“PEEKSKILL — Federal regulators and Indian Point officials told a crowd of about 400 people last night that the radiation leaks at the nuclear plant do not pose a threat to public safety — but the skeptical audience did everything from calling for an independent investigation to demanding that the plant be closed.
Sometimes speaking over a vocal, hostile crowd that spilled out of a meeting room at Crystal Bay on the Hudson, officials from plant operator Entergy Nuclear Northeast and from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission laid out what has been done to find the source of the leak and reiterated their commitment to solving the problem.
Radioactive strontium 90 and tritium have been found in monitoring wells at the nuclear plant at levels well above what is allowed for drinking water. Despite repeated reminders last night from state and federal regulators that there is no public safety concern, audience members showed they’re not happy with any leaks.
“There’s three times the acceptable level for (strontium 90 in) drinking water,” said Manna Jo Greene, environmental director of the environmental group Clearwater. “But nobody in this community will drink the water. Health effects are cumulative. I’m not reassured, but it is your responsibility to make sure that groundwater isn’t contaminated.”
The most recent well testing showed strontium and tritium within 150 feet of the Hudson River. A company-hired hydrologist said last night that there was little doubt the materials were reaching the river.
The NRC has confirmed that conclusion, noting also that Indian Point is the only nuclear plant in the nation that is leaking strontium 90. The agency oversees 103 plants in the United States.
Company officials said they have been doing and will continue to do everything within their power to figure out the source of the leak — likely coming from a spent-fuel pool containing 400,000 gallons of radioactive water.
“Neither I nor the employees of Indian Point find the current conditions acceptable,” said Fred Dacimo, the company official in charge of the site. “We’re residents of this community, too. We fully intend to do the right thing.”
Audience members called for the meeting to be canceled and rescheduled for a bigger place on a different date when the restaurant’s 399-person limit was hit a few minutes into the presentation. Westchester County Legislator Michael Kaplowitz, D-Somers, drew a big round of applause when he offered the County Center as a future location.
“It is the center of the county, and accessible to public transportation,” Kaplowitz said. “It’s also not on (Entergy’s) home turf.”
Putnam County Legislator Vincent Tamagna, R-Philipstown, voiced what many in the audience wanted last night when he called for the plant’s shutdown.
“Structurally, there’s not an issue,” he said of Indian Point 2, where the leak was found. “That means the building can’t fall down. That doesn’t mean it can’t leak. The spent fuel rods will be left to this community for generations to come.”
NRC regional head Samuel Collins answered questions about the leak affecting a possible re-licensing of the plants by saying he believed it would not be a factor in the decision but couldn’t say definitively without more research.
Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi offered to help figure out a way to get an independent look at the leak and possible cleanup.
“I think there should be an independent investigation and evaluation,” Puglisi said. “Not (a company) selected by the NRC. I’ll get my town engineer to pick out a company. With all due respect, sometimes Entergy and the NRC sound alike.”
Earlier in the day, NRC and Indian Point officials met to go over the plants’ 2005 safety performance.
A coalition of anti-nuclear advocates boycotted that meeting, standing outside to announce their own report card — which gave the company failing marks — and called the government’s satisfactory grade a whitewash.
“If the NRC does not on its own agree to an … independent safety assessment … there can be only one conclusion: They’re hiding something,” said Lisa Rainwater Van Suntum, the Indian Point coordinator for Riverkeeper, the environmental group that has called for the plants’ closings.
Earlier this month, the NRC gave Indian Point a passing grade for 2005, down a little from the previous year primarily because of nitrogen leaking from a cooling pump during the summer.“
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