N.Y. AG concerned with nuclear plant

Jessica M. Karmasek Mar. 21, 2011, 12:00pm


ALBANY, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) - In the wake of the unfolding nuclear crisis in Japan, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is calling on the federal government to assess any safety risks posed by the Indian Point Power Plant.

Schneiderman wants the feds to incorporate an "immediate, full and open" assessment of all public health and safety risks posed by the state's Indian Point nuclear energy plant in its relicensing process.

The power plant, located near New York City, is currently being considered for relicensing.

The attorney general, in a statement on Friday, said he even wants those risks posed by potential natural disasters, such as seismic activity, to be included in the relicensing process.

Schneiderman's office points to a report by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which revealed that some U.S. power plants are more vulnerable to increased seismic risks than previously believed.

"It is beyond troubling that at the same time the federal government acknowledges increased seismic safety risk at some nuclear power plants in this country, it refuses to fully and openly assess these specific risks to Indian Point as part of its relicensing process," Schneiderman said in a statement.

"Before any conversation about relicensing is concluded, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must answer basic health and safety questions."

In a letter to the NRC on Friday, Schneiderman declared that the federal agency must amend its regulations to include seismicity in the scope of review for relicensing, meaning it would be required to fully examine how seismic activity would impact Indian Point as part of its relicensing proceeding.

Seismic activity is a factor that the NRC has "repeatedly refused" not to take into consideration in its review of the relicensing application to extend Indian Point's operation, Schneiderman said.

Indian Point's older reactor, Unit 1, was built in the 1950s prior to any specific requirement for earthquake protection. Although no longer operational, many of Unit 1's system, structures and components were conjoined to Indian Point's other two reactors, which are now up for relicensing, Schneiderman said.

The aging Unit 1 systems, structures and components were built to outdated seismic specifications, and Unit 2 and Unit 3's continued reliance on these systems in accordance with poses "significant" safety questions, Schneiderman said.

In October 2007, New York called on the NRC to expand its relicensing criteria to include seismic analysis so that any decision to keep Indian Point operating for another 20 years would consider the threat of an earthquake. The NRC rejected that request.

"Whether or not you support the relicensing of Indian Point, we can all agree that we must answer the health, safety and environmental questions affecting the nearly 20 million people living in close proximity to the facility before making any relicensing decisions," the attorney general said.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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