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“Federal regulators say they will monitor Indian Point operations closely” by Greg Clary

“CORTLANDT – If Indian Point were a student, the nuclear plants would still be getting a passing grade, but the teacher would be a little concerned about recent trends and study habits.

Federal regulators noted last night that last year’s report card for Indian Point was green for both nuclear reactors – Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3 – but said they would be keeping closer-than-normal tabs on operations at the site this year.

Citing the unplanned shutdowns that have lowered Indian Point’s rating from green to white earlier this month and necessitated more on-site inspection by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as well as other concerns, regulators said the plants must address the adequacy of safety procedures and workers’ fears about retribution for pointing out safety issues.

“There’s a lot going on (at) this site,” Samuel Collins, the top regional regulator for the NRC, said at the annual public assessment meeting in Cortlandt between Indian Point and the federal agency. “I would just be mindful of the trend. It will be an active year.”

Collins’ counterpart, Fred Dacimo, site vice president for Indian Point owner Entergy Nuclear Northeast, responded quickly.

“We haven’t had an inactive year,” he said, drawing laughs from the audience of about 200 people. “We’re up to the challenge.”

There was plenty for observers to take in last night, not the least of which was a letter read by a representative of Gov. Eliot Spitzer calling for an independent safety assessment of the plant before any possible relicensing of the plants could go forward.

Spitzer joins Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer, who are pushing legislation to mandate that review.

Collins explained why the NRC disagrees with such a study, saying it would not yield more information than the agency is getting. The NRC conducted 13,000 hours of inspections in 2006 and expects a similar amount this year.

Opponents had earlier said during a news conference that 2006 and the first four months of this year have raised residents’ concerns about the plants’ safety – including four unplanned shutdowns at Indian Point 3, continuing leaks of radioactive isotopes strontium 90 and tritium, and the failure of Entergy to deliver a new emergency siren system by the April 15 deadline.

“2006 was not a good year for Indian Point,” said Manna Jo Greene of the environmental group Clearwater. “2007 has so far been even worse.”

Two matters loom on Indian Point’s horizon. Indian Point 3 has been shut down for much of April, after operational difficulties stemming from a refueling outage caused workers to pull the plug unexpectedly.

Dacimo said he expected Indian Point 3 to restart over the weekend, likely Sunday.”

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