“Gov. Cuomo on Wednesday called for shutting down the Indian Point nuclear power plant after a federal report branded it the most vulnerable to earthquakes in the nation.
“The suggestion is that of all the  power plants across the country, that the Indian Point power plant is most susceptible to an earthquake because Reactor No. 3 is on a fault [line],” Cuomo said as nuclear meltdown fears deepened in Japan.
“It should be closed. This plant in this proximity to the city was never a good risk.”
Cuomo, who has long opposed the plant, spoke after new data from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission show the Hudson River plant was the most vulnerable to a quake.
It also came about two weeks after a judge let the Indian Point nuke plant – just 24 miles north of the Bronx – cut back on meltdown prevention.
In its 40-year history, Indian Point has suffered radiation leaks, useless warning sirens, transformer explosions and oil spills.
Twenty million people live within 50 miles of the Westchester County plant, and many local politicians and environmentalists oppose extending its license.
On March 4, Manhattan Federal Judge Loretta Preska upheld an NRC decision to let Indian Point operator Entergy use insulation that withstands fire for only 27 minutes.
The NRC usually requires that insulation on cables that control reactor core shutdown must withstand fire for at least a full hour.
Entergy insisted that other safety and fire-supression systems can handle a plant fire. They include the five-member internal fire brigades on each shift and the nearby volunteer firefighters in the tiny hamlet of Verplanck.
Preska’s ruling came in response to a suit filed by former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) and environmental groups.
Brodsky blasted the ruling.
“These are the cables that control the shutdown of the reactors,” he said. “You can’t bet the safety of New York on the ability of firefighters to get there in 25 minutes. The consequences are enormous.”
Scientists say a magnitude 9.0 earthquake like the one that crippled Japan is unlikely to hit Indian Point, although a quake as big as 7.0 is not out of the question.
That was the conclusion of Columbia University researchers, who discovered in 2008 that the plant sits at the intersection of two active fault lines.
An MSNBC analysis of the NRC data put the odds of a quake disabling the core of Indian Point’s No. 3 reactor at 1 in 10,000 – far worse than the 1 in 74,176 chance of a typical American reactor.
Paul Gallay, head of the environmental group Riverkeeper, said the conclusion the plant can withstand an earthquake is based on 40-year-old data.
Indian Point passed its most recent NRC preparedness drill last October, but records reveal a troubled history:
– Radioactive material – including tritium levels 10 times higher than what the feds say is safe in drinking water – leaked from a nuclear-waste storage pool in 2005.
– The NRC ordered malfunctioning emergency sirens replaced by January 2007, but they remained out of service until August 2008. The NRC levied $780,000 in fines.
– A steam generator tube ruptured in 2000, spewing contaminated steam into the air and flooding the Hudson with radioactive water. The reactor shut down for 11 months.
Detailed plans for evacuation exist, but few believe they’re realistic. A 2003 traffic study concluded it would take nine hours to evacuate a 10-mile radius around Indian Point in good weather; snow would boost that to 12 hours.
With Kenneth Lovett“
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