending.
“If you don’t know something,” Rainwater van Suntum said, “just admit you don’t know.”
Hostility broke out at the second meeting when people were turned away by police. Westchester County Legislator Michael Kaplowitz said the Westchester County Center would be a more appropriate venue in the future, and Cortlandt Town Supervisor Linda Puglisi said her town would foot the bill to have the long meeting transcribed when people grumbled at the event not being recorded for the public record.
Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition spokesman Mark Jacobs, who fought for closure of Indian Point long before September 11, 2001, took the panel to task for perceived inadequacies in the hydrology presentation delivered by Matt Barvenik, senior vice president of GZA.
Jacobs also questioned the willingness of the utility and regulatory agency to continuously assert safety in the face of so many unknown factors.
Barvenik garnered a booming round of applause during his presentation when he showed a slide with a sketch of Indian Point followed by another slide that only showed the terrain around it and said, “Let’s remove the building.”
Site Vice President of Entergy Nuclear Northeast Fred Dacimo said, “Entergy is a company that takes its environmental stewardship seriously. We fully intend to do the right thing and fully fix the problem…This is a complex investigation. It’s not simple.”
Kaplowitz cited a lack of trust toward the process.
“Play your regulatory role,” he urged. “Can the NRC please become proactive, instead of reactive?”
A couple of weeks ago, he said, he sat in on a meeting at which some of the tests were discussed, and he noted the “conspicuous absence” of a discussion of excessive amounts of Strontium-90, three times the legal standard for drinking water.
Entergy Director of Special Projects Don Mayer said testing for Strontium-90 is difficult because the volume of nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s and 1960s blanketed the entire country with a certain volume of the isotope which still remains.
Critics of the Radiation and Public Health Project, which collects baby teeth of children living near nuclear plants to test them for Strontium-90, calls the group’s results into question for this reason. The project’s national coordinator, Joseph Mangano, said that the average amount of Strontium-90 in baby teeth near Indian Point is 36 percent greater than in other teeth further from the plants. The average level of the isotope in baby teeth of children living near Indian Point, Mangano said, has risen 56 percent from the late 1980s to the late 1990s.
“Both findings strongly suggest that most Strontium-90 in baby teeth represents Indian Point releases,” according to Mangano, “not old bomb fallout.”
Putnam County Legislator Vincent Tamagna said he was the first legislator in the state to suggest closing Indian Point, “long before 9/11 and Rita and Katrina.”
“My concern was over the spent fuel rod pools,” he said. “I don’t feel comfortable with the fact that we just happened to be excavating and discovered a leak. In how many other areas is this occurring?”
“Dilution is not the solution to pollution,” said Clearwater’s Environmental Director Manna Jo Greene.
Ulster County Legislator Susan E. Zimet said the “cigarette companies have said the same things” NRC says to assure people of safety, and that she would have loved to have seen the meetings that took place over the Love Canal.
“You’re playing God with all of our lives,” Zimet said.
Samuel Collins, NRC Regional Administrator, Region 1, said Entergy has taken all the correct measures to deal with the leaks, and that his presence would continue as long as the issue required additional regulatory oversight.“