NRC won't grant exemptions to nuclear plant

Bryan Cohen Feb. 2, 2012, 12:54pm


NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Wednesday that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has sided with his office by rejecting Indian Point's request for more than 100 exemptions from major fire safety requirements.

Schneiderman filed a petition in March over what he says is Indian Point's continual failure to comply with federal regulations for fire safety that were established to keep nuclear plants safe in an emergency.

He filed the petition with the NRC in an effort to urge the commission to take action against Indian Point, stating that the plant was in violation of established federal regulations for fire safety.

"Today, in a major victory for the safety of millions of New Yorkers, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission agreed with our office and denied the great majority of Indian Point's requests for more than 100 exemptions from critical safety requirements designed to ensure a safe shutdown of the reactors in the event of a fire," Schneiderman said.

"Indian Point's attempt to weaken safety precautions at the facility was wrong-headed and dangerous, and it is high time that this nuclear facility complied with long-standing federal fire safety regulations. The NRC should be commended for its action on this matter.

"However, many basic questions still remain regarding the safety of Indian Point, and the security of the 17 million people who live and work in close proximity to the nuclear plant. We will continue to use the full force of this office to push the NRC to fully evaluate -- and ensure -Indian Point's safety."

At the time of the petition, Indian Point sought approval from the NRC for more than 100 exemptions from the regulations. The NRC accepted Schneiderman's March petition in July for fire safety enforcement action at Indian Point. The action taken on Wednesday was separate from Schneiderman's petition, though it sides with his office on most of the exemptions that were contested in the petition, he says.

In addition, the NRC's action supports Schneiderman's petition requesting that the commission take action to enforce compliance at Indian Point with respect to long-standing fire safety regulations.

The decision came one day after a new government report revealed significantly higher earthquake risks in the eastern and central United States. The NRC, the federal Department of Energy and the Electric Power Research Institute released the 1,300 page report on Tuesday.

In light of the report, Schneiderman renewed his call to the NRC to require that a transparent and full assessment of earthquake hazards at Indian Point be completed before relicensing.

"As the NRC contemplates whether to grant Indian Point a 20-year extension of their operating licenses, the commission needs to do more than simply acknowledge its poor understanding of earthquake hazards," Schneiderman said.

"Whether it's fire safety or seismic activity, millions of New Yorkers deserve a full, transparent evaluation of these risks -- and it must be performed before the decision is made on whether to relicense the plant."

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