Schneiderman opposes NRC over Indian Point safety

Bryan Cohen Aug. 6, 2012, 1:00pm


NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced his opposition on Friday to a proposed resolution by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about his petition to have federal fire safety requirements enforced at Indian Point.

Schneiderman filed a petition in March 2011 requesting that the federal NRC identify fire safety violations at the Westchester County facility and compel compliance immediately. Fire safety regulations were established federally in 1980 to make sure that nuclear power plants could shut down safely after and during a fire emergency.

Schneiderman's comments opposing the proposed resolution argued that the proposal fundamentally fails to improve fire safety at Indian Point because it does not require identification and correction of all fire safety requirement violations at the facility. Additionally, he argued that the limited compliance actions proposed by the NRC would correct only previously identified fire safety problems with an unenforceable and voluntary obligation with an uncertain date. Schneiderman also argued that the NRC should have imposed a monetary penalty for knowingly allowing fire safety violations to continue unchecked for years.

"Federal fire safety requirements were established to keep nuclear power plants secure in the event of a fire emergency," Schneiderman said.

"However, for over 30 years, and with a 'wink and a nod' from the NRC, Indian Point has ignored its responsibility to comply fully with these critical safety requirements. The NRC is now proposing to continue this shameful tradition by failing to force Indian Point to ensure that all violations of federal fire safety requirements are promptly eliminated.

"The NRC's failed approach fuels lingering questions about Indian Point's safety and that of the 17 million people who live and work in close proximity to it."

Schneiderman's petition requested that the NRC identify all fire safety violations at the facility, require immediate correction and to deny more than 100 exemptions from the safety requirements requested by Indian Point. In February, in a separate action from the petition, the NRC rejected most of the fire safety exemptions sought by the facility.

On July 2, the director of the NRC's Division of Operating Reactor Licensing responded to the petition with a proposed director's decision. The NRC proposed to resolve the petition by accepting a voluntary schedule from Indian Point to correct the fire safety violations that were not granted an exemption by the NRC in February.

Schneiderman said that the proposal fails to ensure the fire safety violations at Indian Point will be eliminated. The alleged deficiencies in the proposal include failing to set a date by which the facility must fully comply with all fire safety requirements, failing to commit the NRC to the identification and correction of all the fire safety violations, and failing to set a mandatory and enforceable schedule for complying with the violations the NRC does identify and require correction.

Schneiderman also said that the resolution fails to impose any monetary penalties against Entergy, Indian Point's owner, for 20 years of non-compliance with the fire safety requirements at Unit 3 and Unit 2.

"New Yorkers deserve nothing less than a full, fair and open examination of numerous critical questions about the safety of Indian Point before any decisions are made about its relicensing," Schneiderman said. "Clearly, questions about Indian Point's fire security, and its ability to shut down safely during and after an emergency, need to be completely addressed and resolved."

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