Here are 2003 articles, editorials, op-eds and letters about Indian Point in chronological order with the most recent first. You can also find news from 2006, 2005, 2004, 2002 and 2001. If you find an article that should be included, please send it to ipsecpc@bestweb.net.

Federal report critical of Indian Point

By ROGER WITHERSPOON
THE JOURNAL NEWS

(Original publication: December 24, 2003)

Poor maintenance and the lax oversight of contractors contributed to an excessive number of sudden shutdowns at the Indian Point nuclear power plants the past 18 months, according to an analysis released yesterday by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Federal inspectors also found that during the blackout of Aug. 14, which forced the shutdown of nine nuclear reactors in several states, backup diesel generators at both Indian Point 2 and 3 were inoperable. As a result, the plants' owner did not have a way to provide continuous cooling power to its emergency centers or power for equipment needed to operate its emergency evacuation plan.

The NRC's inspection was prompted by the seven shutdowns at Indian Point in 2002 and 2003. The NRC inspects nuclear plants if they have more than three unplanned shutdowns during the course of 18 months. Though Indian Point 3 had five of the unplanned shutdowns, the NRC examined both plants because of similar electrical and maintenance issues.

Entergy Nuclear Northeast, which owns the plants in Buchanan, declined to comment on the NRC report.

Ed Lyman, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C., called the failure of the backup systems "one of the most serious scenarios that a nuclear plant can experience. If you lose both on-site power and off-site power, then all you have left are the batteries, and they run out after a very short period of time."

During the blackout, Entergy shut off all remaining emergency- response equipment and computer systems at Indian Point 3 to prevent them from overheating.

What was important about these failures, the NRC report states, is that a significant amount of emergency-response equipment necessary to implement the region's emergency plans had to be shut off by Entergy at the outset of a regional power crisis. Entergy combined its emergency operations for the two plants at Indian Point 2, the report states, and was able to obtain sufficient power to operate that plant's equipment in about two hours.

At both plants, NRC inspectors found, the problems with the backup systems were avoidable. The Indian Point 3 generators had failed during a test in April 2003, but the problems were not corrected. Problems with the Indian Point 2 backup generators were identified in February 2000, after the rupture of a steam-generator tube caused 20,000 gallons of contaminated water to leak inside the plant. That accident resulted in the plant's shutdown for 10 months.

During its recent month-long inspection, the NRC found that Indian Point 2's backup diesel generator was not strong enough to do the job required without overheating, but it had not been replaced or augmented and failed again when suddenly activated during the blackout.

In a written statement issued the day of the blackout, Entergy said that when the power shut down, "the plants' backup diesel generators automatically turned on to provide sufficient electrical power on site."

Kyle Rabin, of the environmental group Riverkeeper, a staunch Indian Point opponent, said the conflict between Entergy's statement during the blackout and the NRC's findings "raises a credibility issue with Entergy and everyone concerned about the public health and safety should take note of it. Our elected officials have every reason to call for the closure of this plant."

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said that as a result of its shutdowns, Indian Point 3's safety rating was lowered from green to white, the second best in a four-color system, with red indicating the least safe operations. Indian Point 2 received a red designation following the Feb. 15, 2000, accident. That designation was lifted last year, and the plant now has a white designation.

Sheehan said the NRC was concerned about continued performance problems by Entergy at Indian Point. But, he said, "they are moving to get these issues resolved. We have seen evidence since this summer that they have been doing a better job, and we will do an early assessment of their progress next year."

Reach Roger Witherspoon at rwithers@thejournalnews.com or 914-696-8566.

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Entergy Nuclear Northeast, owners of the Indian Point nuclear power plants in Buchanan, agreed to give Putnam $500,000 to defray the cost of the county's $11.8 million Emergency Operations and Training Facility that is being built in Carmel.

Putnam exec proposes $113 M budget

By CARA MATTHEWS
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: September 11, 2003)

CARMEL — Putnam County Executive Robert Bondi yesterday proposed an $113.1 million 2004 budget that would increase spending by $7.7 million but, for the seventh consecutive year, would not raise property taxes.

The county would use $11.98 million in surplus money and anticipates an additional 8 percent in sales tax receipts to balance spending in continued tight financial times.

"We've been blessed by the growth in spending that's occurred in this county, that's allowed us to shift the burden of the real property taxpayer to the sales tax," Bondi said in a news conference yesterday morning.

If approved by legislators, 2004 would be the 13th year in a row that Bondi and the Legislature either slashed or froze the real property tax rate. This year's spending is roughly 8 percent higher than 2002. As of the end of July, the county had received $18.7 million of the $33.7 million in sales tax revenue expected in 2003.

Bondi said he will continue to push the "Shop Putnam" program to encourage people to buy goods and services locally. Doing so, he said, will reverse what an economist has called the "Putnam paradox" — having residents with high disposable incomes, but who spend a lot of money outside the county.

Bondi said that if the paradox continues he would have to seek a sales tax increase — as other counties have done in this economy — to balance future budgets.

"We believe that raising taxes must be a last resort, not a first option," he said.

Legislature Chairman Robert McGuigan, R-Mahopac, said legislators will carefully review the proposal. The Legislature has until Oct. 15 to pass a budget.

Regina Morini, R-Mahopac, said formulating a budget that does not raise property taxes is difficult but necessary. She has received many constituent calls about high school taxes, over which the county has no control.

As for surplus funds, much of the money Bondi is proposing to use was a one-time windfall. A billionaire former publishing magnate and his family gave Putnam $9.25 million last year after being accused of stealing rocks, plants and trees from a county park.

Bondi sounded a note of caution about surpluses. "We now must make everyone, from the Legislature to every citizen of Putnam County, fully aware that we simply cannot appropriate that amount of surplus from year to year," he said.

His budget would use $360,000 out of Putnam's Off Track Betting revenues, leaving only $9,000 in the account, finance Commissioner William Carlin said.

Another means to raise money would be setting higher fees for partial tax payments, Health Department programs and motor vehicle registration. Entergy Nuclear Northeast, owners of the Indian Point nuclear power plants in Buchanan, agreed to give Putnam $500,000 to defray the cost of the county's $11.8 million Emergency Operations and Training Facility that is being built in Carmel.

"This is a great partnership and a great way to provide a level of confidence in the emergency planning process," said James Knubel, vice president of nuclear affairs for Entergy.

Bondi said he disagrees with legislators who have promoted increasing property taxes gradually to fund spending.

Much of the additional $7.7 million in spending increases next year is for mandated programs, Bondi said. That includes an additional $2.6 million for employee retirement, $1.3 million for Medicaid, $930,000 for health insurance and $860,000 more for the Children with Special Needs Program.

County government has already implemented edicts for departments to save money. Department heads were instructed to slash discretionary budget requests by 5 percent.

Unlike other counties, Putnam does not plan any layoffs. Four positions that are currently vacant would be eliminated for a $335,000 savings. One post each would be in the Probation and Health departments and the Department of Highways and Facilities. An open-space coordinator job, which has never been filled, is the fourth.

There are only a couple new hires. Sheriff Donald Smith is expecting that the state will require a new program officer position to work with education, drug awareness and other special programs in the Putnam County jail, Undersheriff Peter Convery said yesterday. Putnam has been seeking a health commissioner.

Management would see 3 percent salary increases. Union raises are subject to negotiations.

Bondi's recommended budget includes $400,000 to contract with a private company for home-health aides. Bondi has suggested that a solution for an aide shortage would include a combination of public and private staffing measures, while county lawmakers maintain privatization would be more efficient and cost-effective.

The tentative 2004 capital budget calls for spending $350,000 to repair the roofs of a few buildings at Tilly Foster Farms in Southeast and $27,000 for a veterans museum at Putnam County Veterans Memorial Park in Kent.

Reach Cara Matthews at clmatthe@thejournalnews.com or 845-228-2277.

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New York Times 

OP-ED COLUMNIST

Staying in the Dark

By BOB HERBERT

We never heed the warnings.

When the power failed last Thursday afternoon I was reading a report commissioned by the Council on Foreign Relations that found that even now — two years after the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001 — the United States remains "dangerously unprepared" to cope with another catastrophic terrorist attack.

The blackout that interrupted my reading showed once again how suddenly we can be thrown out of our daily routine and into a widespread emergency. I walked down the 10 flights from my office in the Times Building and out to Times Square, where the bewildered, disoriented throngs, frightened by thoughts of terror, were trying to get their bearings in an environment that had been transformed in an instant.

It seemed that almost everyone had a cellphone and none of them were working. That freaked out a lot of people. Cellphones have emerged as the lifelines of the 21st century, the quintessential emergency gadget. It's the one device that's supposed to work when everything else is falling apart.

There were already reports circulating (true, as it turned out) that the blackout extended all the way into Canada and as far west as Ohio. A woman asked a reporter if he thought the entire nation was under attack. The reporter said no, he thought it was just a blackout, like the ones in 1965 and 1977. But bigger, maybe.

The night would bring a reacquaintance with deep silence and flickering shadows and the comfort of listening to baseball on a battery-operated radio. But there was also the disturbing sense (nurtured in the long, dark, humid hours of the night) that much of our trust is misplaced, that in instance after instance the people in charge of crucial aspects of our society are incompetent or irresponsible, or both, and that American lives are far more at risk than they should be because of that.

Last week's enormous, cascading blackout should never have occurred. We knew the electrical grid was in sorry shape and the experiences of 1965 and 1977 were still in our collective memory. The experts told us again and again to expect a breakdown. Two years ago an official with the North American Electric Reliability Council said, "The question is not whether, but when the next major failure of the grid will occur."

We ignored the warnings, which is what we always do with warnings, and we paid a terrible price. Now we're left wondering what might happen if terrorists linked their madness to our electric power vulnerabilities.

The report I was reading when the power failed was issued less than two months ago and was titled, "Emergency Responders: Drastically Underfunded, Dangerously Unprepared."

The report acknowledged that some progress against terrorism has been made through the Department of Homeland Security and other federal, state and local institutions. But it said, "The United States has not reached a sufficient national level of emergency preparedness and remains dangerously unprepared to handle a catastrophic attack on American soil, particularly one involving chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear agents, or coordinated high-impact conventional means."

The task force that conducted the study was headed by former Senator Warren Rudman, a Republican, who, with former Senator Gary Hart, a Democrat, wrote two previous important studies that spotlighted the woeful state of our defenses against large-scale terror attacks.

Their first study was issued before the Sept. 11 catastrophe. It predicted a deadly attack, saying, "Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly in large numbers."

Their second study was issued last year and it accused the White House and Congress of failing to take the extensive and costly steps necessary to defend against another catastrophic attack, which they said was almost certain to occur.

Now we have yet another warning. If an attack were to occur, the report said, the so-called first responders — police and fire departments, emergency medical personnel, public works and emergency management officials — are not ready to respond effectively. And one of the reasons is that we won't spend the money or invest the effort necessary to adequately train and equip them.

After the next attack we'll have another study to assess what went wrong. And we won't pay attention to that study either.

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Journal News letters - Tuesday Aug 19, 2003

Power from plant isn't needed
(Original publication: August 19, 2003)

Thursday's blackout should cause all of us to realize that opponents of Indian Point have been right all along, especially on two points. First, there is no way an evacuation of this area can work. Second, we don't need the power produced by Indian Point. Listening to the radio and talking to neighbors, I repeatedly heard nightmare reports about traffic not moving, people stuck on trains, overloaded buses passing people by and other travel problems. Power came back on in most areas before morning, but reports were that Indian Point would take several days to come back online. There have been times before when both reactors were down, yet we still had electricity. It makes no sense to allow this target to remain open when we can't get out of the area quickly and don't need what it produces.

Melanie A. Rush, Port Chester

 Blackout showed plant's vulnerability
(Original publication: August 19, 2003)

The Aug. 14 power outage provides a far more compelling demonstration of the vulnerability of the Indian Point nuclear facility than any make-believe drill.

The next multiple coordinated terrorist attack on U.S. soil is likely to begin with the sabotage of regional electricity and roadway infrastructures, and may very well occur as night falls. That means telephone systems (including most cell communication) down, warning sirens inoperative, and roadways choked with traffic, all happening in impenetrable darkness. Imagine the evening of Aug. 14 with several strategically located propane tanker-trailer "accidents," followed by a major assault on Indian Point. However, picturing a successful defense against or a workable emergency response to such an attack requires more than imagination; it necessitates a belief in fantasy.

Michel Lee , Scarsdale, The writer is chairman, Council on Intelligent Energy & Conservation Policy.

County not ready for emergency
(Original publication: August 19, 2003)

I agree with Phil Reisman's opinion (Aug. 15 column) about the inadequacey of emergency preparedness for Westchester County.

As I was sitting in my car driving home from Mount Kisco to Hartsdale, I heard the news about the massive blackout along the eastern seaboard. I was confident that our emergency preparedness plan would be in effect, but I was quickly made aware that there is no plan. The backups on all the roads were tremendous. The north-south, east-west traffic at important intersections were deadlocked. As I was trying to get onto the Bronx River Parkway at Stevens Avenue in Valhalla, the north-south traffic refused to yield to the east-west traffic. There were no emergency workers anywhere to be seen. No firefighters, policemen or any other municipal/county worker directing traffic.

What if there is an emergency at Indian Point? If the county can't handle a blackout, how will they handle prople in a panic situation during a nuclear disaster?

Florence Dolin , Harstdale

No need to risk dangers from plant
(Original publication: August 19, 2003)

This blackout is another lesson we had better learn before it is too late. After listening to the shock and dismay of the public officials who said that experts told them that after the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, adjustments were made and that a large-scale cascading blackout could not happen again, my attention turns to the spokespeople of Indian Point who tell us that a large scale or rapid release of radiation can't happen and that the evacuation plan will work.

It is the same scenario over and over. Big corporations with big profits tell the public not to worry, and then something they could not plan on and could not prevent happens. In the case of Indian Point, that means radioactive contamination in the most densely populated area of the United States, where the readers of this letter live. This blackout had nothing to do with a lack of electric power capacity. It resulted from inadequacies in the transmission and sharing of capacity. Now power is back, but Indian Point was still off-line through the weekend. In fact, Indian Point depends on outside electricity to run its cooling systems. When the power outside goes out, its diesel generators kick in. We can only hope that nothing happens to those generators in an emergency like last week. But don't worry. Entergy says that can't happen.

Indian Point is not necessary, and the risks of Indian Point are truly catastrophic. Let's learn the lesson before it is too late.

Jeanne Shaw, Croton-on-Hudson

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LOWEY CALLS ON NRC TO RELEASE REPORT ON INDIAN POINT FORCE-ON-FORCE DRILLS

August 6, 2003


WHITE PLAINS, NY - Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey (D Westchester/Rockland) today called on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to release a comprehensive report regarding the force-on-force security drills at Indian Point last week.

Citing deficiencies in the drills, lack of consequences for poor performance, and an excessive number of security-related personnel complaints, Lowey said in a letter to NRC Chairman Nils Diaz, "the formal release of any unclassified information would strengthen public oversight and improve agency accountability."

"The federal agencies charged with ensuring the safety of our nuclear facilities seem to think they are exempt from accountability," said Lowey. "Security is not a one-man show. Working together to protect our communities is a must. NRC must come clean with the public and elected officials on the contents and results of these drills."

Lowey reiterated her concerns that NRC recently rubber stamped the Federal Emergency Management Agency's certification of the emergency evacuation plans for Indian Point instead of conducting an independent review. She said residents living in the communities surrounding the facility deserve an explanation from both FEMA and NRC about how they reached their decisions to approve the plans.

Lowey cited an extraordinary volume of whistleblower complaints related to security, reported last week by the Journal News, in her call for careful scrutiny of force-on-force drills. Indian Point employees logged 28 complaints with the NRC last year - the highest number for any nuclear power plant in the nation and well above the national median of four. Approximately three-fourths of the allegations involved security operations.

"I would expect the NRC to give employees' concerns a more thoughtful and thorough review than it did the emergency response plans for Indian Point," Lowey said. "NRC must take its duties to both protect and inform the public more seriously."

Please see the letter below Lowey sent to NRC today.


August 6, 2003

Nils J. Diaz, Ph.D.
Chairman
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, D.C. 20555

Dear Chairman Diaz:

I am writing regarding the force-on-force exercises conducted at the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, New York from July 28 to August 1, 2003.

I have long held that the force-on-force exercises should incorporate threats comparable to September 11th, including attacks by multiple teams of highly-skilled attackers employing sophisticated tactics and weaponry. I was disappointed to learn that the force-on-force drills would rely chiefly on the design basis threat in place prior to September 11th. Furthermore, unlike past drills, the NRC will not warn or fine companies for security deficiencies. In order to reassure the public, and particularly those residing in the vicinity of Indian Point, of the integrity of the evaluation process, I request comprehensive information on the design of the drill and guard performance at Indian Point. I strongly believe that the formal release of any unclassified information would strengthen public oversight and improve agency accountability.

I hope you can expeditiously provide a comprehensive report on this week's force-on-force drills at Indian Point, including the following safeguards and non-safeguards information:

Recent decisions by NRC highlight the need for heightened oversight and greater agency accountability. On Friday, July 25th, the Commission approved the emergency response plans for Indian Point within minutes of FEMA's certification of the plans, refusing to perform an independent review. Both FEMA and the NRC have failed to provide a comprehensive justification of their decision. Given the complexity and controversy surrounding these plans, such a decision was astounding. The nearly 20 million people living within 50 miles of the plant deserve a complete explanation of NRC's conclusion.

An article in the Journal News on July 25th, which reveals an extraordinary volume of whistleblower complaints, reinforces the need for careful scrutiny of force-on-force drills. Approximately three-fourths of the 28 allegations registered by Indian Point employees with NRC involved security operations. These complaints, which follow a 2001 Entergy internal report documenting a "chilling effect" and low guard morale at Indian Point 2, suggest persistent security problems. I would expect the NRC to give employees' concerns a more thoughtful and thorough review than it did the emergency response plans for Indian Point.

Thank you in advance for your consideration, and I look forward to carefully reviewing your response.

Sincerely,

Nita M. Lowey

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Safety concerns
Sunday, August 3, 2003

THE RECENT federal approval of an evacuation plan for Indian Point is a monument to wishful thinking - to the point of straining credulity.

Both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved the plan within hours of each other, reflecting economic realities and practical considerations. But they ignored local safety concerns over the nuclear power plant, located on the Hudson River 15 miles north of New Jersey.

Although both agencies called the plan reasonable and adequate, a study commissioned by New York State concluded just the opposite earlier this year, finding that "the current radiological response system and capabilities are not adequate to ... protect the people from an unacceptable dose of radiation in the event of a release from Indian Point, especially if the release is faster or larger than [planned for]."

The geographic reality is that more than 300,000 people live within a 10-mile radius of the Westchester County facility, and it would be virtually impossible to respond quickly and effectively in the event of a major radioactive emergency. Major highways are already congested. While the best response in many cases would be for people to stay home until well after the initial radioactive release, that's not how many people would respond. If you take into account human nature and thousands of cars with panicked drivers, chaos would be inevitable.

The economic reality is that Indian Point, which the Entergy Corp. bought from Con Ed two years ago, provides 2,000 megawatts of clean (and relatively inexpensive to produce) power to New York City and its northern suburbs. That's enough electricity for 2 million homes.

Opponents of Indian Point say that if the power plant were shut down, the power loss could be compensated for through conservation and other measures. But given the increasing demand for electricity and spiraling energy costs, this doesn't appear to be a very realistic alternative. Energy prices are market-driven, and they would likely increase for everyone in the region if that much electricity were removed from the power grid.

Federal regulators are justifiably reluctant to pull the plug on a source of so much electricity - especially since they believe that a major radiation release as a result of an accident or terrorist attack is unlikely. But by essentially rubber-stamping the evacuation plan last month in a two-page letter to New York Gov. George Pataki, federal regulators have given themselves a substantial credibility gap. They point out they have already addressed the concerns raised by the earlier New York State study, but they haven't persuaded anybody.

Regulators must now do their utmost to make sure that Entergy follows through on its promises to make the plant as safe and secure as possible, to address the concerns of people in this region, and to do a much better job of educating the public on evacuation planning.

The $3.5 million that FEMA recently allocated to improve emergency readiness around Indian Point is a step in the right direction, but questions and skepticism from the public remain, and they must be thoroughly addressed.

Copyright © 2003 North Jersey Media Group Inc.

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Evacuation plan fails children . . .
(Original publication: July 31, 2003)

http://www.thejournalnews.com/letters/31ltr9.htm 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has certified that the emergency plan for Indian Point provides "reasonable assurance of adequate protection" in a nuclear disaster. Immediately afterward, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, citing FEMA's decision, issued a statement pronouncing the emergency plan "satisfactory." , Unfortunately, FEMA has already demonstrated that it has no understanding of what the words "reasonable," "adequate" and "protection" mean., Last fall, FEMA determined that the September 2002 drill of the current emergency plan was "successful." But the independent observers of James Lee Witt Associates found numerous and significant problems with the drill and the plan. , Once of these problems was known as the "latchkey kid problem.", In the exercise scenario, the first evacuation wave included only a part of the 10-mile evacuation zone. Schools not evacuated in the first wave dismissed their students at the regular time. Sometime earlier, the trains had been stopped, meaning that some parents were unable to travel home. , The Witt report explains the horrifying absurdity of what happened next. , "Less than one hour after the children were simulated to have been returned home, the same zones were advised to evacuate. , Many of the children presumably left home alone would not be able to evacuate themselves." (Page 178, Witt report.), It is incomprehensible how anyone could describe a plan or a drill that leaves children alone to deal with a nuclear emergency as successful, adequate or reasonable. , Whether they are deliberately misleading us or have simply lost their way, FEMA and the NRC have demonstrated that they are no longer fit to protect the public.

Mary Cronin, Croton-on-Hudson

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Time to be heard

By BOB BAIRD

(Journal News Original publication: July 29, 2003)

All you had to do was read Saturday's newspaper to see the fallacy hiding behind the main news headline of the day: "Feds approve evacuation plan." The sub-headline went on to explain: "Indian Point crisis response rated safe, over local protest."

On Friday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency ruled that the region around the nuclear plants — which includes a large segment of Rockland — could be evacuated safely in the event of an emergency.

Countless local officials in municipalities from four counties have argued that's unrealistic; the congestion we experience almost daily would render an evacuation all but impossible.

Friday, the region was a living laboratory, an experiment in just how bad traffic can get when something relatively minor goes wrong on an ordinary day.

It started with a fatal accident on the George Washington Bridge about 5:30 a.m.

Twelve hours later, traffic wasn't yet back to normal.

The crash involved a tractor-trailer that hit a beam and burst into flames. The smoke from the fire forced all traffic on the bridge to come to a stop until just before 7 a.m. That's when the lower level and the eastbound upper level reopened.

The westbound upper level, where the accident took place, remained closed until 3:45 p.m. The ensuing traffic jam stretched the width of the Bronx, through Westchester County and into Connecticut.

There, it snarled both north- and southbound traffic on Interstate 95, with some help from several minor accidents and a car fire.

An alternative route in Westchester also got snarled when a truck entered the southbound Hutchinson River Parkway and got jammed under an overpass about 2 p.m. Those lanes didn't reopen for about four hours.

And if there's a problem on the George Washington Bridge, the Tappan Zee Bridge usually feels it. Friday was no different, with slow going in both directions during the morning rush and typically heavy westbound summer Friday afternoon traffic.

It's nothing we haven't seen before. Often.

If you add in rain, it's only worse.

Add a holiday and it's worse still.

Add the urgency of an accident at Indian Point, and all bets are off.

But that's a bet FEMA and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are taking. The 300,000 or so of us who live in the 10-mile evacuation zone are the chips.

On Friday, FEMA pushed us forward and called, "Let it ride."

The decision disregards the findings of former FEMA director James Lee Witt, who was commissioned by Gov. George Pataki to study the evacuation plans. Witt said the plans wouldn't work, particularly in the event of a fast-moving scenario, such as a terrorist attack.

Pataki, who was mayor of Peekskill and now lives in Garrison — both within the 10-mile evacuation zone — says Witt's report was accurate and was the basis of the state's refusal to certify the Indian Point plans. But the governor has chosen to hide behind the bureaucracy.

"The governor has steadfastly maintained that such issues are most appropriately reviewed by the federal agencies charged with such responsibilities," Pataki spokeswoman Mollie Fullington said Friday in a statement. They should be accomplished, it went on, "in a uniform fashion across the nation in consultation with state and local agencies."

But the area we live in is unlike any other surrounding a nuclear plant.

We have more people, more cars and a network of roads so overburdened that a fatal crash or a fuel spill can set off traffic jams stretching for miles and hours, all without the tension and emotion that would attach to a nuclear emergency.

Pataki knows that as well as the other officials at the federal, state, county and local levels who want Indian Point closed before we learn — too late — just how badly an evacuation could fail.

It's long past time for Pataki to speak out loud and clear, demanding better for his constituents and insisting the plants be shut down.

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THE JOURNAL NEWS

An editorial 

Indian Point emergency planning

(Original publication: July 26, 2003)

It is dismaying that the federal agencies responsible for overseeing nuclear power plant safety have brushed aside local governments' lack of confidence in the Indian Point evacuation plan by recertifying it yesterday.

Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Orange counties — whose officials would be responsible for executing the evacuation of people in a 10-mile radius of the nuclear power plants — have said that they believe the plan is inadequate. Based on the counties' failure to take part in the annual process that leads to a federal stamp of approval on the plan, New York state emergency officials also refused to declare the plan in readiness.

Lacking the agreement of those levels of government, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency presumably relied on in the past, the agency, nevertheless, reached a different conclusion.

Everything's fine, FEMA told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Everything's fine, the NRC told a public that is sure to remain understandably skeptical, at the least.

Critics of the two Buchanan power plants believed there was more than enough evidence to convince FEMA that it was not in a position to pass along its routine assurance to the NRC. Because adequate emergency preparations are a condition of NRC licensing, the critics hoped to force the issue of the plants' continuing operation.

To be sure, there has been intense political pressure on local officials, arising from post-9/11 fears of terrorist attack, to join the movement to close Indian Point. The federal agencies, it might be thought, are free from such pressure and in a position to make a more objective judgment.

But local governments had objective measures on which to base their own judgment. The tide turned when an independent assessment commissioned by Gov. George Pataki, conducted by James Witt, a former FEMA director, concluded that the evacuation plan could not protect residents. Chief among the faults, Witt's report found, was a failure to account for the type of emergency that could arise from a terrorist attack, as opposed to an accident. Federal planners continue to give the key Witt criticisms short shrift.

The NRC, in declaring emergency plans satisfactory yesterday, also said the next emergency drill would include a simulated terrorist scenario. How was the plan declared satisfactory if it has not been tested against that new, grim threat?

One key ingredient in a successful plan is public confidence. When people hear one set of officials assure them that something can be done, when the officials who would actually have to do it say it can't be done, public confidence will surely be a casualty.

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Ruling riles many politicians in region

By DAVID MCKAY WILSON
THE JOURNAL NEWS

(Original publication: July 26, 2003)

The ruling by federal officials to certify the emergency evacuation plans for Indian Point was harshly denounced yesterday by many public officials, while business leaders hailed it and Gov. George Pataki backed the federal government's right to make the decision.

Many officials and opponents of the plants derided the decision, saying it neglected to take into consideration the mounting criticism of the plans, including a Pataki-commissioned report that said the plans were unworkable. Emergency officials in Albany, as well as those in Westchester, Putnam, Rockland and Orange counties, refused to certify that their plans would work.

"Home rule is a long and cherished tradition in New York. The decision by FEMA rides roughshod over what elected officials say is necessary to protect our safety in the event of a catastrophe at Indian Point," said Marilyn Elie, founder of the Citizens Awareness Network, which has long campaigned to close the two Buchanan plants.

But those who favor the plants' continued operation, such as Marsha Gordon, president of the Westchester County Chamber of Commerce, said FEMA's ruling showed that the evacuation plans were adequate to protect the public.

"That's very good news," she said. "Our No. 1 issue was safety, and it's good that the work was done by FEMA and we can feel more confident that our evacuation plans will work."

FEMA's decision contradicts the scathing 550-page report compiled for the state by James Lee Witt Associates, a firm led by FEMA's former director, that said the plans would not work.

Alex Matthiessen, executive director of Garrison-based Riverkeeper, said the decision puts pressure on Pataki to join the battle to shut the plants.

"All eyes are now on Governor Pataki to see if the state's top elected official will rise to the occasion and defend the safety and security of his constituents or cave in to Washington's reckless bureaucrats," he said.

Earlier in the afternoon, Pataki held a news conference in Peekskill, just across Lents Cove from the nuclear complex, after signing a bill to combat teen drinking. Pataki, who lives in Garrison, within the 10-mile evacuation zone, said the Witt report was "accurate" and the basis of the state's decision not to certify the evacuation plans. But he left it up to federal officials to make any conclusion about whether the plants should operate.

A Pataki spokeswoman later elaborated on the governor's viewpoint.

"FEMA and the NRC have recognized the need for a more comprehensive view and are willing to explore the specialized risk factors associated with terrorism, as well as the challenges such scenarios could pose to emergency planning," spokeswoman Mollie Fullington said in a statement. "The governor has steadfastly maintained that such issues are most appropriately reviewed by the federal agencies charged with such responsibilities, and should be accomplished in a uniform fashion across the nation in consultation with state and local agencies."

Federal lawmakers were incensed by FEMA's decision.

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-Bronx, whose district extends into Westchester and Rockland counties, said he'd never seen a worse decision in his 27 years of public service and called it a ruling that put corporate profits above public health.

"Today, FEMA put the almighty dollar ahead of the lives of my constituents, and that is a disgrace," he said.

Rep. Sue Kelly, R-Katonah, whose district includes the Indian Point complex, was disturbed by FEMA's decision to brush off concerns from local and state emergency planners.

"This decision is an example of bureaucratic rubber-stamping in its most grotesque and dangerous form," she said. "It is clear that FEMA is determined to ram this certification through at any cost."

Both Kelly and Rep. Nita Lowey, D-Harrison, said they will seek the release of FEMA's report on the evacuation plans. A FEMA spokesman yesterday said the agency would release only its conclusion, not the analysis that led to the decision.

"If FEMA based its decision on facts, there's no reason not to release it," Lowey said. "FEMA shouldn't be allowed to operate in the dark."

Lowey yesterday also introduced legislation that would require that state and local governments within 10 miles of a nuclear plant be required to certify their emergency plans as a condition of operation. That would give those governments veto power over the operation of nuclear plants across the nation. Currently, only the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission has that authority.

"It might be a way to kill the plants that shouldn't be there," Lowey said.

U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., said she'd request that the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hold oversight hearings on FEMA.

Assemblyman Ryan Karben, D-New Hempstead, said federal agencies should pay more attention to community concerns. His district includes several communities within the 10-mile evacuation zone.

"The federal bureaucracy refuses to acknowledge what most Hudson Valley residents already know: If there is a disaster at Indian Point, there is no way for any of us to get out," he said.

Activist Susan Shapiro of Palisades was shocked to hear that the plans were recertified.

"It's like a total slap in the face to the people who live in this region," she said. "It's totally inconsiderate and disrespectful to everybody."

Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef renewed his calls for the NRC to shut Indian Point because the plants are in a densely populated region.

But Putnam County Executive Robert Bondi said he believed Putnam County's revised plan would work. He said FEMA had to look at the issue from a broader view.

"I think FEMA has a national responsibility and they have been very careful in reviewing this application because of all the concerns raised to date," Bondi said.

Reach David McKay Wilson at dwilson@thejournalnews.com or 914-694-3528.

###

TIMES HERALD-RECORD 

VIEWPOINT 

July 22, 2003

Indian Point opposition has credible foundation

   
By Kyle Rabin
   
   The mainstream effort to close the Indian Point nuclear power plant continues to grow. To date, more than 300 elected officials – including Rep. Sue Kelly and 10 other members of Congress – and 45 municipalities in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, are now calling for the shutdown of the Westchester-based plant.

   In early May, several major investment fund managers added their voice to the diverse group calling for the plant's shutdown. Given Indian Point's proximity to the metropolitan area, a catastrophic release of radiation could contaminate an area equivalent to three-fourths the size of New York state devastating the economy and endangering the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

   It's no secret that the nation's nuclear power plants are high on the terrorists' list of targets. This fact has been broadcast widely by President Bush in his 2002 State of the Union address, cabinet officials in the Bush administration, U.S. intelligence agencies, government associations, scientific research bodies, and the terrorists themselves.

   With the New York City metropolitan area still considered a primary target for future terrorist attacks, Indian Point poses a significant threat to public health and safety and the region's economy.

   Riverkeeper's ads are based upon government and media reports. Unfortunately, Entergy and government officials continue to deny Indian Point's true vulnerability and resist security upgrades as proposed in federal legislation. And if Entergy, the plant's owner, and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the nuclear industry's federal regulator, are not taking the security of the plant as seriously as they should, the public has a right to know the facts surrounding a facility that has the potential to profoundly and irrevocably jeopardize their health and safety.

   Substantiating the message in Riverkeeper's ads are credible sources which include:
   -A September 2002 report from the National Governor's Association, which states, "A terrorist attack on a nuclear facility should be viewed like a terrorist attack using a dirty bomb [a weapon of mass destruction], but possibly more catastrophic due to the volume of nuclear material available for dispersion."

   -The National Research Council, in a July 2002 report, states that the threat risk to nuclear power plants is high with potential consequences "ranging from reactor shutdowns to core meltdowns with very large releases of radioactivity."

   -A 1997 Brookhaven National Lab Report prepared for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, claims that a disaster involving a spent fuel pool fire could cause up to 143,000 cancer deaths, as much as $566 billion in economic damages, and could make an area up to 2,790 square miles around the plant uninhabitable.

   -If a radioactive plume from Indian Point were to only affect a small area, as the Entergy corporation claims, than why does the American Thyroid Association recommend the predistribution of potassium iodide tablets to people within a 50-mile radius of a nuclear plant and as far away as 200 miles? In fact, the ATA clearly states on their Web site, "No one can predict how far a radioactive iodine cloud might spread."

   -And finally, in a 1979 report to the President's Commission on the Three Mile Island accident, Robert Ryan of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission stated: "I think it is insane to have a three-unit reactor on the Hudson River in Westchester County, 40 miles from Times Square, 20 miles from the Bronx. And if you describe that 50-mile circle, you've got 21 million people. I just don't think that that's the right place to put a nuclear facility …It's a nightmare from the point of view of emergency preparedness."

   Our ad campaign, rooted in fact, was designed to increase public awareness about an inadequately defended nuclear power plant situated so close to New York City and engage them in the debate about the plant's future.
   
   Kyle Rabin is policy analyst for Riverkeeper Inc. in Garrison.

###

NORTH COUNTY NEWS

Volume 37, Number 27
July 9, 2003 -
July 15, 2003

Nuclear escape scheme flawed
New study estimates evacuation from Indian Point emergency would take longer than expected

by Rita J. King

New information about evacuation time estimates has revealed a timely exodus from a radioactive leak at the Indian Point nuclear power plants might take much longer than last decade’s population statistics suggested.

A 10 percent rise in the population has resulted in a new study that predicts a doubling of the time it would take to evacuate the region, up to 10 hours.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency mandated the study, which was commissioned by Indian Point’s parent company, Entergy. KLD Associates is a large, reputable firm, according to Entergy spokesman Jim Steets, with The Port Authority among their other clients.

KLD Associates was literally out counting cars and polling citizens, Steets said, and they used census numbers to determine the new estimates.

As a result, Westchester Deputy Commissioner of Emergency Services Tony Sutton said the new numbers are much more realistic.

Sheltering in place, Sutton said, has always been one of the many tools available to emergency planners and county executives facing the responsibility of planning a course of action in a fast breaking scenario.

“Sheltering in place has always been standard procedure,” Sutton said.
He added in light of the new estimates, Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano no longer feels he can take care of everyone in an emergency.

“That’s why he feels the plant should be closed,” he said.

The volley over responsibility for emergency preparedness plans has been bouncing back and forth since the four counties around the plant, Westchester, Putnam, Orange and Rockland, refused to sign off on checklists verifying preparedness for an emergency in light of former FEMA Director James Lee Witt’s independent report stated the evacuation plans were not sufficient.

Despite having signed off on similar exercises in the past, the counties focused on the new information and were no longer willing to say they were prepared for a radiological leak at Indian Point. Still, in 1979, after a leak at Three Mile Island, the federal government mandated emergency plans for all nuclear plants in the nation.

The absence of signed checklists and the awareness that an evacuation would take much longer than previously assumed doesn’t change the emergency plans, according to FEMA spokesman Don Jacks. The plans, he said, are still in place, and would be followed in an emergency, though local emergency planners also have the option of sheltering in place.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Association, there are three ways to minimize radiation exposure: distance, which calls for an evacuation, shielding, which doesn’t, and a common sense measure, time, because radiation “loses its strength fairly quickly.”

“The more distance,” FEMA advises, “between you and the source of the radiation, the less radiation you will receive. In a serious nuclear accident, local officials will likely call for an evacuation, thereby increasing the distance between you and the radiation.”

The second way of minimizing exposure advises people to get situated behind dense, heavy materials to block the radiation, because “in some cases, the walls in your home would be sufficient shielding to protect you.”

“This is why local officials could advise you to remain indoors if a radiological accident occurs,” FEMA explains on their website.

“Every incident is different,” Jacks said. “Every incident is looked at depending upon individual circumstances such as plume size, wind direction and speed.

Evacuation is a local decision. The counties have a plan that passed without any deficient marks. That plan will be put into place in the event of a radiological leak.”
He added he has “no idea,” how long it might take before FEMA makes an announcement about whether the plans offer a reasonable assurance of safety to those living in close proximity to the plant.

Riverkeeper attorney Kyle Rabin said FEMA has noted in the past that sheltering in place is not as favorable as an evacuation.

In a report on emergency preparedness at Indian Point dated February 21, 2003, FEMA wrote, “Studies clearly indicate that for all but a very limited set of conditions, prompt evacuation of the area near the plant is much more effective in reducing the risk of early health effects than sheltering the population in the event of severe accidents. In addition, studies have shown that except for very limited conditions, evacuation in a plume is still more effective in reducing health risks than prolonged sheltering near the plant. Therefore, the NRC and FEMA recommend that the population near the plant should be evacuated if possible for actual or projected severe core damage accidents.”

In the event of a radiological leak, Westchester County emergency planners would study information about the incident while Entergy was doing the same.
According to Steets, Entergy would make recommendations to the county about how best to proceed, though the county is free to accept or reject the advice.
Jacks said only those within two miles of the plant would require evacuation. Beyond this tight radius, only those under the radioactive plume would need to hit the road to escape danger.

Indian Point should be viewed as the center of a pie, and “only one slice,” will be affected by a radiological leak, Jacks said, meaning the piece under the plume, “not the entire pie.”

Plumes, Jacks said, are “often not very long from tip to tail,” which makes sheltering in place a viable alternative.

Jacks said the most important aspect of an emergency is for citizens to “obey messages from emergency planners.”

“People may be instructed to run inside and take cover,” Jacks said, “and they should wait for an all-clear from emergency planners. But then the plume will be gone and people might be able to open their windows and doors and go back outside.”

Sheltering in place, according to Steets, has always been “one tool available to local emergency planners.”

Local officials, despite having demonstrated a lack of faith in the plan, would ultimately be responsible for making a decision about whether to evacuate people or tell them to sit tight and take potassium iodide pills to protect their thyroids while children are separated from their parents, at day care or school.

Districts are grappling with the prohibitive cost of stocking supplies and sending out permission slips so parents can permit the administering of potassium iodide.

Riverkeeper has launched a massive ad campaign to raise awareness among New York City’s residents about Indian Point. The ads are turning up on radio and television, in newspapers and on bus stop vestibules around the city.

“Our campaign to close Indian Point will continue until Governor Pataki, and Senators Schumer and Clinton stand up and use their influence to protect the people they were elected to represent,” said Riverkeeper Executive Director Alex Matthiessen.

Steets called the campaign science fiction and said he’s tired of assertions being repeated with no evidence to support them. For example, he said, the spent fuel rod pool situated near the reactors is completely protected and cannot possibly render the state of New York uninhabitable if a nuclear fire spreads from that site.

Experts disagree, saying that if the water protecting the rods is removed, a lethal fire would instantly kill countless people, cause cancer in many more, and prevent citizens from ever returning to contaminated homes.

Every mandate issued by FEMA has been followed to the letter by Entergy, Steets said. Entergy has spent more than 20 million on security enhancements since 9/11, he said, and continues to create new barriers and higher standards based on the threat of terrorism.

“FEMA tells us what the problems are, and we protect the plant,” Steets said, adding he’s confident FEMA will find the emergency preparedness plans adequate.  Jacks said a terrorism drill has never been incorporated into the biennial preparedness tests conducted jointly by FEMA and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. September 2004 will mark the first such drill of that kind, Jacks said.

Sutton said FEMA has been unresponsive to local needs, such as requests for more training and resources.

###

THE JOURNAL NEWS
An editorial

Assessing Indian Point
(Original publication: July 5, 2003)

Edward McGaffigan, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, must live in a fantasy world of unrivaled proportion. What else explains the top NRC official's rose-colored assessment this week regarding Indian Point nuclear power plant? He told The Journal News in an interview that the commission's five members had seen little so far to indicate that emergency plans for Indian Point could not provide "reasonable assurance" that the public would be protected in the event of a plant emergency.

That early assessment tends to strain incredulity and invite skepticism of the government's oversight, given mounting evidence pointing to a contrary conclusion — or at the very least calling into question long-held assumptions about contingencies, chiefly those concerning the evacuation of millions of people.

McGaffigan's opinion is important: His panel is, as McGaffigan puts it, the "ultimate judge as to whether a plant needs to be shut down or whether the (emergency) plan gets fixed."

Hope is that the full NRC panel will be more circumspect when it finally passes on the adequacy of contingencies for the plant, which is based in Buchanan. The region's future, quite frankly, could rest on the NRC's making a thoughtful, intelligent determination.

In January, former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director James Lee Witt released a report commissioned by Gov. George Pataki concluding that emergency evacuation plans for the 10-mile area surrounding Indian Point would not work, particularly in the event of an emergency sparked by terrorism.

That report prompted
Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Orange counties to withhold their annual certifications of the emergency plans. The state Emergency Management Office also refused to certify the plans. Against this backdrop, FEMA is conducting an unprecedented review of the contingencies. Indian Point's neighbors total some 20 million people.

There was additional grist this week for those who are skeptical of the emergency plans — fears heightened by the realization that one of the Sept. 11 terrorist jets flew past Indian Point enroute to the World Trade Center, and solidified by everyday, and increasing, battles with nightmarish traffic.

A study commissioned by Entergy Nuclear Northeast, owner of Indian Point, found that it would take nine hours and 25 minutes to evacuate the 10-mile zone around the plant; that's nearly twice as long as the determination in a 1994 study — a review criticized for assuming that fear-stricken people would stay home and wait until told when and how to evacuate.

The newly released review, called "comprehensive and thorough" by Entergy, also concluded that it would take as many as 11 hours to evacuate a wider region — an interstate beltway stopping at Interstate 87 to the west, Interstate 287 to the south, Interstate 684 to the east and Interstate 84 to the north. Indian Point critics contend that the figure hardly reflects likely reality.

"This study is worse than the last one (in 1984)," Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, D-Greenburgh, told Journal News staff reporter Roger Witherspoon. ". . . (T)his report assumes no one in Greenburgh or Yonkers will do anything. No one in New York City will do anything. No one in New Jersey or Connecticut will move either. They all stay home."

McGaffigan, meanwhile, said his statutory responsibility was to determine if there was "reasonable assurance of adequate protection of public health and safety. Many of our critics, I believe, carry in their head a standard of absolute assurance. That is not what the standard is." In the event of a mishap, he noted, some people will die.

No reasonable person disputes that reality. And no sensible regulator, be it FEMA or the NRC, would ignore real-world conditions or behavior when considering the future of Indian Point.

###

 Is it alarmist to imagine Indian Point as another Chernobyl?

[cover story of July 2003 NY Press] 

http://www.nypress.com/16/28/news&columns/feature.cfm

Seventeen years ago, engineers at the Chernobyl nuclear facility decided to test how smoothly a plant victimized by a grid-wide power blackout could move to backup power for its safety systems. Things slipped steadily out of control until, at 1:23 a.m. on April 26, 1986, an explosion rocked the reactor complex. A second blast followed immediately, ripping it apart and throwing a 1000-ton cement containment lid high into the air.

Before dawn, the reactor’s large amount of graphite erupted in flames. The fire would burn out of control for nine days, billowing out radioactive clouds across the Ukraine, neighboring Belarus and Western Europe. More than 800,000 soldiers, firefighters, engineers, helicopter pilots and volunteers would be called upon to put it out.

Thirty-five miles from Times Square sits a nuclear power plant, one that’s accumulated a serious store of spent fuel. Given a catastrophe, Indian Point’s spent fuel could release 20 times more cesium-137, the worst radioactive isotope, than roared out of Chernobyl. In that unlikely event, we would see mass panic, a wave of cancers and death, the irreversible collapse of the Manhattan real estate market and economic disaster.

Osama bin Laden knows this. President Bush, in his 2002 State of the Union address, announced that U.S. forces had found diagrams of American nuclear power plants in al Qaeda lairs in Afghanistan. Surely those New York–obsessed lunatics—who have been kicking the tires of our crop dusters and casing the Brooklyn Bridge—have Indian Point on their short list of things to do.

Then again, there are 104 nuclear power reactors in the United States, generating about one-fifth of our electricity—and most of them are near cities. Chicago is ringed with nuke plants. The Limerick plant is only 21 miles from Philadelphia. The San Onofre plant is sandwiched between Los Angeles and San Diego. The Calvert Cliffs plant, overlooking the Chesapeake Bay, is about 45 miles from Washington, DC—al Qaeda’s other favorite target.

None of these plants can boast of quite so many millions of people living in a 50-mile radius as Indian Point, but there are millions nonetheless. And many other plants are more vulnerable than Indian Point. In fact, despite the well-documented weaknesses of its security forces, Indian Point’s claim that it is the best-defended nuclear facility in America may well be true.

Consider the Achilles heel of any nuclear plant: A cooling pond, usually a stainless-steel-lined, thick-walled concrete pool about 40 feet deep, crammed to the gills with highly radioactive spent fuel. Drain off the cooling water, and the spent fuel may well spontaneously ignite. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission—a timid government agency routinely bullied by industry—concluded in 2000 that the resulting fire could rage for days before it could be extinguished—just like the Chernobyl blaze.

Much would depend on where the wind carried the radioactive plume; but the NRC study concluded a fuel-pool fire could force the evacuation of millions, from areas up to 500 miles away, for periods ranging from one month to one year. Such a fire could also bring radiation-driven cancers to thousands of people living hundreds of miles away. Regions closer would be written off for many human lifespans. Think of them as national sacrifice areas, much as the 18-mile-radius exclusionary zone around the Chernobyl plant is a no-man’s land surrounded by chain-link fences and guards.

Such a scenario would be, as former Mayor Giuliani put it, more than we could bear. And Indian Point’s spent-fuel pool, which is sunk mostly but not entirely into the ground on-site, is arguably vulnerable.

However, it’s far less vulnerable than the pools of at least 18 other nuclear power plants in America—which, incredibly, are located on the upper stories of poorly reinforced buildings. In the back-and-forth over Indian Point’s future, argument rages over whether a kamikaze 767 airplane could compromise the fuel pool. At other plants, knowledgeable terrorists could wreak havoc with "a Cessna," according to David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Organizers of the campaign against Indian Point have a narrow focus. They aren’t taking responsibility for all the nuclear plants. Indian Point, they say, is a special case: It’s closer to more people—and more financial capital—than any other reactor; the local geography creates choke points that would hinder emergency evacuations; the Hudson River Valley creates a natural funnel that would channel any radioactive plume like a curved dagger straight into the city; and so on.

The argument, it seems, is that New York City is too special to be so close to a nuclear reactor. Perhaps it is. Certainly if the citizens living with the plant decide they want to shutter it, that’s their prerogative. But if that happens, how long before, say, Californians take another look at the San Onofre plant—and start to ask how it could possibly be that Los Angelenos are less special than New Yorkers? Would a thumbs-down on Indian Point be, in effect, America’s renouncement of nuclear power itself?

This spring, those for and against closing Indian Point went head-to-head at a two-hour public forum at Manhattanville College. As discussions about nuclear power go, this one was typically muddleheaded and torturous.

Early in the forum, the moderator addressed panelist Letty G. Lutzker, a doctor and the chief of nuclear medicine at New Jersey’s Saint Barnabas Medical Center. Noting that she was also a small-plane pilot, he asked her if terrorists could fly a hijacked passenger jet into Indian Point.

"Probably not," she replied.

As Lutzker elaborated on why terrorists couldn’t hit Indian Point with a 767, it became clear she was really arguing that it wouldn’t matter if they did. She argued that striking something low to the ground like a nuclear plant is harder to do than, say, hitting a World Trade Center tower—the pilot would need to dramatically reduce speeds to stay accurately on target. A slower-moving plane, she seemed to suggest, is a less-destructive missile. Fair enough. But American Airlines Flight 77 seemed to have little problem ripping through the low-to-the-ground Pentagon.

To argue against a 767’s efficiency as a weapon against Indian Point, Lutzker talked about wingspan and the distance between its engines. "There have been some very sophisticated studies costing millions of dollars that have looked at the physical forces involved," she said, "and found that a 767 going full speed ahead into the reactor building—if it hit it!—might cause some chippings, fallings of the cement, but would not crack the dome."

For a rebuttal, the moderator turned to Ed Lyman, then-president of the Nuclear Control Institute, a private group that casts a critical eye on nuclear power. Lyman countered that a 767 crashing into a nuclear power plant could be a spectacular catastrophe, regardless of whether it cracked the containment dome.

He also could have taken a slap at those "sophisticated studies costing millions of dollars." Most of them emerged in a post-9/11 world under the careful eye—and often with the funding—of the nuclear power industry. The pre-9/11 literature was strangely silent on what happens if a jumbo jet plows into a nuclear plant, so much so that in the days immediately after the attacks, experts named the same lone study.

Conducted by General Electric, a leading builder of nuclear plants, and published in 1974 in the industry journal Nuclear Safety, it looked at accidents, not terror attacks. It concluded that were a "heavy" airliner to hit a reactor building in the right place, it would almost certainly rip it apart. It would also most likely damage the reactor core and both the cooling and emergency cooling systems.

The G.E. study defined a "heavy" plane as one weighing more than six tons. The 757 deployed against the Pentagon weighed over 100 tons. A 767, fully loaded, could weigh more than 200 tons.

Turning back to Dr. Lutzker, the moderator mentioned President Bush’s warning that al Qaeda operatives have been studying blueprints of U.S. nuclear plants. He asked: "Is that not reason enough to take this seriously as at least a possibility?"

"As a possibility, not as a probability," the doctor replied. "The terrorists I am sure have plans of lots of installations in this country that don’t get as much play in the press as nuclear plants. I mean if you want to do some damage with an airplane, fly it into Yankee Stadium where you could kill a lot of people, start a fire that would injure a lot more people and you would absolutely take somebody with you.

"To fly into Indian Point we would end up with no release [of radiation], a dead terrorist in an airplane, and maybe some damage to a building."

Dr. Lutzker’s unshakable faith was echoed at the same forum by Michael J. Slobodien, the director of emergency programs at Entergy Nuclear Northeast, the owner and operator of Indian Point. That hypothetical 767 would "collapse like a tin can" against the reactor dome. No release of radiation could result. This is one of those truths that seem to exist simply because they have been repeated often and so firmly.

And the religion goes all the way to the top. Consider Richard Meserve, who this time last year was testifying before Congress as chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Meserve had just sat through the testimony of an interesting watchdog group called POGO, the Project on Government Oversight.

POGO is not an antinuclear organization. Rather, it works with whistleblowers to push for various public policy improvements. As Danielle Brian, POGO’s executive director, testified at last June’s Senate hearing, POGO was drawn into the debate over nuclear security only after it was contacted by frustrated and frightened security guards from commercial nuclear plants across the country.

According to Brian, guards complained about poor equipment, poor training and being overworked while underpaid. Many had real concerns that they could never defend the plant against anything like a 9/11-scale assault—19 terrorists operating in four separate teams.

"In the face of a real terrorist attack," Brian testified, "many guards [say they] would use their guns simply to protect themselves while they escaped from the plant."

This was news to many of the senators: In the weeks before the hearing, the nuclear industry had taken out full-page ads in the Washington Post and other publications popular on Capitol Hill, featuring photos of tough-looking security forces in flak jackets with automatic weapons, and bragging of their tactical training.

Meserve waved away the guards’ concerns as "a non-existent problem," urging senators to think about all the Yankee Stadiums out there. Specifically, he mentioned chemical plants, refineries and dams.

"We have limited assets to be able to spend on security," he pointed out.

The evasion was shocking. Meserve’s fiefdom is singled out in the State of the Union address as targeted by formidable terrorists. He’s at a congressional hearing where others are testifying that his agency is not ready for this challenge. And his offhand reply is, Yeah, but what about the dams?

Senators stared back, bug-eyed. At one point, California’s Barbara Boxer asked Meserve plaintively: "Why don’t you want to be a model of safety?"

Security guard Foster Zeh wanted to be a model for safety. Even some Entergy executives concede as much about their former employee, who has become their greatest tormentor.

Zeh was a security guard at Indian Point for five and a half years, and in 2000 was named Supervisor of the Millennium by Wackenhut Nuclear Security. (Entergy has since let Wackenhut go and instead built its own team.) Zeh rose to train the other guards, to supervise his own guard team and even to lead an NRC-supervised mock terrorist assault on the plant last year.

"There’s a tremendous group of guys there, and women, that really believe in their minds that they want to do the right thing," Zeh says of Indian Point security. But he also says guards are exhausted from working six days a week, they’re in poor physical shape and they’ve become cynical about having the right tools and training to hold off a band of terrorist-saboteurs.

A running joke, Zeh says, revolves around who runs when the terrorists come.

Last September, Zeh decided to do something about it. His boss had tapped him to lead an NRC exercise: Zeh was to be a one-man terrorist assault team. But, Zeh says, his supervisor also told him to "have a bad day," so the plant could pass. Indignant, Zeh set out to give Indian Point a wake-up call.

The war-game part of the drill was played with magnetic pieces moving across a wall-mounted map of the plant. In Zeh’s account, he moved his attacking-terrorist magnet rapidly into position to go after the weakest link: the spent-fuel pool. While an NRC inspector with a clipboard tracked his rapid progress, his boss visibly fretted before finally calling an unusual time-out. He dragged Zeh out into the hall and told him to "shut the fuck up." Zeh was replaced at the table.

The terrorists lost the game, and Indian Point passed its NRC exam. Several weeks later, Zeh was put on administrative leave.

Zeh’s detailed account appeared in the May 2003 issue of Playboy. When asked about it, Larry Gottlieb, an Entergy spokesman, was dismissive: "That article belonged in Playboy. That’s exactly where it belongs. Everything Foster [Zeh] has alleged has gone through the NRC, and it was not found to be accurate."

Do they believe Zeh concocted the story?

"No," Gottlieb said. Choosing his words with care, he said that managers can sometimes intercede in such an exercise "if they feel the parameters are out of whack, something doesn’t make sense. You can’t get [your terrorist magnet] from here to there in a second. It is possible that somebody said, ‘Technically that can’t happen, it’s too artificial a scenario, we have to change the scenario.’"

And what of Zeh’s contention that the fuel pools are poorly guarded, and in particular largely above ground? Entergy often speaks of Indian Point’s fuels as "embedded in bedrock," but Zeh asserts that on three of the four sides of a 40-foot-deep pool, the last 30 feet of the walls are aboveground. It’s not a minor point: A pool sunk entirely in bedrock would pose a real challenge to terrorists; what Zeh describes sounds more like an invitation.

"[The fuel pools] are built into the side of the Hudson River bedrock," Gottlieb says. "So the spent fuel pools are pretty much built into the bedrock. I tell folks, ‘I can’t show you the blueprints, but it’s mostly underground.’"

As in partly not underground? For clarification, I draw a picture of a fuel pool with walls aboveground; Gottlieb corrects and draws his own, which looks pretty much the same. It seems clear that if a band of terrorists were to storm Indian Point—either by stealth or force—and reach the fuel pool with high explosives, we’d be Chernobyl-bound.

Matt Bivens writes the "The Daily Outrage" column at thenation.com.

Volume 16, Issue 28

###

Nuclear escape scheme flawed
New study estimates evacuation from Indian Point emergency would take longer than expected

http://www.northcountynews.com/archives_2003/7-9-03/topstory.htm

by Rita J. King

New information about evacuation time estimates has revealed a timely exodus from a radioactive leak at the Indian Point nuclear power plants might take much longer than last decade’s population statistics suggested.

A 10 percent rise in the population has resulted in a new study that predicts a doubling of the time it would take to evacuate the region, up to 10 hours.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency mandated the study, which was commissioned by Indian Point’s parent company, Entergy. KLD Associates is a large, reputable firm, according to Entergy spokesman Jim Steets, with The Port Authority among their other clients.

KLD Associates was literally out counting cars and polling citizens, Steets said, and they used census numbers to determine the new estimates.

As a result, Westchester Deputy Commissioner of Emergency Services Tony Sutton said the new numbers are much more realistic.

Sheltering in place, Sutton said, has always been one of the many tools available to emergency planners and county executives facing the responsibility of planning a course of action in a fast breaking scenario.

“Sheltering in place has always been standard procedure,” Sutton said.

He added in light of the new estimates, Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano no longer feels he can take care of everyone in an emergency.

“That’s why he feels the plant should be closed,” he said.

The volley over responsibility for emergency preparedness plans has been bouncing back and forth since the four counties around the plant, Westchester, Putnam, Orange and Rockland, refused to sign off on checklists verifying preparedness for an emergency in light of former FEMA Director James Lee Witt’s independent report stated the evacuation plans were not sufficient.

Despite having signed off on similar exercises in the past, the counties focused on the new information and were no longer willing to say they were prepared for a radiological leak at Indian Point. Still, in 1979, after a leak at Three Mile Island, the federal government mandated emergency plans for all nuclear plants in the nation.

The absence of signed checklists and the awareness that an evacuation would take much longer than previously assumed doesn’t change the emergency plans, according to FEMA spokesman Don Jacks. The plans, he said, are still in place, and would be followed in an emergency, though local emergency planners also have the option of sheltering in place.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Association, there are three ways to minimize radiation exposure: distance, which calls for an evacuation, shielding, which doesn’t, and a common sense measure, time, because radiation “loses its strength fairly quickly.”

“The more distance,” FEMA advises, “between you and the source of the radiation, the less radiation you will receive. In a serious nuclear accident, local officials will likely call for an evacuation, thereby increasing the distance between you and the radiation.”

The second way of minimizing exposure advises people to get situated behind dense, heavy materials to block the radiation, because “in some cases, the walls in your home would be sufficient shielding to protect you.”

“This is why local officials could advise you to remain indoors if a radiological accident occurs,” FEMA explains on their website.

“Every incident is different,” Jacks said. “Every incident is looked at depending upon individual circumstances such as plume size, wind direction and speed. Evacuation is a local decision. The counties have a plan that passed without any deficient marks. That plan will be put into place in the event of a radiological leak.”

He added he has “no idea,” how long it might take before FEMA makes an announcement about whether the plans offer a reasonable assurance of safety to those living in close proximity to the plant.

Riverkeeper attorney Kyle Rabin said FEMA has noted in the past that sheltering in place is not as favorable as an evacuation.

In a report on emergency preparedness at Indian Point dated February 21, 2003, FEMA wrote, “Studies clearly indicate that for all but a very limited set of conditions, prompt evacuation of the area near the plant is much more effective in reducing the risk of early health effects than sheltering the population in the event of severe accidents. In addition, studies have shown that except for very limited conditions, evacuation in a plume is still more effective in reducing health risks than prolonged sheltering near the plant. Therefore, the NRC and FEMA recommend that the population near the plant should be evacuated if possible for actual or projected severe core damage accidents.”

In the event of a radiological leak, Westchester County emergency planners would study information about the incident while Entergy was doing the same.

According to Steets, Entergy would make recommendations to the county about how best to proceed, though the county is free to accept or reject the advice.

Jacks said only those within two miles of the plant would require evacuation. Beyond this tight radius, only those under the radioactive plume would need to hit the road to escape danger.

Indian Point should be viewed as the center of a pie, and “only one slice,” will be affected by a radiological leak, Jacks said, meaning the piece under the plume, “not the entire pie.”
Plumes, Jacks said, are “often not very long from tip to tail,” which makes sheltering in place a viable alternative.

Jacks said the most important aspect of an emergency is for citizens to “obey messages from emergency planners.”

“People may be instructed to run inside and take cover,” Jacks said, “and they should wait for an all-clear from emergency planners. But then the plume will be gone and people might be able to open their windows and doors and go back outside.”

Sheltering in place, according to Steets, has always been “one tool available to local emergency planners.”

Local officials, despite having demonstrated a lack of faith in the plan, would ultimately be responsible for making a decision about whether to evacuate people or tell them to sit tight and take potassium iodide pills to protect their thyroids while children are separated from their parents, at day care or school.

Districts are grappling with the prohibitive cost of stocking supplies and sending out permission slips so parents can permit the administering of potassium iodide.

Riverkeeper has launched a massive ad campaign to raise awareness among New York City’s residents about Indian Point. The ads are turning up on radio and television, in newspapers and on bus stop vestibules around the city.

“Our campaign to close Indian Point will continue until Governor Pataki, and Senators Schumer and Clinton stand up and use their influence to protect the people they were elected to represent,” said Riverkeeper Executive Director Alex Matthiessen.

Steets called the campaign science fiction and said he’s tired of assertions being repeated with no evidence to support them. For example, he said, the spent fuel rod pool situated near the reactors is completely protected and cannot possibly render the state of New York uninhabitable if a nuclear fire spreads from that site.

Experts disagree, saying that if the water protecting the rods is removed, a lethal fire would instantly kill countless people, cause cancer in many more, and prevent citizens from ever returning to contaminated homes.

Every mandate issued by FEMA has been followed to the letter by Entergy, Steets said. Entergy has spent more than 20 million on security enhancements since 9/11, he said, and continues to create new barriers and higher standards based on the threat of terrorism.
“FEMA tells us what the problems are, and we protect the plant,” Steets said, adding he’s confident FEMA will find the emergency preparedness plans adequate.

Jacks said a terrorism drill has never been incorporated into the biennial preparedness tests conducted jointly by FEMA and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. September 2004 will mark the first such drill of that kind, Jacks said.

Sutton said FEMA has been unresponsive to local needs, such as requests for more training and resources.

 
###

Officials say evacuation unlikely

By ROGER WITHERSPOON
(c) 2003 THE JOURNAL NEWS

(Original publication: July 4, 2003)

A new study showing it will take nearly twice as long to evacuate people from the 10-mile region around Indian Point as previously believed has led officials in Westchester and Rockland counties to conclude they could not evacuate residents following a fast-breaking catastrophe at the nuclear power plants.

Instead, officials said yesterday, they may have to ask everyone to stay in their homes, jobs and schools while radioactive clouds pass over the area.

The emergency plans developed for the four counties around the plants in Buchanan have relied on an evacuation time estimate study prepared in 1994 by consultants to Consolidated Edison, which previously owned Indian Point 2. That traffic study, using demographic data from the 1990 census, predicted it would take 2 1/2 hours for nearly 300,000 residents and workers to mobilize and take to the road, and a total of 5 1/2 hours for everyone to be evacuated.

But new transportation estimates prepared last month by the Commack, Long Island, firm of KLD Associates for Entergy Nuclear Northeast, which now owns Indian Point, predicts it can take up to four hours for residents to mobilize and up to 10 hours to evacuate the region in good weather. Traffic congestion from "shadow evacuations," people who flee the region from outside the 10-mile zone, would increase those times, the report found.

A decision by regional officials to order everyone to stay in place and not attempt an evacuation would first come from Westchester County, which has the lead role in emergency planning for the nuclear site.

"In a fast-breaking terrorist scenario, it may be more prudent to ask people to shelter in place rather than put them on the roadways," said Tony Sutton, Westchester's deputy commissioner of emergency services. "The protection offered by residences exceeds that offered by a car. We would tell them to stay inside and minimize their sources of outside air, and we would tell them to take potassium iodide. We would not have time to set up for an evacuation."

Sutton said that after the radiation source is capped — hours or days after an incident, depending on the severity — "you can instruct people to evacuate via a certain route, and try to minimize their exposure to radiation."

"In an immediate emergency, we don't have the capacity in resources or roads to effect an immediate evacuation," Sutton said.

Dan Greeley, Rockland County's assistant director of fire and emergency services, said that in a terrorist scenario, "we would probably tell the schools and public to shelter in place."

"If there is a fast-moving release, our emergency operations center wouldn't even be open," Greeley said. "The resources wouldn't be in place to handle an evacuation. The reception centers would not even be open. You have to be able to mobilize your resources — the Office of Emergency Services, the police forces, the hospitals — and those would not be ready."

Greeley said that while emergency plans have always envisioned the possibility of fast-breaking scenarios — where radiation is released within an hour or two — those have been accidents of short duration where the public was unaware of unfolding events.

"Some people think a terrorism plan isn't going to be any different from any other fast-moving scenario," Greeley said. "But they are kidding themselves. People will act differently. Some will definitely panic, and there will be people on the road."

Entergy spokesman Jim Steets said a meltdown in either the reactor or the spent fuel pools at Indian Point would take several hours to develop, leaving plenty of time for an orderly evacuation from the region.

"A fast-breaking event takes an awful lot of time before radiation affected the limited area of the emergency planning zone," Steets said. "The fact of the matter is, you can obviously evacuate parts of the region in much less time."

Steets said it was unlikely any event — an accident or terrorist attack — could cause a radiation release in less than eight or 10 hours.

"We still have three layers of defense in depth that would take time to be broken down before there is a release of radiation," he said.

A 2001 Nuclear Regulatory Commission study of possible meltdowns in spent fuel pools said that massive amounts of radiation could be emitted from a site in as little as an hour.

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, D-Greenburgh, said the counties' acknowledgement that no evacuation is possible in a fast-breaking emergency means current evacuation plans are useless.

"It means the only thing that will really happen is that they will tell everybody to stay home," he said. "It's not an honest emergency plan anymore. It used to be just a bad plan. Now, it's a bad, dishonest plan."

###

Report: Indian Point 2 poorly maintained during 1990s

By ROGER WITHERSPOON
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: May 1, 2003)

Operating conditions at Indian Point 2 deteriorated alarmingly throughout the 1990s, and only intensive intervention by the regional Nuclear Regulatory Commission office, beginning in 1995, halted the downward spiral, according to a report released yesterday by the agency's inspector general.

Yet, the report also notes that senior NRC officials refused to allow the regional administrator, Hubert Miller, to place the Buchanan plant on a special "watch list," despite the fact that there was no sign of improvement and a litany of continuing management and performance problems. They include broken and malfunctioning equipment, lax training, and a Feb. 15, 2000, steam generator tube rupture that triggered the plant's only nuclear emergency. The plant shut down for a year after the accident while the defective steam generators were replaced.

At the time, the plant was owned by Consolidated Edison, which sold the plant to Entergy Nuclear Northeast in September 2001.

Only after the rupture did the NRC place Indian Point 2 on its watch list, which meant the plant would continue to have a heightened level of oversight. The plant was given a "red" safety designation for the incident, the worst of four in the agency's color-coded safety system, and was ranked as the least safe plant in the nation for two years. The "red" designation was removed last year as a result of improvements in equipment and training by Entergy. The plant still receives the NRC's highest level of oversight.

Con Edison spokesman Joe Petta said the company has not had time to study the report and could not comment. Inspector General Hubert Bell and Miller also declined to comment.

The report, begun two years ago, found that there was no lax oversight on the part of the NRC, despite serious problems with Indian Point 2's operation. It also found that Con Edison repeatedly pledged to improve the plant's performance and developed elaborate "correction action programs," or CAPs, which it did not carry out.

"Between 1995 and 2001," the report states, "IP2 experienced a series of operational problems, attributed in large part to deficiencies in IP2's CAP. Between April 1995 and February 2001, NRC conducted 20 special team inspections at IP2, logging 5,870 inspection hours. ... However, despite heightened levels of NRC attention to these weaknesses, problems at IP2 remained unresolved."

Some concerned with safety at Indian Point 2 yesterday challenged the report's conclusion that the NRC acted effectively.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., who has been pressing Bell for months to release the report, said she was concerned that the inspector general "appears to have found the NRC less than effective in bringing about necessary improvements in plant performance, including at Indian Point. We need to ensure that these nuclear power plants are held to the highest standards for safety and security. Unfortunately, despite its continued efforts, it appears that the NRC may not be holding plants to these standards, and that must be corrected."

Jim Riccio, nuclear analyst for the environmental group Greenpeace, said the regulatory system relies heavily on the ability of companies to identify and fix their own problems, while the NRC monitors their progress.

"You cannot expect a licensee to self-identify problems that have the potential to shut down their reactor," he said. "They are not going to do it, and the NRC cannot in good conscience say Indian Point 2 is safe. They just don't know."

Among the major problems facing Indian Point 2 under Con Edison's ownership that were cited in the report are:

• Incorrect wiring of the reactor protection system. It is responsible for shutting down the reactor within seconds. Engineers at the plant had filed 13 internal "corrective reports" between 1998 and 2000 noting the improper wiring. Bell's report found Con Edison had "appropriate plans in place" to correct the wiring but did not carry them out.

The NRC, however, acted properly in monitoring Con Edison's actions and testing the protection system to make sure it would work properly even though it was not correctly wired, the report says. The agency's position did not change, even though a malfunction in the system in 1999 led to a shutdown.

• Most of the plant's major operating systems did not conform with license diagrams and specifications. Con Edison sent sworn letters to the NRC in 1997 and 1999 that it would bring all systems into compliance within two years. This was not done. The inspector general found that the NRC did nothing wrong by allowing Con Edison to push back its own deadlines. Entergy launched a $20 million project shortly after taking over the plant to bring all systems into compliance. That is scheduled for completion by the end of this year.

• Con Edison did not correct problems identified since 1995 and showed a persistent inability to identify the causes of mechanical and electrical breakdowns. This resulted in a backlog of thousands of broken or improperly functioning items.

Bell found that this inability to solve problems led Miller to push for additional oversight of the plant. Miller operated properly, the report concludes, though the heightened scrutiny failed to improve the plant's safety margins.

• Miller tried since 1997 to have Indian Point 2 placed on the NRC's "watch list" but was overruled at management meetings because he "did not identify a situation where the plant was unsafe, a safety system was inoperable or adverse trends were apparent."

###

Critics: N.Y. sites a terrorism risk

New Orleans Times Picayune

Saturday May 03, 2003

By Mary Judice
Personal finance writer

Entergy Corp. on Friday defended its nuclear plants outside New York City as safe and well-operated after a Connecticut money manager earlier this week joined environmentalists in calling for the closure of the plants.

Paul Tudor Jones, a hedge fund manager based in Greenwich, Conn., told analysts and investors at the New York Mercantile Exchange that the two Indian Point reactors, which are 33 miles north of New York City, face too great a threat of a terrorist attack.

He said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks showed that the threat to these facilities, which are near 20 million people in the New York City region, is too great. He said an attack might spread radiation and "take out the financial capital of the U.S."

Jones manages $8 billion through his Tudor Investment Corp., which uses techniques such as buying and shorting stocks to enhance returns.

He said the federal government should immediately assume responsibility for security at Indian Point and that spent fuel at the facility should be moved to "hardened" storage bunkers. He called for the plants to be closed in five years.

The steps he advocates correspond with those of Riverkeeper Inc., a Garrison, N.Y., environmental group that is campaigning to close the plants.

Jones' financial support of Riverkeeper is termed significant. "We are going to be able to gear up this campaign" because of his financing, said Robert Kennedy Jr., senior counsel for Riverkeeper.

Alex Matthiesen, Riverkeeper's executive director, said support among money managers is growing. He and Kennedy declined to say how much Jones and other Wall Street supporters have donated or promised to the organization.

Among its supporters is Louis Bacon, chairman of Moore Capital Management Inc. His spokesman said there is no organized effort by the hedge fund community regarding Indian Point but that managers had reached the same conclusion individually. Moore also has about $8 billion under management.

Entergy, until recently Louisiana's only Fortune 500 company, has expanded its nuclear power holdings in recent years. Although nuclear power has long been opposed by some environmentalists, opposition from the financial community is rare.

Arthur Wiese, vice president of corporate communications for Entergy in New Orleans, said the utility does not see this as a move by the financial community to join forces with the environmentalists. He said Jones is a known supporter of Riverkeeper and has hosted at least one of its fund-raisers.

Wiese added that Riverkeeper has not provided the names of other financial supporters.

"We feel these plants at Indian Point are absolutely secure, operated very safely and the electricity they produce is essentially irreplaceable and extremely important to the economy of New York City and southern New York and the whole Northeast," he said. "We think the plants will continue to operate for many years."

Any decision to close a nuclear plant would be made by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which licenses and regulates the plants. While the commission has temporarily shut plants for safety problems, it has never permanently closed one.

Entergy operates 10 nuclear plants, five in the Southern states where its core operations are located and five in the Northeast. The utility began buying the plants in the Northeast in 1999 as it moved to become one of the largest nuclear plant operators in the country.

Entergy purchased Indian Point 3 in Buchanan, N.Y., in 2000, and the nearby Indian Point 2 in 2001, just days before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Wiese said this week the utility has hired the security consulting firm of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani but that the move was not related to the financial manager's opposition. He said the firm would handle emergency planning and be a consultant on security to all of Entergy's Northeast plants.

. . . . . . .

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

Mary Judice can be reached at mjudice@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3496.

###

5-01-03 Journal News

Indian Pt. works to meet new security rules 

At the New York Mercantile Exchange yesterday, Paul Tudor Jones, one of the nation's most influential financiers and the chairman of Tudor Investment Corp., said the Indian Point plants posed a security risk and should be shut down within the next five years.

Jones said radiation escaping from the plant following a successful terrorist attack could contaminate the region and "take out the financial capital of the U.S."

Jones added that the federal government should take over security at Indian Point and that protecting the site from terrorists should be second in priority only to the protection afforded the White House.

 Indian Pt. works to meet new security rules

By ROGER WITHERSPOON
(c) 2003 THE JOURNAL NEWS

(Original publication: May 1, 2003)

Officials at Indian Point have begun an intensive training of its security forces to comply with new federal guidelines intended to ensure the nuclear plants can be defended from terrorist attacks.

The new guidelines imposed Tuesday by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission require increased training, performance and staffing requirements for guards; establish the first fitness-for-duty standards for guards; and lay out a new "design basis threat," which determines the amount of protection plants need to provide in a post-9/11 environment.

These new guidelines will be used when the regulators begin a new series of "force on force" simulated attacks on Indian Point and other power plants in an effort to test their ability to repel modern terrorists.

Jim Steets, spokesman for Entergy Nuclear Northeast, which owns the Buchanan plants, said "we hired 40 security guards in the past few months and plan on hiring 50 more. There will be additional training for our security guards to meet the new requirements."

But many of the guidelines' key details are being kept secret, as are the results of security tests at each plant. The secrecy has prompted some industry critics to say they have little faith in the effectiveness of the changes.

"NRC commissioners and officials at Entergy have said since 9/11 that their security force was capable of protecting the plants against a terrorist attack," said David Lochbaum, nuclear safety engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

"If these plants are as safe as the commission says they are, why can't the commission talk about it?" he said. "If a 767 hitting Indian Point at 500 miles an hour can't hurt it, how can three guys on the ground hurt it? The information the commissioners and Entergy officials are putting out doesn't support the assertions they are making."

The new orders from the NRC come at a time of heightened national attention to the possibility of a terrorist attack on nuclear power plants.

The FBI sent an intelligence bulletin yesterday to law enforcement agencies across the country, warning them to watch for suspicious activities around nuclear power plants, including people spotted taking photographs and aircraft flying near the nuclear facilities.

David Velazquez, the supervisory senior resident agent in charge of the FBI's White Plains office, said there was no information that suggested the Indian Point nuclear complex could be the specific target of an imminent attack.

"Headquarters puts these out pretty regularly," he said.

Velazquez did not discuss the contents of the advisory, but added that "there isn't anything that should imply that there's anything new. These are more or less telling law enforcement, 'Don't let your guard down.' "

At the New York Mercantile Exchange yesterday, Paul Tudor Jones, one of the nation's most influential financiers and the chairman of Tudor Investment Corp., said the Indian Point plants posed a security risk and should be shut down within the next five years.

Jones said radiation escaping from the plant following a successful terrorist attack could contaminate the region and "take out the financial capital of the U.S."

Jones added that the federal government should take over security at Indian Point and that protecting the site from terrorists should be second in priority only to the protection afforded the White House.

The adequacy of security at Indian Point has been a consistent issue since the terrorist attacks. A year ago, Entergy and state officials publicly announced that Indian Point was the most secure nuclear plant in the nation. But at the same time, Entergy was conducting an internal study of its security staff and found that most believed they could not defend the plant from a terrorist attack.

Among the security changes is a requirement that guards work no more than 48 hours during a normal week, and no more than 60 hours during emergency situations or during biennial refueling. Indian Point guards have been required to work 60 to 72 hours or more for several months, and guards have been fired for refusing to work because they were fatigued. But the new rules will not take effect for 18 months, and may be waived during periods when the nation's security threat level is increased.

###

The NRC's dirty little secret

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is still unwilling to respond to serious security problems. 

For a quarter of a century, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) kept its dirty little secret: Despite the fact that a successful attack on a U.S. nuclear plant could cause thousands of illnesses and deaths in the surrounding area, and despite the clear increase in terrorist threats over that same period, the commission continued to require the country's nuclear power plant operators to maintain only a minimal security capability.

The NRC has not required nuclear facilities to guard against an assault by more than three attackers--and never with the help of more than a single insider. In addition, for purposes of planning security, the NRC assumed that the three attackers would act as a single team, armed with nothing more sophisticated than hand-held automatic rifles.

More troubling, the commission has not required plant operators to be able to withstand a possible attack by boat or plane--nor to have the capacity to defend in any way against an attack by anyone defined as "enemies of the United States"--nations or sub-national groups.

After September 11, 2001, when 19 Al Qaeda recruits acting in four coordinated teams used commercial airliners to attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a great deal of concern was expressed about U.S. nuclear plants' vulnerability to terrorist attack, and questions were raised about increasing security at nuclear facilities. In early 2002, it was widely believed that the NRC would finally upgrade its 25-year-old "design basis threat"--the maximum threat that nuclear plant security systems are required to protect against--and that considerably higher standards would be established. 

A non-response

Although the commission has never advertised the limitations of its design basis threat (DBT), the guidelines are no secret to terrorists. The NRC has long published its security requirements in the Code of Federal Regulations, available at any library or on the Internet, and supplemental information can be found in other publicly available NRC documents. [1]  And critics have been pointing out the inadequacy of those security requirements for decades. [2]  

Although the nuclear power plants' required security arrangements are minimal, even a modest attacking force--one that fits the NRC's definition--can easily overwhelm the security guards at many U.S. nuclear plants, as demonstrated by the NRC's own force-on-force testing program, known as the Operational Safeguards Response Evaluation (OSRE). At nearly half the nuclear plants where security has been OSRE-tested, mock attackers have been able to enter quickly and simulate the destruction of enough safety equipment to cause a meltdown--even though the reactor operators typically have been given six months' advance notice of the day of the test.

In response to these dismal test results, the NRC attempted to quietly kill off the test program. [3]

Since the massive terrorist attacks of September 11, the NRC's inaction has been even more troubling. Despite the obvious attractiveness of U.S. reactors as terrorist targets, the NRC and the nuclear industry have done little to upgrade security.

As this article went to press in mid-April, the regulations remained unchanged. The NRC is considering some sort of modest upgrade that could be issued soon, but it appears to postulate a far smaller assault than that which occurred on September 11. Meanwhile, the NRC and the nuclear industry strenuously lobbied Congress to prevent it from passing legislation that would have forced the NRC to raise the DBT to match the level of attack on September 11.

Additionally, the OSRE defensive tests were discontinued after September 11, and are only now being revived with a few "volunteer" plants whose owners presumably are confident they can pass.

On January 17, 2002, then--NRC Chairman Richard Meserve gave a speech at the National Press Club, titled "Nuclear Security in the Post--September 11 Environment," arguing that little was needed to improve what he characterized as "very strong" reactor security. "First, and most important," he said, "since September 11 there have been no specific credible threats of a terrorist attack on nuclear power plants." Just 12 days later, however, President George W. Bush said in his State of the Union address that diagrams of American nuclear power plants had been found in Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.

One must ask why the NRC is so reluctant to require greater security efforts. There are two obvious answers: Improving security at reactors will cost money; and it may remind the public of the risks associated with nuclear power, making expansion of the nuclear sector, as proposed by the industry and urged by the Cheney energy task force, more difficult. But should political factors be permitted to interfere with protecting the population? 

The endless review

In March 2002 NRC Commissioner Jeffrey Merrifield defended the commission's apparent lack of progress by quoting Hemingway's admonition to "never mistake motion for action." It seems instead as if the NRC is hoping that the public will mistake paralysis for action.

Soon after September 11, the NRC announced that it was undertaking a "top-to-bottom" review of its security programs. But the review had no timelines or specific goals. Instead, it has become a graveyard for fundamental policy issues the commission is loathe to address. In the meantime, U.S. nuclear power plants remain dangerously vulnerable to terrorist attack.

The NRC continues to "study" three issues concerning potential damage--the effects of large commercial aircraft attacks on nuclear plants; the impacts of attacks with explosives on spent fuel pools; and the health and environmental consequences of terrorist attacks on nuclear plants.

Another set of issues concerns the nature of defense--the appropriate design basis threat after September 11; the appropriate role of civilian law enforcement and the military in protecting privately owned nuclear plants; and the appropriate qualifications, training, and work schedule of plant security guards.

Even if the review is completed, most results are unlikely to see the light of day because the commission will deem them too sensitive to release. Yet when members of the public, the media, and elected officials demand to know what the NRC has done to increase security, it says little and simply points to the ongoing review.

In the meantime, after more than five months of resisting the call to require security upgrades at nuclear power plants, in February 2002 the commission finally issued a set of mandatory "interim compensatory measures," or ICMs. Although the details of these measures are secret, the NRC has characterized them as providing "additional protection against vehicle bombs, as well as water-and land-based assaults . . . requirements for increased security patrols, augmented security forces, additional security posts, increased vehicle standoff distances," and "tightened facility access controls."

Nuclear plants were given six months to implement the interim measures, which were to be in place by August 31 of last year. It may take as long as two years, though, for NRC inspectors to verify that they have been correctly implemented. Although the upgrades sound impressive, the actual level of protection is hard to gauge because the security testing program, the OSRE, was suspended after September 11 and is only now resuming on a pilot scale.

The NRC has also failed to approve a new DBT that reflects the current terrorist threats. Without significantly tougher requirements, plant operators will continue to lack a clear, consistent, and legally enforceable security performance standard. For instance, the minimum number of armed responders required per shift is believed to have been increased from five to 10, but security managers still do not know how many attackers they are supposed to be defending against.

Until testing has been completed at all nuclear plants, preferably based on a tough new DBT, no one will know how effective the new measures actually are. Tests are important: Security plans that look good on paper are worthless in practice unless the armed responders at nuclear plants are capable of successfully carrying them out in the event of a commando attack. Mock attacks cannot possibly recreate the conditions of real ones, but they can reveal gross deficiencies in guard response. 

The human element

For a successful defense, guards must be well-qualified, physically fit, highly trained, and able to react quickly to contingencies in a combat environment. Boredom, stress, fatigue, and low morale are critical performance factors that must be taken into account.

But the commission has been giving short shrift to the human element. While it has mandated more guards per shift and increased the number of security patrols and posts, it has failed to require plant owners to hire more guards to take up the increased workload. Plant security managers find it more profitable to push the existing security force to the limit than to hire new guards. A recent NRC survey found that 60-hour work weeks were "not infrequent" for security guards at 31 percent of nuclear plant sites. At 11 percent of the sites, 60-hour weeks were "common or routine," and 72-hour work weeks were "not infrequent."

Since September 11, our organizations and others have received numerous complaints from security guards around the country about poor morale, inadequate training, exhaustion from excessive overtime, and poor compensation (below that of the janitorial staff). Most alarming was the sentiment, heard more than once, that guards would not be willing to put their lives on the line, given the pay and treatment they receive from management.

The disturbing picture painted by these guards stands in stark contrast to full-page ads that ran in 2002 in the Washington Post and other major newspapers sponsored by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) praising nuclear plant security guards as highly trained paramilitary forces. Resentment about the inaccuracy of NEI's ads was also a recurring theme among the guards who contacted us.

Last September, the Washington, D.C.-based Project on Government Oversight compiled guard complaints from more than 20 percent of U.S. nuclear plants, issuing a highly publicized report that was impossible for the NRC to ignore. As a result, the commission began collecting data from nuclear plants on security guard work weeks--something it had never done before. It even proposed limiting overtime and strengthening training requirements. However, the industry bitterly opposes these initiatives, arguing that guards like working six 12-hour shifts in a row. It appears likely that these proposals will get lost in the endless "top-to-bottom" review. 

And air attack . . .

In addition to the threat of commando attack, the NRC has taken no action to protect against the ultimate September 11-type threat, a jet aircraft attack, other than to initiate long-term technical studies to evaluate the consequences of air attacks and to require plant operators to plan for events that could "result in damage to large areas of their plants from impacts, explosions, or fires." The commission refuses to consider adding structural features to reactor sites that might prevent a successful aircraft attack (see "Beamhenge?").

The NRC has also rejected calls by the public and policy-makers to consider the feasibility of directly protecting nuclear plants from air attack by imposing no-fly zones or deploying portable anti-aircraft systems, citing the command-and-control problems inherent in such an approach, the impact on the commercial airline industry, and the risk of accident or collateral damage. These considerations are important, but they must be weighed against the catastrophic consequences of a meltdown and large radiological release, especially at the many nuclear plants in densely populated urban areas--like the controversial Indian Point plant, near New York City. (None of the objections to these defensive measures appear to have prevented them from being taken to protect other buildings; the Pentagon ordered the deployment of heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles around Washington, D.C. during the recent "code orange" terror alerts.) 

Fixing blame

Why can't the NRC deal decisively with urgent threats? The major share of the blame lies with the NRC commissioners, who do not seem to fully appreciate the gravity of the terrorist threat or the devastating consequences that could result from an attack on the facilities they regulate. In a speech in March 2002, Commissioner Edward McGaffigan called nuclear power plants "hard targets by any conceivable definition" and ridiculed those who dared to suggest otherwise.

In June 2002, Commissioner Nils Diaz warned a meeting of the American Nuclear Society that technical progress toward the revival of the nuclear energy option "could be in jeopardy unless unjustified fears of policy-makers and the public with regard to . . . the security of these [nuclear power] plants can be addressed." Diaz, who succeeded Meserve as NRC chairman on April 1, also expressed his belief that there would be no significant consequence for the public if a 747 loaded with fuel breached the containment of a nuclear plant--because "America will deliver the necessary responses to protect public health and safety."

Given this sort of wishful thinking, it is little wonder that the commission has let the question of strengthening the DBT languish for well over a year and refuses to impose emergency measures to bolster plant defenses against massive, military-style assaults or aircraft attacks.

Surprisingly, the blame must also be shared by the now-defunct Office of Homeland Security, the Defense Department, and the FBI, all of which have failed to step into the security vacuum created by the NRC's inaction. After September 11, these agencies asked the NRC for its assessment of the consequences of a jet plane attack on a nuclear power plant. While the response is classified, it doesn't take a security clearance to surmise that the commission provided only reassurance.

And one should not forget to blame Congress for failing to enact legislation that could have fixed the most serious nuclear security vulnerabilities, and for creating a department of homeland security that had no authority over nuclear plants.

The other major player is of course the nuclear industry, which has worked to block upgrades of security requirements. The nuclear utilities have always resented having to spend money to prepare for an attack they believe will never occur. Through the NEI, their lobbying arm in Washington, D.C., they have waged a systematic campaign to weaken security regulations.

Before September 11, public observation of meetings between the commission and the industry helped put the brakes on the worst of their proposals, such as their plan to replace the security testing program with an industry-run "self-assessment" program.

But now the public is no longer welcome at the meetings, even when details of plant security ("safeguards information") are not discussed. All the meetings are now covered under a sweeping but poorly defined new category of restricted information,  "sensitive unclassified homeland security information," or "sushi."

The industry is using the new secrecy shield to increase its influence over the regulatory processes. For instance, the interim compensatory measures, although issued by the commission, were the product of multiple closed-door negotiating sessions between the commission and the industry lobby; the NEI actually wrote the document that defined what constituted compliance.

Right now the industry is lobbying hard to significantly weaken any revised DBT. Little wonder that a recent report by the NRC's inspector general found that commission staff believed "that NRC is becoming influenced by private industry and its power to regulate is diminishing." [4]

The NEI has also waged a campaign to convince the public that it has nothing to fear, even if a nuclear plant were attacked by a jet plane fully loaded with fuel. It recently released a summary of a report it commissioned from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), claiming to show that "structures housing reactor fuel at U.S. nuclear power plants would protect against a release of radiation even if struck by a large commercial jetliner."

NEI refused to release the entire report, citing "security considerations," but it was clear from the summary that it had chosen certain assumptions to produce the results it wanted, including a presumed containment wall thickness of four feet--thicker than typical reactor containment walls and domes. EPRI arbitrarily chose an impact speed of 350 miles per hour--well below the nearly 600 miles per hour at which the 767 struck the World Trade Center South Tower. And EPRI ignored the damage that an aircraft could cause to targets outside the containment, like the auxiliary feedwater pumps and the diesel generators.

The insider threat

An individual drives to a nuclear power plant in the United States, obtains an access badge at the security gate, and walks freely through the facility. He takes a rubber hose from an equipment locker and cross-connects the hydrogen gas supply system to the air system. He opens a valve allowing hydrogen gas to flow inside the air system throughout the plant, and within a few minutes, produces combustible levels of hydrogen within the containment building, the auxiliary building, and the turbine building. Using matches, he ignites the explosions and fires that disable the emergency systems needed to cool the reactor core and the systems needed to limit radioactivity releases from the damaged core to the environment.

Sound impossible? Perhaps. But it nearly happened on January 7, 1989, at the H. B. Robinson nuclear plant in South Carolina. [5]  An individual made a mistake conducting a test. Luckily, his error was discovered and the buildings were vented of the flammable gas mixture before disaster struck. But what prevents workers from accomplishing by intent that which nearly happened by mistake--sabotage from the inside?

Three conditions are supposed to be met for an individual to have unescorted access at a nuclear power plant:

• A background investigation--to verify identity, employment history, education history, credit history, criminal history, military service, and character and reputation;

• A psychological assessment, to identify any characteristics with potential bearing on the individual's trustworthiness and reliability; and

• Continuing behavioral observation, to detect any changes that might indicate a propensity for sabotage. [6]

Outgoing NRC Chairman Richard Meserve conceded that although these requirements are important, they are not always met. As Meserve wrote to Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, "enhancing access control may be one of the most effective means of preventing a successful attack." [7]

Background investigations are spotty. Criminal history checks are performed by the submission of fingerprint cards to the FBI's National Crime Information Center, but results are not timely. The NRC has accelerated the turnaround time for the checks since September 11, but individuals continue to gain access by lying about their criminal records. Workers at the Fermi, Perry, and Oconee nuclear plants have recently lost their unescorted access privileges after FBI checks revealed criminal histories. [8]  

In addition to being slow, background checks fail to delve deeply enough. According to Meserve:

"U.S. citizens are currently accounted for better than foreign applicants due to lack of information (e.g., credit history and criminal history) or unwillingness of the [foreign] country to provide such information. Licensees determine access to the facilities regarding foreign applicants on a 'best effort' basis." [9]

In other words, despite fears that foreign terrorist cells may be operating within the United States, background checks for nuclear workers essentially stop at the border. Terrorists could probably get unescorted access to U.S. nuclear plants if they have no traffic arrests or shoplifting convictions.

The questionable value of the psychological assessment screening tool is reflected in the Carl Drega case. Drega was killed in a police shoot-out in August 1997 after a series of shootings in New England that left four others dead. Police later found bomb-making materials in his home. Drega had had unescorted access when he worked at the Vermont Yankee, Pilgrim, and Indian Point 3 nuclear plants between 1992 and 1997. He had applied for unescorted access to the Seabrook nuclear plant, too, but the plant owner denied his request. The NRC determined that Seabrook's owner would have granted him unescorted access if he had not parked his mobile home on Seabrook property and attempted to live there. [10]  

The final protection against insider sabotage is continuing observation. Supervisors are trained to detect changes in behavior patterns that might be symptoms of mental stress caused by problems on the job or at home. Upon detection of any such changes, supervisors are instructed to interact with the worker and suggest counseling. It seems doubtful that if a supervisor identified a saboteur mid-plot, a suggestion to seek counseling would make much difference.

Contrast feckless continuing behavior observation against the announcement that would be read over the public address system at the Callaway nuclear plant in Missouri if an insider were suspected of trying to sabotage the facility:

"The Callaway Plant has received a Credible Security Threat. Included in this threat is information indicating that someone at the plant may be involved in an effort to cause damage to the plant. All personnel who have a work-related need to enter a card reader area inside the Protected Area must be accompanied by another person. . . . The two persons do not need to have the same skills but must have access to the same areas. The purpose is to ensure observation of all personnel in these areas." [11]

Adoption of a "two-person rule" would make it harder for the lone saboteur. Card readers restrict access to vital areas within the plant. Most areas of a plant are not classified as vital, but the control room, the emergency diesel generator rooms, and other areas containing essential equipment are. Observation of all personnel in vital areas might be a prudent anti-sabotage measure, but observation is not routine. Nuclear plants have plenty of security cameras, but most of them are trained on perimeter fences. Workers normally have both unescorted and unmonitored access to vital areas.

To turn Meserve's wish for enhanced access control into reality, the NRC should expeditiously:

• Require criminal history checks to be completed before individuals gain unescorted access.

• Require foreign nationals to have background checks comparable to those required of U.S. citizens before gaining unescorted access to nuclear facilities.

• Require the two-person rule for entry into infrequently accessed vital areas and require security camera monitoring of all other vital areas.

The nuclear industry should be expected to resist these security upgrades. In June 2000, Exelon, which owns 17 nuclear plants, proposed that the NRC "eliminate the requirement to protect against the insider threat." [12]  

Public awareness

Better security at sensitive facilities is needed more than ever, but the NRC and the nuclear industry have spent most of their time arguing against improvements. Some of those arguments have been extraordinary--for example, that Chernobyl wasn't so bad. Recent commentaries by a group of prominent nuclear industry figures made that assertion and even went so far as to claim that the release of radiation would be good for the public: "Data show detrimental health effects and biological functions when organisms are 'protected' from . . . radiation." [13]  

But imagine if the public were told that more than 100 massive radiological weapons--"dirty bombs" on an incomprehensible scale--had been pre-emplaced in the United States, each capable of rendering an area the size of Pennsylvania uninhabitable for decades. Imagine further that the public learned that despite all the hype about homeland security, a powerful industry and its captured regulatory agency had succeeded in blocking security measures that would prevent those weapons from being used against the U.S. population. But one needn't imagine--it's the NRC's latest dirty little secret.

 1. See 10 CFR 73.1 and 50.13; NRC PGandE Diablo Canyon decision ALAB-653, September 9, 1981; SECY--76-242C.

2. Daniel Hirsch, "The NRC: What, Me Worry?" Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January/February 2002; "Protecting Reactors from Terrorists," Daniel Hirsch, Stephanie Murphy, and Bennett Ramberg, Bulletin, August/September 1986; "The Truck Bomb and Insider Threats to Nuclear Facilities," in Paul Leventhal, ed., Preventing Nuclear Terrorism (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1987); and "Nuclear Terrorism: A Growing Threat," A Report to the Safeguards and Security Subcommittee, Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (hereafter "NRC"), by Daniel Hirsch, Stephanie Murphy, and Bennett Ramberg, May 7, 1985, reprinted in monograph series, Stevenson Program on Nuclear Policy, University of California Santa Cruz, SPNP-85-F-1.

3. "Differing Professional View Regarding NRC Abandoning its Only Counter-Terrorism Program," NRC memo from Capt. David Orrik to Samuel Collins, August 7, 1998.

4. NRC, Office of the Inspector General, "OIG 2002 Survey of NRC's Safety Culture and Climate," December 11, 2002.

5. NRC, Preliminary Notification of Event or Unusual Occurrence PNO-II-89-04, "Flammable Mixture of Hydrogen in H. B. Robinson's Station Air System," January 9, 1989.

6. Section 73.56, "Personnel Access Authorization Requirements for Nuclear Power Plants," Title 10, "Energy," Code of Federal Regulations.

7. Richard A. Meserve, Chairman, NRC, letter dated September 5, 2002, to Gov. Tom Ridge, Office of Homeland Security.

8. William T. O'Connor Jr., Vice President, Nuclear Generation, Detroit Edison, letter dated November 14, 2001, to NRC, "Safeguards Event Report (SER) No. 01-S01"; Cynthia D. Pederson, Director, Division of Reactor Safety, NRC, letter dated September 26, 2002, to William R. Kanda, Vice President, Nuclear, Perry, FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company, "Office of Investigations Report No. 3-2001-059"; W. R. McCollum, Jr., Vice President, Duke Energy, letter dated April 9, 2002, to NRC, "Oconee Nuclear Station/Docket Nos. 50-269,-270,-287/Licensee Event Report 269/2002-S01, Revision 0/Problem Investigation Process No.: O-02-1301."

9. Richard A. Meserve, Chairman, NRC, letter dated March 4, 2002, to Cong. Edward J. Markey, U.S. House of Representatives.

10. L. Joseph Callan, Executive Director for Operations, NRC, memorandum dated May 20, 1998, to Chairman and Commissioners, NRC, SECY-98-110, "Report on Inspection and Programmatic Findings Relating to the Carl C. Drega Incident."

11. Ameren UE, Emergency Implementing Procedure EIP-ZZ-SK001, "Response to Security Events," Revision 000, June 27, 2002.

12. ComEd, Presentation Slides, "Meeting with NRC Office of Research--Unnecessary Regulatory Burden," June 14, 2000.

13. Douglas M. Chapin et al., "Policy Forum," Science, September 20, 2002; Chapin et al., letters, Science, January 10, 2003.

Daniel Hirsch is president of the Committee to Bridge the Gap. David Lochbaum is a nuclear safety engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists. Edwin Lyman is president of the Nuclear Control Institute.

May/June 2003 pp. 44-51 (vol. 59, no. 03) © 2003 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Sidebar: Beamhenge?

A successful terrorist attack on a U.S. nuclear power plant would pose a higher risk and come at a greater cost than an assault on nearly any other target. Dozens of U.S. nuclear plant sites have the potential of exposing hundreds of thousands of people to radiation that would be dispersed in the air; that radioactivity would also render large and valuable areas of land essentially uninhabitable for many decades.

Yet efforts to harden these nuclear targets have not even begun, even though the need to protect them became painfully clear on September 11, 2001, when the vulnerability of major structures to attack by aircraft was stunningly demonstrated. Instead, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its constituency of cost-sensitive energy companies has stumbled along, at first denying the problem, then offering political excuses as to why it cannot take decisive action to protect the public.

The nuclear industry asserts that the cost and time it would take to significantly harden or retrofit these power plants makes taking safety measures impractical. But what if there were a low-cost way to quickly improve a nuclear facility's survivability?

There is a way. It's called "Beamhenge."

Beamhenge is simply a line of steel beams set vertically in deep concrete foundations connected by bracing beams, a web of high-strength cables, wires, and netting linking the vertical beams to form a protective screen--the nuclear-grade equivalent of the fences erected around golf driving ranges. Beamhenge would not need to completely encircle the nuclear plant--it would merely need to shield the vulnerable side or sides of the facility's key structures. Depending on the nuclear plant's geography and vulnerabilities, Beamhenge could be a single row of closely spaced beams or multiple rows of more widely spaced beams. The height of the beams and the length of the Beamhenge would depend on the configuration being protected from likely incoming trajectories.

The main purpose of Beamhenge would be to slow down an attack, fragment the attacking aircraft into smaller pieces, disperse the mass of jet fuel, and protect the more vulnerable containment, spent fuel pool, and other structures located within the perimeter from being breached by the mass of the projectiles. The beams would tend to scatter the jet fuel and slow down other projectiles like the fuselage.

The structure would also provide some degree of protection against surface-to-surface and air-to-surface missiles, as well as other ballistic and self-propelled ordnance. The metal mesh netting strung between the vertical beams would not stop a projectile, but would serve to trigger detonation of its warhead before it reached the facility's walls.

In fact, the possibility that an attack by air would lead to a catastrophe could be rendered from "more likely than not" to "essentially unlikely" for the expenditure of a fraction of one percent of the construction cost of the average facility, and the protective structure could be built in a few months. Even if the project were evaluated in terms of economic costs only, with no consideration of the value of human lives, a price in the low tens of millions of dollars for each facility should be difficult to resist. The total cost may seem high, but it would still be less than the total of the one-time loans the government arranged for the airline industry in the days following September 11.

A more pertinent question--one the public should be asking now, before terrorists strike again--is why the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has yet to implement a project like Beamhenge.

Joel Hirsch

Joel Hirsch, an attorney, represents the Committee to Bridge the Gap in Los Angeles, California.

###

NRC: Indian Point repair backlog still too high
By ROGER WITHERSPOON
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: April 29, 2003)

PEEKSKILL - The Indian Point nuclear power plants still have an
unacceptably high number of mechanical problems despite a major repair
and replacement effort that has cut its repair backlog by nearly 80
percent in two years, plant and regulatory officials said last night.
Officials at Entergy Nuclear Northeast, operators of the twin nuclear
plants in Buchanan, said last night that their efforts to repair the
aging plants are working and pledged to reduce their backlog of major
and minor mechanical problems to a level consistent with the rest of the
nuclear power industry. But officials from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission said the lingering equipment problems, even minor ones,
decrease the safety margins at the site and need to be corrected before
the agency relaxes its level of oversight of the facility. At an annual
performance review held in the Crystal Harbor Marina, Fred Dacimo,
Entergy's vice president for Indian Point, said, "We continue to
make strides at the plants, but there continues to be work to perform
before we reach the level that we want."

Indian Point 2, the most troubled of the two plants, had a backlog of
More than 5,000 repair items when Entergy purchased it from Consolidated
Edison in September 2001. The backlog of major repair items is now down
to 76, Dacimo said, and minor repairs are at 1,300. At Indian Point 3,
rated by the NRC as one of the best in the nation, the backlog of major
items is down to only 15, and minor repairs are at 841. Dacimo said the company
hopes to have the backlog of major items reduced to 15 at Indian Point
2, and the backlog of minor items to under 750 at each site. Entergy has
spent more than $500 million during the past two years to replace
unreliable or patched equipment in an effort to improve both
performance and safety. Yet, the continued presence of damaged or not
properly repaired items ranks as the major problem on the quarterly and
annual reviews by the NRC.

Hubert Miller, regional director of the regulatory agency, said that
although most repairs outstanding are for minor items, "that is still
equipment that is degraded." "And though it hasn't flat-out failed,
failure can occur at any time, so it is not inconsequential to have this
many items needing attention," he said. Miller disclosed that workers at
the two plants had filed about 20,000 private reports with the utility
indicating problems in equipment or practices. He praised Entergy for
maintaining an open environment where workers felt free to criticize the
operations of the power plants. "But we are looking to see how you
evaluate their concerns and implement improvements," he said.
Indian Point 2 shut down yesterday, a little more than an hour before
The meeting, because of a power failure attributed to Consolidated
Edison transmission lines.

Brian Holian, the NRC's reactor project director, said, "The incident
today reminds me that there have been a couple of similar outages in the
past year, so there may be legacy issues" involving longstanding
practices or poorly working equipment that need to be addressed. Dacimo
also disclosed that control room operators at Indian Point 2 passed
their relicensing exams this spring with an average score of 91, and
operators at Indian Point 3 passed with an average score of 93.
Indian Point 2 has a "yellow" rating from the regulators, the agency's
second worst, because more than half the control room operators failed
their exams a year ago. Since then, Entergy has replaced some of the
operators and retrained the rest.  Miller said the agency has just
completed a review of Entergy's training program and will decide soon if
the "yellow" rating will be lifted. Earlier in the day, more than 300
representatives of environmental groups gathered in Albany to urge Gov.
George Pataki to publicly commit to closing Indian Point. During his
re-election campaign, Pataki pledged to base his decision on the future
of the plants on the results of a state study of the evacuation plans.
That report found that the plans would not work in a nuclear emergency.
The governor received the report in December, but has made no public
comment about his view of the evacuation plans or the plants' future.

###

THE JOURNAL NEWS 

COMMENTARY 

Exec. Spano tackles Indian Point the right way

By PHIL REISMAN

(Original publication: April 24, 2003)

When it comes to Indian Point, it's time to say goodbye to the eggheads.

It's time to approach the radiological experts, the behavioral scientists, the vast legion of seers and predicters of alternate calamity and calm and politely say, "Thank you." Thank you for your testimony, your expertise and your logic.

But as the boxer Roberto Duran famously said after a battering, "No mas."

Enough.

In the wake of 9/11, there have been more than enough public hearings, studies and spin doctoring about the safety and security of the nuclear power facility in Buchanan, and more than enough debate about its capability to withstand a terrorist attack from land, water or air.

Pick your policy wonk. Take a position as a free and independent American citizen.

But after a while, the talk starts to implode into white noise. It's time for the talk to be translated into policy and strong leadership.

Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano said as much during a WNYC radio forum on Indian Point that was taped Tuesday night at Manhattanville College and was aired yesterday.

"I have a saying," Spano began. "For every Ph.D., there's an equal and opposite Ph.D. So when I try to make a decision, I at least try to listen to both sides, and I am totally confused on an ongoing basis about Indian Point."

That line got a laugh from the live audience of about 300 people. But this was Spano at his best.

He was frank, plain spoken and clearly taking the lead on an immensely difficult issue that had beleaguered him in the past. For a while, Spano seemed completely caught off guard by the post-9/11, world, particularly when he found himself defending an emergency preparedness plan that was comically inadequate.

Now, Spano is on his game. He has descended from the ivory tower of the Michaelian Office Building, with all its imperial trappings, to become the leader he was elected to be.

He's heard from the Ph.D.s, he said, "so I've come to my own decision based on what I think is logic and common sense."

Spano said his mission was to find a way of providing both safety and 2,000 megawatts of electricity to his constituents.

"What you have here is a nuclear power plant that could be extremely dangerous," he said. "That's logic. No one here said that if there's a catastrophic scenario, nothing is going to happen at Indian Point. There is a possibility of that happening."

Another reality, he said, is terrorism, "the bad guys."

"They're not going away," he said. "They're gonna be around. They're gonna sit back. They're gonna wait — and this is a great target.

"And I say to myself — I say, 'Andy, if you can replace the energy for Indian Point, why do we need this thing here? Why do we need this threat in the middle of this population when it's not necessary?' "

Yesterday, Spano formally announced that the county will seek bids for a consulting firm to analyze the ways and means to take over the Con Edison transmission lines, condemn and shut down the nuke plants once and for all, and find other sources of energy.

He estimated the cost of condemning the Indian Point facility at about $2 billion, though he expected Entergy, the plant owner, to demand $4 billion. Jim Steets, an Entergy spokesman, said at Tuesday's radio taping that $5 billion or $6 billion was more realistic.

Whatever happens, money will certainly be a deciding factor for Indian Point. But what price safety?

We just fought a war on a blank-check basis because the president said you can't put a price on security and freedom. That supposed threat was halfway around the world. Indian Point is only down the road.

Politics is about creating choices. For months, the Indian Point debate provided no choices, only a lot of talk and hand wringing.

Spano has taken a step in the right direction. He's not alone out there, but hey, has anyone heard from Gov. Pataki lately?

###

Sunday, March 9, 2003

Debate rages on nuclear safety
By Dan Shapley
Poughkeepsie Journal

About this special report
This special report is based on the analysis of numerous documents and studies related to Indian Point nuclear reactors, and nuclear power in general; on interviews with scores of officials and experts; and on a tour of the Indian Point Energy Center. All photos were approved by Indian Point's management and do not compromise its security. The graphics were created so as not to reveal sensitive details.

Project staff
Project editor: John Ferro
Presentation editor: Kathleen Dijamco
Art director: Dean DiMarzo
Photo and graphics director: Spencer Ainsley
Staff writers: Nik Bonopartis, Maeleeke Lavan, Dan Shapley, Craig Wolf
News editor: James Konrad
Executive editor: Margaretta A. Downey
Managing editor: Richard L. Kleban

In late summer of 2001, Entergy Nuclear Northeast issued a press release destined for the dust bins of history.
The New Orleans energy company had completed the purchase of Indian Point's three nuclear reactors in Buchanan, Westchester County, 35 miles north of Manhattan.

Its announcement came Sept. 6.

Five days later, American Airlines Flight 11 flew over Indian Point en route to a kamikaze strike at the World Trade Center. Terrorists -- and terror itself -- have now put Entergy, and its plant, at the center of a raging, and historic, debate.

The argument centers around whether emergency plans will protect people who live near the plant, a question all agree is important given that Indian Point lies in a region of 11.8 million people.

At stake is a precedent that could extend beyond Indian Point.

If there was a catastrophic accident or a successful terrorist attack on Indian Point, the worst estimates are devastating -- thousands of lives lost and billions of dollars in damage.

Most agree the chances for a doomsday-type disaster are remote.

Under Entergy's management, the plant is, by most accounts, safer and better run than it has been in years.

It produces power for millions with a only a wisp of the air pollution emitted by neighboring power plants on the Hudson.

It employs 1,500 -- nearly one third of whom live in Dutchess County.

However, longtime opponents -- and a host of new ones -- have never been closer to seeing it shut down.

Driven by the threat of terrorism and the emotional fallout of the Sept. 11 attacks, Indian Point's opponents have pushed an old debate to the front pages of newspapers, and the front steps of the state and federal government.

Emergency planning must pass muster at the federal level before a plant's operating license can be renewed.

Many have criticized federal security benchmarks, and no nuclear power plant has ever been closed because of faulty disaster plans.

''In some ways it's a race to the bottom between terrorists who believe it would be easy, and a bureaucracy that hasn't really addressed the problem,'' said James Walsh, executive director of the Managing the Atom Project at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency must decide if Indian Point's much-faulted emergency plans can be fixed. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission must rule whether the plant's license should be renewed.

Any action is months, maybe years, away.

With thousands working, living near plant, concern high in area

The mid-Hudson Valley's stake is high. Some 28,000 Dutchess County and 12,000 Ulster County residents commute to the lower Hudson Valley and New York City each weekday for work.

All could potentially be caught up in a mad, clogged rush to evacuate if there was a disaster.

Dutchess and Ulster are within the 50-mile ''ingestion zone'' around the plant. If the wind blows toward the counties, the land could be contaminated -- potentially for generations.

''If we had radioactive fallout on the property, it would put the farm out of business,'' said David Frost, farm manager at Cascade Farm, a 200-acre organic farm that straddles the Dutchess-Putnam border in Pawling and Patterson, about 25 miles northwest of the plant. ''The food supply is the most critical issue.''

Industry and regulatory officials say the possibility of radioactive damage so far from the plant is minimal, though opponents talk about a 17.5-mile ''peak death zone'' and a 50-mile ''peak injury zone.'' The figures come from an NRC study in 1982 that postulated the worst calculable results from accidents at U.S. reactors.

An Indian Point meltdown that released radioactivity directly to the atmosphere could kill more than 50,000 people and injure at least three times that many in the first year. More than 14,000 people could develop cancer in their lifetime because of such an accident, and the cost would top $300 billion, according to the analysis.

Even the Chernobyl accident in Ukraine in 1986 -- by far the worst accident in the history of nuclear power, and devastating by all accounts -- would pale in comparison.

That's based on population figures two decades old.

''We believe in many cases it understates the impact,'' said Kyle Rabin, a policy analyst for Riverkeeper, a Garrison-based environmental group.

Even though groups point to the report as damning evidence of a potential disaster, the report itself says the chances for a catastrophic disaster are incalculably small. ''The results presented in this report do not represent nuclear power risk,'' it states.

The massive steel-reinforced concrete dome would have to be broken. All human and automated safety systems would have to fail. Residents within 10 miles would evacuate, but others would not ''shelter'' themselves in buildings.

Such a doomsday scenario might happen once if a reactor ran for 100,000 years, the report concludes.

But opponents contend the chance of a release is greatly increased by the prospect of terrorism.

Indian Point's attractiveness as a terrorist target is not hard to fathom. New York City is next door. Indeed, no other nuclear plant in the nation has as many people living nearby as Indian Point does.

This year, concern reached a fever-pitch in the lower Hudson Valley after the release of a preliminary report by the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, James Lee Witt. The report, ordered by Gov. George Pataki, validated opponents who long claimed the disaster plans, especially for a terrorist strike, are inadequate.

But it also criticized some opponents for sowing unnecessary fear.

Longtime opposition from environmentalists

Opposition to the plant is not new. Hudson River environmental groups have fought the plant since the first reactor was built in 1962.

That reactor, Indian Point 1, went dark in 1974, when Consolidated Edison decided not to invest in required fixes. Reactors 2 and 3 still run, producing about 1,950 megawatts of power on 240 acres about midway between Manhattan and Poughkeepsie.

Riverkeeper is leading the latest drive to close Indian Point, but Poughkeepsie groups, including Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, are also involved.

The mainstream environmental movement has opposed nuclear power since the middle of the last century, as an outgrowth of the peace movement's opposition to nuclear weapons.

Some say the environmental movement was born with the revelation that nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere caused radioactive fallout thousands of miles from the test site, said Peter Montague, director of the New Jersey-based Environmental Research Foundation and editor of the Rachel's Environment and Health News newsletter.

''Everybody could see that this was the same technology in a different box,'' he said.

Opposition based on the chance of catastrophe at plants, and the long-term issues around storing nuclear waste, dominate the docket of grievances environmentalists have filed against nuclear power operators.

The nuclear industry and employees at Indian Point argue nuclear power is environmentally friendly because it emits virtually no air pollution.

Indeed, Indian Point is far more friendly to the air than other Hudson River power plants.

Coal-fired power plants such as Dynegy's Danskammer and Roseton plants in Newburgh together emitted 2.1 million pounds of air pollutants in 2000, according to the most recent data from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Indian Point emitted virtually none.

''Indian Point is 20 miles away. We should be more concerned about Danskammer right across the river,'' Beacon Mayor Clara Lou Gould said.

Although concerned, she said she'd leave it to the experts to gauge the danger and decide how best to deal with Indian Point.

For opponents, Sept. 11 brought closing Indian Point to a crisis point.

''On 9/12 we came to work and said, 'Indian Point. We've got to get that thing closed,' '' said Manna Jo Greene, environmental director for Clearwater, which has opposed Indian Point since its construction.

How vulnerable is the plant to disaster?

Like all nuclear power plants in the United States, Indian Point has multiple, redundant safety features, many of which operate independent of human control. That means the system shuts down or the reactor cores cool automatically if there is an accident.

Reactor 2 once had the worst safety rating the NRC gives, owing primarily to the rupture of a steam-generating tube in February 2000 when Consolidated Edison owned the plant.

In August 2002, the NRC upgraded Indian Point 2's safety rating a notch, citing Entergy's ''substantial progress'' and the ''significant additional re-sources'' committed to improving its operation.

For several years, the NRC has rated the Indian Point 3 reactor well. Reactor 2 still has a ''yellow'' rating, because of training problems first cited when the plant was owned by Con Ed.

From several reports by Entergy and outside consultants, and from numerous interviews with long-time employees at Indian Point, the management of the power plant appears to have improved greatly since Entergy bought the plants in 2001.

''We have seen improvements in performance under Entergy. That is not to say that more work does not need to be done, but clearly they have made some strides,'' said Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's regional office.

Opponents contend terrorism presents a new threat.

The steel-reinforced concrete dome over the reactor was designed to

withstand earthquakes, tornadoes with winds over 260 mph and drastic changes in atmospheric pressure -- but not a kamikaze hit from a commercial jetliner.

A reactor's dome is critical. It is the barrier between the radioactive core and the atmosphere. If the core melted, and that barrier was breached, radiation will blow wherever the winds do.

A December study, paid for by the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry group, claimed the domes are strong enough to withstand a hit even from a fully-fueled 767.

Because these planes are wider than any one building at a nuclear plant, the impact from the plane's body and its engines could not be concentrated on one single target. The study also illustrated the vast difference in size between a nuclear plant and the Pentagon or the World Trade Center. Suicide pilots would need incredible skill, or incredible luck, to bull's-eye their plane on targets the size of reactors or any other building at a nuclear complex.

However, the report's authors did not reveal any data they used to draw their conclusions, citing security concerns. It is impossible to assess their conclusions.

An NRC study on the same topic is under way but won't be made public either. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the NRC has answered concerns about plane attacks by urging better security at airports.

A no-fly zone imposed over nuclear power plants shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks ended within days. A restricted no-boating zone remains in effect on the Hudson immediately outside Indian Point, marked off by a series of buoys.

Storage system for spent fuel has risks

The vulnerability of the storage system for spent fuel is also a concern. When fuel is used up in the reactor, it is transferred to large pools of water until it can be transported off site and stored permanently.

At present pace, reactor 2's spent-fuel pool will be filled sometime next year, and reactor 3's pool will be filled by the end of the decade, according to Entergy.

The industry and regulators downplay the danger at spent-fuel pools, but several studies say serious health consequences could occur if the water covering spent fuel is drained. The fuel could ignite, causing a fire that will release dangerous levels of radioactivity. Unlike the reactor core, the pools are not housed in such tight or thick containments. They are located in three buildings, but the pools themselves are located below ground level.

A 1997 study by Brookhaven National Laboratory for the NRC estimated between 1,500 and 143,000 people could die from a fire at an average spent-fuel pool, and many square miles could be contaminated. The danger from accidents at the pools drops drastically once spent fuel has cooled several years.

The rectangular spent-fuel pool buildings at Indian Point have reinforced-concrete walls and ceilings. After about five years, the heat in spent fuel drops enough so it can be stored in dry concrete casks, Entergy officials said. Presently, all spent fuel at Indian Point is stored in pools.

Questions raised about plant security

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has called Indian Point the most heavily defended plant in the country -- with private security officers, state police and National Guardsmen on site, and multiple physical barriers.

But plant security had been criticized, especially since a January 2002 Entergy-commissioned consultant report became public. The report showed only 19 percent of security officers felt they could adequately repel a terrorist attack.

Entergy has spent more than $3 million to improve security since the Sept. 11 attacks, increasing the number of security officers, redeploying defensive positions and improving strategy and physical barriers.

The internal security report said workers were optimistic that Entergy's management and investment would improve security.

''Security is much better than it's ever been. We do have our problems, and a shortage of people, but we're working on it,'' Michael Mullen said about a month ago, shortly after Indian Point hired 23 new security guards. Mullen, a Town of Wappinger resident, has worked security at Indian Point for 25 years.

While Indian Point has passed federal guidelines on recent security drills and emergency preparedness, there is a growing consensus the federal guidelines themselves are inadequate.

Security drills test the plant's ability to withstand a small group of attackers with light weapons. Many see that as inadequate, seeing as how 19 terrorists worked together to hijack planes on Sept. 11. In theory, terrorists could have access to rocket launchers, explosives or other powerful weaponry.

The Witt report criticized the federal security testing program, saying if present regulations don't test preparations for a realistic attack, ''then those regulations need to be revised and updated.''

Indian Point will be among the first plants in the country tested by new federal security drills intended to be more realistic, the NRC announced recently. That drill is expected within a few months.

There remains a question about what terrorists could do if they attacked the plant. Would they have the sophistication and technical expertise to capitalize?

''Anyone can go in and trip a plant. But cause a meltdown? I cannot conceive of how a person could do that,'' said Hopewell Junction resident Jim Gorman, a 23-year veteran nuclear reactor operator at Indian Point.

Plant engineers and operators trust safety systems to such a degree they say any attempt to disable them and cause a meltdown would be impossible.

The nuclear power industry is not the nation's biggest liability in the age of terrorism, said James Walsh, executive director of the Managing the Atom Project. But he characterized the nuclear security this way:

''We're not responding to this well,'' he said. ''It's not the science that's the problem. It's not the engineering that's the problem. It's the institutions that are the problem.''

Emergency plans called inadequate

Dealing with a catastrophe -- whatever its nature -- has been the most criticized aspect of planning at Indian Point. Situated in a thickly settled area, with major arteries often clogged by rush hour traffic, Indian Point could face a dangerous emergency evacuation -- many say an impossible one.

''Indian Point's evacuation plan is completely inadequate,'' U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, said recently, calling for the plant to be shut down. ''It relies on outdated technology and fails to recognize the realities of modern terrorist threats. ... Frankly, I don't think it's possible to create an effective evacuation at that site.''

More than 256,000 people live within the 10-mile evacuation zone around the plant.

Since the Witt report was released, confidence in evacuation plans has evaporated. Yet, as the public controversy has grown, the number of people likely to evacuate -- whether they are in danger or not -- is likely to balloon.

The 1982 NRC study states ''increasing the evacuation distance to 25 miles could substantially reduce the peak consequence ... but the feasibility of a timely evacuation from so large an area is highly questionable.''

The southwest portion of Dutchess would be included in a 25-mile evacuation radius.

The Witt report said planners need to account for a large ''shadow'' evacuation -- an exodus of people who aren't in the 10-mile evacuation zone, and may not be in harm's way, but who leave anyway. A shadow evacuation could clog roads, blocking the way for those who truly need to evacuate.

Local hospital officials said they have generic emergency plans, but no specific contingency plans for a disaster at Indian Point. Neither do they have specific plans with other hospitals to handle an increased load of patients -- a potentially huge influx if Westchester hospitals must close, or are inundated with patients with real or imagined injuries.

''We had to think of not one, not two. We had to think of 100, maybe 200, maybe 300. Maybe 5,000. I don't know that we can treat 5,000,'' said Peggy Piering, director of emergency services at Northern Westchester Hospital Center in Mount Kisco, a 200-bed hospital just outside the 10-mile evacuation zone.

There is a generic statewide plan among hospitals to share resources in emergencies, and extensive plans to deal with a variety of emergencies in Dutchess.

''We're so county-driven in Dutchess that we would depend on the county to tell us what to do,'' said Sue Prezzano, emergency and trauma manager at St. Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie.

While Dutchess has given hospitals no specific guidance about Indian Point, Prezzano and other hospital officials said they are confident in the emergency planning in the county.

Decision on plant is months or years away

Since the release of the Witt report, the future of Indian Point and its emergency plans have bounced around state and federal bureaucracies. Its ultimate fate will not be decided for months, perhaps years.

FEMA has requested more information from the state and counties about emergency planning. During congressional hearings last month, U.S. Rep. Sue Kelly, R-Katonah, imposed an unofficial deadline for FEMA to act by March 27.

Even if FEMA ultimately deems the plan inadequate, the NRC will have four more months to review the issue before it could consider ordering a shut-down of the plant amid stiff political pressure -- a precedent most assume the NRC is loathe to set.

Closing the plant would eventually reduce the risk from nuclear fuels on site, but not for several years. Spent fuel would likely remain on site at least until 2010, just as spent fuel at the closed Indian Point 1 reactor has remained on site for nearly 30 years.

''I can see risks coming in that, too,'' said Brian Gallaway, 31, who lives in Poughkeepsie and works in Garrison, about five miles from Indian Point. ''Chances are, security is going to lessen. If you close it, I don't think that's necessary and sufficient to make it safe.''

Gallaway said he hopes the scrutiny on Indian Point improves security there and at the nation's other power plants. He believes Indian Point should never have been constructed so close to New York City -- but now that it is here, it should be protected and remain open.

''We have to deal with it,'' he said, ''open or closed.''

###

INDIAN POINT BLANK

by ELIZABETH KOLBERT

The New Yorker

Issue of 2003-03-03
Posted 2003-02-24

How worried should we be about the nuclear plant up the river?

"Emergency Planning for Indian Point: A Guide for You and Your Family" is a booklet published as a public service by the plant's owner, Entergy Nuclear Northeast. Part "Hints from Heloise," part "Dr. Strangelove," the booklet has a cheerful blue cover decorated with drawings of a siren and a reactor dome. Inside, it is filled with tips like "Six Facts You Need to Know About KI—Potassium Iodide" (No. 1: it can protect your thyroid if you are exposed to radioactive iodine) and "helpful answers" to questions like "Could Indian Point explode like a bomb?" ("No. It is impossible for any nuclear power plant to explode like a bomb under any conditions.") At the back, there is an "Emergency Planning Checklist," which recommends, "If you are told to evacuate, you should bring enough personal supplies for three days," including a portable radio, potassium-iodide tablets, and "this planning booklet."

In total, Entergy printed more than two hundred thousand copies of the guide, which were mailed to households within ten miles of the plant, in northern Westchester County. Nowhere does the booklet explicitly mention sabotage, but this fear was clearly on the minds of the authors:

Q: How can I be sure that Indian Point is secure and well-protected?
A: Indian Point is defended by armed guards, sophisticated detection equipment and other advanced protection systems that meet or exceed federal, state and local requirements.

An attack on a nuclear power plant would seem to fulfill, almost perfectly, Al Qaeda's objective of using America's technology against it. In his State of the Union Message last year, President Bush announced that United States forces searching Afghan caves had indeed found diagrams of American reactors. Around the same time, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, acting on information provided by the F.B.I., warned of a plot to crash a commercial aircraft into a plant. According to the N.R.C., the identity of the plant was not known; a captured Al Qaeda operative had told the F.B.I. that the specific target was to be chosen by a "team on the ground."

As potential targets go, Indian Point seems almost too obvious. It is situated on the Hudson River, in Buchanan, New York, some twenty miles north of the Bronx and thirty-five miles from midtown Manhattan. Nearly three hundred thousand people live within the plant's ten-mile "emergency planning zone," and another several hundred thousand reside within seventeen and a half miles, in the so-called "peak fatality" zone. More than twenty million people live within fifty miles of the plant. A 1982 analysis by a congressional subcommittee estimated that, under worst-case conditions, a catastrophe at one of the Indian Point reactors could result in fifty thousand fatalities and more than a hundred thousand radiation injuries. The same study calculated the cost of such an accident at roughly three hundred billion dollars. By an uncomfortable coincidence, American Airlines Flight 11, just minutes before it slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center, flew almost directly over Indian Point's twin reactor domes. Apparently, the Hudson River was the landmark that the hijackers used to navigate by.

The Indian Point nuclear power plant, or energy center, as it is now called, is named after the spit of land, once home to an amusement park, on which it's built. There are two functioning reactors on the site, Indian Point 2 and 3, and a third, Indian Point 1, which has been closed for nearly thirty years. Recently, I went to Buchanan to take a look around. I had been told to report to the plant's emergency-operations facility, and when I drove up to it an armored tank was rumbling across the parking lot. Inside the facility, I was issued the first of several security badges and was introduced to Entergy Nuclear Northeast's director of emergency programs, Michael Slobodien.

Before I arrived, Slobodien had laid out a tableful of charts and diagrams, one of which was titled "Chernobyl-Indian Point Contrast." On the left side, it noted that "Chernobyl used flammable graphite for neutron control" and "did not have a comprehensive emergency plan." On the right, it said, "IP uses non-flammable water for neutron control" and has "modern emergency plans." There were also several large black-and-white photographs chronicling the construction of the reactors' four-and-a-half-foot-thick containment domes.

"This building was designed with the intent to withstand the tremendous energy of a massive release from an accident of some unknown origin," Slobodien told me, picking up one of the photographs. "We really don't care what the origin is. We just said, 'Let's assume that that happens.' Because that's kind of the worst-case situation you could envision. And, by the way, in our business everything is worst case. We always think about what is the worst that can happen, and we design to accomplish protection for the worst case." Slobodien told me that he had been one of the "responders" sent by the N.R.C. to Three Mile Island, outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, after the meltdown there, in 1979, and later had overseen the cleanup of the site. He explained, without a trace of irony, that, while one of the lessons of the disaster had been that "serious accidents can occur," another was that "the reactor design was successful."

Like Three Mile Island, Indian Point 2 and 3 are pressurized-water reactors. Each reactor contains a hundred and ninety-three fuel assemblies, and each assembly holds a hundred fuel rods—skinny zirconium tubes filled with pellets of enriched uranium. To produce power, the fuel rods must first be bombarded with neutrons. This sets off a chain reaction, which produces more neutrons, "fission products" like radioactive iodine, and a great deal of energy. The energy is used to heat pressurized water to 550 degrees Fahrenheit, and this pressurized water is then used to heat more water to make steam. The steam, in turn, powers a set of turbines, which, finally, generate electricity. (Together, the two reactors at Indian Point produce, on average, two thousand megawatts, or enough electricity to supply two million homes.) The chain reaction is carefully monitored and controlled; however, if, for whatever reason, heat is not carried away from the core, the fuel can melt and, in the presence of oxygen, catch fire. Depending on conditions, this can take hours or merely minutes.

Slobodien took me down to the emergency center's control room, a large windowless office filled with computers that, ideally, should never have to be used. (In a truly catastrophic accident, the emergency-operations facility might itself have to be evacuated, which is why there is a second command center, similar to the first, twenty miles away, in White Plains.) On the walls of the room were charts listing possible disasters, like "tornado strikes a plant vital area." The charts were color-coded by type of hazard, and each calamity was further specified by a numerical designation. On a table was a detailed map of the area around the plant.

Slobodien pulled out a set of transparencies illustrating how a plume of airborne radioactive contamination would travel under various conditions. He selected one that posited a wind coming from the north with a relatively high degree of turbulence. It showed the plume travelling south in a widening band. "The areas that are most affected would be the communities of Buchanan and Verplanck"—small towns right next to the plant—"and pretty much the river," he observed, laying the transparency over the map. Slobodien said that he was distressed by diagrams put out by the plant's critics which suggest that in the event of an accident radioactivity would drift in all directions.

"It doesn't really happen that way," he explained. "The concept that everything is affected all at once is clearly not true." The control-center map showed only the area within a few miles of Indian Point, so I couldn't tell what would happen to the plume once it travelled beyond that radius. I did notice, though, that as it was widening it was headed toward New York City.

Eventually, I tried to steer the conversation around to September 11th. In the aftermath of the World Trade Center tragedy and the F.B.I. warning, public concern has tended to focus on the possibility of another aerial attack. Whether the containment domes at most plants could withstand the impact of a fully loaded 767 is a much debated question; the N.R.C. is, somewhat belatedly, looking into this matter. There are, however, also many other possible scenarios. To cool its reactors, for example, Indian Point relies on the circulation of more than a billion gallons of water a day from the Hudson. Several groups, including the Green Party of New York and the environmental organization Riverkeeper, have tried to demonstrate the plant's vulnerability by boating—or, in one case, canoeing—near the cooling-water intake pipes. One of the groups claims to have made it within fifty feet of the pipes. I asked Slobodien what would happen in the event that the pipes were blocked, or destroyed.

"A lot of these things we don't talk about in great detail, for obvious reasons," he told me. "So, when it comes to the intake, all I will tell you is that you can block the intake and you still can successfully cool the reactor. Now, would it be of concern to us? Yeah, it would be of great concern to us. We would have to shut the reactor down, and we would have to do alternative cooling techniques, which we have available to us. Yeah, it would be of great concern. We don't minimize it. But it's not the kind of thing that leads axiomatically to, you know, the end, as some people would have you believe."

In a practical sense, insuring that Indian Point operates safely is the job of its owner, Entergy, but in a broader sense this responsibility belongs to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The N.R.C. describes its primary mission as "to protect the public health and safety," and to this end it not only licenses and inspects nuclear plants but continually analyzes the risks posed by them. If it deems a particular risk to be too high, it has the power to shut down a reactor—or, if need be, many reactors—until the problem is addressed; in 1975, for example, the commission temporarily closed all of the nation's two dozen boiling-water reactors—their design is slightly different from that of pressurized-water reactors—after finding a hairline crack at one of them. The N.R.C., however, has never defined what constitutes an unacceptable risk, and critics charge that its judgment on the matter has grown susceptible to outside influences. Just a few months ago, the N.R.C.'s inspector general issued a report chastising the commission for giving too much weight to the financial concerns of a nuclear operator. The report found that, despite compelling safety concerns, the N.R.C. had allowed the owner of the Davis-Besse plant, outside Toledo, Ohio, to delay an inspection for more than six weeks. When the commission finally performed the inspection, it discovered that acidic water had been eating through the reactor's lid—a process that, had it been allowed to continue, could well have produced a disaster.

"You have a very dangerous situation where the industry is calling the shots," Paul Leventhal, the president emeritus of the Nuclear Control Institute, a non-proliferation advocacy group, told me.

The N.R.C. began treating sabotage as a more urgent threat after the terrorist attacks of the nineteen-eighties, which included the bombing of the American Marine barracks in Beirut. In 1991, it introduced a program of drills, known as Operational Safeguards Response Evaluations, or osres, specifically to test plant defenses. In these drills, off-duty security guards were hired to carry out a mock attack devised by N.R.C. specialists. For obvious reasons, plant operators were alerted to the osres in advance; meanwhile, N.R.C. guidelines limited the attackers to three outside assailants and one insider, whose role was restricted to providing information. Between 1991 and 2000, the N.R.C. conducted the drills at the rate of roughly eight plants a year. Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3 both passed in 1994. At nearly half of the plants tested, though, guards failed to repel the assailants before they had destroyed at least one so-called "target set." In other words, had the attack been real, the terrorists would have been in a position to cause potentially catastrophic damage.

Many plant operators were disturbed by this result, but not, it seems, for the reason one might have thought. They pressed the N.R.C. to replace the drills with more frequent security exercises of the operators' own devising. In a scathing assessment of this idea, David Orrik, a retired Navy captain who oversaw the osres and is still a senior official at the N.R.C., wrote that nuclear operators had demonstrated an "abject failure . . . to be capable—by themselves—of protecting against radiological sabotage. It took the threat of an osre to make them prepare to be 'ready,' and 47% still were not 'ready.' " In spite of this assessment, the N.R.C. was in the process of moving toward precisely the sort of program the operators were advocating when the attack on the World Trade Center occurred. At that point, the commission suspended all anti-sabotage drills, owing, as its chairman, Richard Meserve, put it, to the general "high level threat environment."

The N.R.C. is now in the process of redesigning the osres, presumably to better reflect the sophistication of international terrorists. The commission has said that when the redesign is completed, in the next few months, it will ask several plants, each in a different region, to volunteer to try out the new drill. Officials in New York, including Senator Hillary Clinton, strongly urged that Indian Point be one of them, and recently the N.R.C. announced that it would be.

After Slobodien had shown me around the emergency-operations facility, I continued my tour of Indian Point with Jim Steets, the communications manager for Entergy Nuclear Northeast. Steets is tall and lanky, with prematurely gray hair and an easygoing affability. He has worked at Indian Point for ten years, a period during which the plant has posed more than its share of public-relations challenges.

In May, 1992, the N.R.C., after having identified a long list of safety lapses at Indian Point 3, including one that caused a six-month failure of the backup reactor-shutdown system, fined the reactor two hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars and put it on a watch list for heightened scrutiny. (At the time, Indian Point 3 was owned and operated by the New York Power Authority, and Indian Point 2 was owned and operated by Consolidated Edison.) Shortly after this fine was imposed, engineers at the reactor noticed a problem with a set of valves, and rushed to replace them before an N.R.C. inspection. In their haste, the engineers put the new valves in backward, blocking the cooling systems. The power authority fired several of its top officials and voluntarily shut down Indian Point 3 in order to conduct a safety overhaul. This overhaul was supposed to be completed in six months but ended up taking two and a half years. One N.R.C. official compared the reactor to "a plane losing altitude," while others, with a nod to "The Simpsons," dubbed it "Homer on the Hudson."

"Basically, it boiled down to poor management," Steets told me. "You could write a book on it, in all honesty."

In the late nineties, as Indian Point 3's record finally seemed to be improving, Indian Point 2's went into decline. In 1997, the N.R.C. found that electrical breakers at the reactor had not been properly inspected or maintained, and imposed a fifty-five-thousand-dollar fine on Con Ed. A year and a half later, the breaker problem still hadn't been fully resolved, an oversight that, thanks to a string of related errors, one day left the control-room alarm system without power. The N.R.C. was still figuring out the proper penalty for this incident when, in February, 2000, a tube in the reactor's steam generator ruptured, spilling twenty thousand gallons of radioactive water. The reactor received a "red finding," the N.R.C.'s lowest safety rating, and spent most of the rest of the year out of operation.

Entergy had completed its purchase of Indian Point 2 and 3 by the summer of 2001. At that point, many people at the plant, Steets told me, were hopeful that a new era was beginning. To celebrate the event, the company put up an enormous tent by the river and threw a party. "We had a great, great day out here," Steets said of the party, which took place just four days before September 11th. A month later, four of the seven control-room operating crews at Indian Point 2 failed an annual relicensing exam. Four months after that, also at Indian Point 2, a security guard was fired for pulling a gun on a colleague in an argument over a glass of orange juice.

Steets had promised to show me whatever there is to see at a nuclear reactor, and so we got into his car and drove down to Indian Point 3. The area right around the reactors, called the "protected area," is much more heavily guarded than the area around the emergency-operations center, which is called the "owner-controlled area." On the drive, we passed a tall chain-link fence rimmed with concrete barriers and topped with motion sensors. A truck was idling at the gate while a guard inspected its undercarriage with a mirror on a long pole.

Before I could enter the plant, I had to get a badge from a guard carrying a semi-automatic rifle and pass through a metal detector, an explosives detector, and, finally, a radiation detector. Next, I had to go upstairs to get a dosimeter, as well as a brief, government-mandated lecture from a radiological engineer named James Barry. On the way to Barry's office, I passed signs printed with slogans like "star: Stop, Think, Act, Review" and "step: Safety Takes Employee Participation." One poster said, "IP3 Practices alara," which stands for "as low as reasonably achievable" and refers to radiation exposure. Another urged employees to "Save an mrem Today." (One millirem is equal to a tenth of the amount of radiation a person would be exposed to in a typical chest X-ray.) Barry told me how to respond in the event of an alarm—"the one thing we don't want you to do is run or panic"—and informed me that if I saw anything that I thought constituted a hazard to myself or anyone else I had "the right to go to the N.R.C." Then he took Steets and me over to a bank of computers that read our dosimeters, through a set of doors of the sort typically seen in prisons, and down to a huge concrete tub filled with water. At the bottom of the pool, metal racks holding spent fuel rods were just barely visible.

For more than three decades now, the federal government has been planning to construct a repository for spent uranium, with limited success. (The repository now under construction at Yucca Mountain, in the Nevada desert, will not be open until at least 2010, if it opens at all.) In the meantime, like every other reactor in the country, Indian Point has been obliged to store its spent fuel on-site. By now, Indian Point 3 has collected six hundred and twenty-four tons of the stuff, and Indian Point 2 has amassed eight hundred and eight tons. Although the fuel is of no use in generating electricity, it is still highly radioactive and produces a great deal of heat, which is why it must always be kept submerged. Two years ago, after much prodding from groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists, the N.R.C. released a study looking at the risks of a spent-fuel fire. While the commission concluded that the risk of such a fire was low—the fuel would have to be left out of water for several hours—it acknowledged that the consequences "could be comparable to those for a severe reactor accident." This finding is frequently cited by critics of Indian Point, who note that the spent fuel is housed outside the containment domes, in buildings that are comparatively vulnerable, and that it contains a host of extremely dangerous "fission products," including radioactive iodine, radioactive cesium, and strontium. Gazing down into the pool, I couldn't help wondering—even though I realized that this was not the issue—what would happen if someone fell into it. There was a lot of noise from water rushing around, and a sign that said, "Do Not Linger." Before turning in our dosimeters, we all had to have full-body radiation scans, a process that involved climbing into a closetlike structure, first frontward and then backward. I set off an alarm during mine but was assured that it didn't mean anything.

As Steets and I were leaving the plant, we passed the control room. It was filled with visitors from an international nuclear operators' association, so Steets offered to take me to see the control-room simulator instead. The simulator is an exact replica of the control room, with glass replacing one wall to allow observation of trainees. When we arrived, a large white-haired man was leading two nervous-looking younger men through a training exercise. The older man told us that the younger men were trying to keep the reactor from overheating despite eight simultaneous malfunctions. I asked him how the exercise was going to end.

"Oh, I'll be a nice guy and give them a pump back," he said, adding that before that he would probably let the temperature of the reactor core get up to eleven hundred degrees. (The tubes holding the fuel start to crack at twelve hundred degrees.) For the first time during my visit, I thought Steets looked discouraged.

After the meltdown at Three Mile Island, the N.R.C. resolved that every nuclear power plant in the country had to have an evacuation plan. Indian Point's was put together by Westchester, Rockland, Orange, and Putnam Counties, in conjunction with the New York State Emergency Management Office. It details everything from the routes that buses should follow to the intersections where police should direct evacuees. The section of the plan devoted to Westchester County alone runs to two volumes, each several hundred pages.

Last summer, in the midst of his reëlection campaign, Governor George Pataki ordered an independent evaluation of the plan. (At the time, Riverkeeper was running a series of ads showing the plant in the center of a bull's-eye and calling on the Governor to "get the target off our backs.") The study was conducted by James Lee Witt, a former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and ran to more than five hundred pages. When it was made public, in January, the plan documented what just about everyone who lives in the region suspected: that there are simply too many people and too few roads around the plant for the area to be evacuated effectively. In an accident, only those people living in the expected path of the plume would be ordered to leave their homes; however, as the report noted, inevitably people all over the region would try to get away—a phenomenon known as a "shadow evacuation"—which could produce chaos. The report called the plan "not adequate . . . to protect the people from an unacceptable dose of radiation."

The release of the Witt report, as it has come to be known, triggered—or perhaps just provided the excuse for—a political shift in New York. The Westchester, Rockland, Orange, and Putnam county executives all declared that this year they would not sign off on the evacuation plan, as they are required to do annually. Subsequently, the state, which is supposed to send on its approval to the federal government, announced that it could not vouch for the plan, either. By now, dozens of elected officials in the region have come out openly against Indian Point, including Representative Sue Kelly and Representative Nita Lowey, of Westchester, and Representative Eliot Engel, of the Bronx, who have called for the plant to be shut down, at least temporarily.

What happens next is largely up to the N.R.C. Under its own rules, the commission would seem to have grounds to close Indian Point—the very groups that are supposed to carry out the evacuation plan have now deemed it inadequate—but that seems unlikely. (The last time the N.R.C. ordered a plant shut over its owner's objections was back in 1987, when inspectors arrived at the Peach Bottom Unit 3 reactor, near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and found the control-room crew fast asleep.) Indian Point supplies ten per cent of New York's power, and while this electricity could be purchased elsewhere, it is estimated that utility bills in the state would rise by a billion dollars a year if the plant were closed. Meanwhile, whatever decision the N.R.C. reaches is bound to have ramifications far beyond New York. Because of the number of people who live around Buchanan, the risks may be quantitatively higher at Indian Point than at other reactors, but qualitatively they're really no different. In this sense, shutting down the plant would, effectively, be acknowledging that in a post-9/11 world nuclear power just isn't worth the gamble. Two weeks ago, in the middle of a heightened terrorism alert, Richard Meserve, the N.R.C.'s chairman, faulted the Witt report for giving "undue weight" to the risk of a terrorist attack.

Along with helping to distribute "Emergency Planning for Indian Point," Westchester County recently held several potassium-iodide giveaways and invited members of the public to pick up free tablets for their families. Even though I live on the other side of the county from Buchanan, more than ten miles outside the evacuation zone, I kept thinking that I really ought to go to one to get some for my kids. (Children are particularly vulnerable to thyroid damage.) A few weeks ago, I decided to visit a local drugstore instead. By that point, a lot of other parents had evidently made the same decision, because the pharmacist told me that I was getting his last three packages. They came in a thin cardboard folder marked "thyroid blocking in a radiation emergency only." 

###

 Home

March 11, 2003

Indian Point sets employee complaint record

By Wayne A. Hall
Times Herald-Record
waynehall@th-record.com

Buchanan – While Indian Point is under pressure to close from politicians and organizations, critics inside the plant are making noise, too.

Despite reassurance from Indian Point officials that things are running smoothly at the nuclear plant, in January alone 14 confidential employee complaints were filed with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

That's a monthly record number for the Buchanan plant, whose 10-mile evacuation zone covers parts of southern Orange County, along with parts of Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties.

Those complaints were filed anonymously, the agency said yesterday.

None of the employees who complained in January have gone public like Foster Zeh, who's now on forced administrative paid leave. Zeh first went public with charges of lax security and faulty training in a Dec. 10 story in the Times Herald-Record.

But Zeh's actions might have paved the way for others to come forward, Kyle Rabin, an analyst with Riverkeeper, said yesterday. Riverkeeper is the most vocal group trying to shut the plant down.

Even with Zeh coming forward, though, others might not be willing to put their jobs on the line or themselves in the public eye.

That's probably because it's really tough to be a whistle-blower.

"Whistle-blowers are at tremendous risk," said Peter Stockton, a senior investigator for the Washington, D.C. Project on Government Oversight. "A company can start going after them."

"I wouldn't go public, not with the way they react to you," said a former Indian Point worker.

In fact, there are state and federal whistle-blower laws to protect the jobs of those who come forward. For instance, the U.S. Department of Labor could order an employer to give a whistle-blower his job back, along with back pay.

Employees, though, have to qualify for the protection. One standard for being a whistle-blower is someone who proves retaliation.

New York state has a law, too, but it's under attack for being weak. Even Gov. George Pataki has said so. That hasn't stopped the Indian Point employees.

Their 14 complaints in January are the largest single month tally of complaints among the 65 nuclear plants across the country that produced complaints. There are 103 plants total.

Last year, a total of nine allegations were substantiated from the two Indian Point reactors out of 34 filed. The identity of those who filed the complaints is kept confidential by the NRC to encourage whistle-blowers to come forward.

James Steets, spokesman for Indian Point owner Entergy, said "we encourage people to raise issues and talk about them" through Entergy's Employees Concerns Program.

One of those 14 Indian Point employees filing a recent complaint was Zeh. He couldn't be reached yesterday, but his lawyer, Thomas Rosenthal, said the clock's ticking on filing a possible federal case that would make Zeh an official whistle-blower.

Zeh, though, already has gained the protection of public opinion, said Stockton.

"But if people weren't paying attention to him," Stockton said, "he'd be dog meat."

###

NEW YORK TIMES METROPOLITAN DESK

 

FEMA Given Deadline on Indian Pt. Report

By RAYMOND HERNANDEZ (NYT) 747 words
Published: February 26, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 - A House panel today gave the Federal Emergency Management Agency 30 days to disclose how it intends to respond to a state report concluding that emergency plans are inadequate to protect the public in the event of a disastrous radiation leak at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County.

The deadline comes at a time when state and federal officials are sniping at one another about who is required to come forward and make a firm recommendation on whether emergency plans required to keep the plant operating are sufficient to protect the public.

In January, an independent report commissioned by Gov. George E. Pataki concluded that current evacuation plans cannot protect residents in the densely populated, four-county area around Indian Point. The report was compiled by James Lee Witt, a former director of FEMA.

But state officials provided no further guidance to FEMA on whether the evacuation plans could work.

Late last week, FEMA announced that it intended to withhold its endorsement of emergency plans at the nuclear plant, saying it needed more documentation from local officials to determine whether the emergency plans would work. The agency also disputed some claims in the report commissioned by the state, drawing criticism from opponents of the plant.

Today, members of the House subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management told Joseph J. Picciano, the acting regional director of FEMA, that the agency had 30 days to provide a detailed response to the findings in the report commissioned by Mr. Pataki.

Representative Sue Kelly, a Westchester Republican who as a member of the panel called for the hearing, warned that if FEMA did not comply, she would introduce legislation requiring it to do so.

''This isn't a game,'' she said. ''This is about the safety of 20 million residents in the New York City metropolitan area, and FEMA needs to step up to the plate and begin taking immediate steps to help local officials deal with the issues raised in the Witt report.''

But Mr. Picciano, the only FEMA official to testify at the hearing, said that the agency had taken the report's findings into account. He also said the agency had made no decision on whether the emergency evacuation plans were adequate.

In a 500-page preliminary report issued on Friday, FEMA said that its uncertainty over emergency plans for communities surrounding the plant, which is on the Hudson River in Buchanan , N.Y. , about 35 miles north of Manhattan , stemmed from the state's failure to provide detailed information about what specific steps those communities would take if a catastrophe occurred.

Last month, leaders of the four counties around the plant said they could not endorse evacuation plans drawn up for their communities. Without endorsements from the county level, state officials said that they could not offer what are considered routine certifications of such plans.

Lacking the state's own certification, FEMA said it could not endorse the emergency plans in its report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which requires FEMA approval as a condition for granting operating licenses for nuclear plants. FEMA officials have asked the state to submit certification plans for the communities around the plant by May 2, just before the agency sends its final report to the N.R.C.

Representative Kelly chastised FEMA for failing to act on the findings of the Witt report. ''I say with no uncertainty that I am appalled by the conduct of FEMA as it relates to Indian Point,'' she said. ''The agency's inaction and bureaucratic finger pointing has been a disservice to our community.''

The current disaster plan focuses on the 300,000 people who live within 10 miles of the plant and would be most affected by a disaster. Although the report by Mr. Witt said the state should take into account people evacuating on their own outside that 10-mile radius, it did not suggest that wholesale evacuation plans be developed for more distant places like New York City .

###

Thursday, February 3, 2005
Ulster hears pitch to oppose nuke relicensing
Resolution on Indian Point is urged

By Dan Shapley
Poughkeepsie Journal

KINGSTON -- Ulster County should urge federal authorities not to renew
Indian Point's license to operate nuclear power plants in Westchester
County, a legislator from there told Ulster's Legislature Wednesday.

Entergy Nuclear Northeast, which owns the plants, has said it intends to
apply to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a 40-year license renewal
when its permits to run the Indian Point 2 and 3 reactors in Buchanan
expire in 2013 and 2015.

The time is now to plan for a future without the nuclear plants, which
supply more than 2,000 megawatts of electricity to the power-hungry lower
Hudson Valley and New York City, Westchester Democrat Michael Kaplowitz
said. The specter of terrorism and the age of the plants are reasons to
look at alternative energy sources, he said.

Westchester passed a resolution urging the commission to deny the permits
once Entergy applies for them. Westchester, Orange and Rockland counties
have for several years refused to certify emergency evacuation plans for
the 10 miles around the plant, largely because local roads would be
inadequate to handle the exodus.

''It's time to plan this phase-out,'' he said.

Study due this year

Westchester commissioned a study that will analyze the consequences of
closing Indian Point or switching to a new power source. The report is
expected this year.

Nearly one-third of Indian Point's 1,300 employees live in Dutchess County.

Kaplowitz's presentation, which was preceded by a 15-minute excerpt of a
recent HBO documentary that concluded the plants should be shut, was met
with mixed reaction from legislators.

''Why is this important to us? In Chernobyl, 10 percent of the reactor was
destroyed, and places 100 miles from the site were uninhabitable,'' said
Ulster lawmaker Susan Zimet, D-New Paltz. King-ston is about 50 miles from
Indian Point.

''I think we have to hear from the other side of the argument,'' said
Chairman Richard A Gerentine, R-Marlboro. At least until then, he wasn't
inclined toward supporting a resolution that urged a denial of Indian
Point's application.

Entergy spokesman James Steets, reached by phone after the meeting, said
the plants are vital because they produce reliable energy without air
pollution, employ hundreds and contribute money to the local community via
payments in lieu of taxes.

''It would be a tragedy not to license those plants,'' Steets said.

Dan Shapley can be reached at dshapley@poughkeepsiejournal.com

###

THE JOURNAL NEWS

COMMENTARY

Pataki artfully avoids taking stand on Indian Point 

By PHIL REISMAN

(Original publication: February 4, 2003) 

Gov. George Pataki can run from Indian Point, but he can't hide. 

He can bob, weave and pass the proverbial buck through the chambers of the vast bureaucracy only so long before the issue will inevitably come back to him in the form of a direct question. That question is: Can the public be safely evacuated in case of a terrorist attack at the nuclear power facility? 

The obvious reply is, "No." 

But up to now, the governor has deftly sidestepped the issue, even in the face of overwhelming evidence independently gathered and analyzed in a 550-page report by James Lee Witt Associates — an outfit that Pataki appointed at a cost of $804,000. 

By saying, "No," Pataki would then have to discuss the ultimate fate of Indian Point, and that would tempt the anger of the pro-nuclear business community (including Entergy Corp., the atom-splitting mega-chain that brought us the wacky slogan, "Safe, Secure, Vital") and the White House now occupied by a Texas oilman who says "nuculer," never met an SUV he didn't like, and thinks a coherent energy policy is popping a can of Red Bull. 

Instead of taking any kind of real stand, Pataki has diffidently raised "concerns" over the findings of the Witt report and last week repeated the mantra that "safety must be our top priority." Well, duh. That's like being against litter. 

It's an undisputed fact that Pataki ran a brilliant election campaign last year, but it's also true that his success was largely owed to an avoidance of the state's most pressing issues, such as the looming budget crisis. The Pataki-Indian Point strategy during the race was best symbolized on Oct. 18, when the governor treated the press corps to a tour down the Hudson River on a pilot boat. The boat trip began in Croton-on-Hudson and headed south, in the opposite direction from Buchanan, where the nuclear power plants' concrete containment domes are clearly visible on the riverbank. 

Chatting it up with reporters, Pataki at one point waxed euphoric over the beauty of Hook Mountain in Rockland County. 

"You'll see, on a given day when the wind is right, thousands of hawks flying over that mountain," he said. "It's just incredible." 

Of course, if Indian Point had been seen from the poop deck, the governor would've been compelled to speculate on how the unpredictable wind might carry a radioactive plume over to the mountain. That, indeed, would have been incredible. 

Facing constituent pressure not to certify the inadequate emergency plans, Pataki then did a very clever thing: Instead of rushing to judgment on Indian Point, he appointed Witt to review the plans and come up with a set of supposedly independent conclusions that were to be released after the election. 

The strategy was not wholly self-serving. By hiring Witt, a Democrat and former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Pataki deservedly earned credit for approaching the issue in carefully measured steps. That credit was doubly earned when it turned out that Witt didn't toe the pro-nuke company line (as some skeptics thought he would) and was highly critical of the emergency plans. 

The Witt report had a seismic effect. 

It shifted the momentum clearly into the growing camp of anti-Indian Point activists who believe that, absent a workable response to a terrorist attack, the plants should be closed. Even Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano, who was an ardent defender of the evacuation plans, read the Witt report, saw the light and came over to the other side. 

Last week, Spano and the county executives from Rockland, Putnam and Orange counties declined to ship the federally required paperwork needed to certify the evacuation plans in Albany. In effect, the county executives stopped the wheels of the bureaucracy. 

This was duly noted in a letter Thursday to FEMA written by Edward F. Jacoby Jr., director of the State Emergency Management Office. 

"Because no formal reports (from the four counties) have been forwarded," Jacoby wrote, "I am unable to transmit checklists for the Indian Point planning area at this time." 

Even after that, Pataki continued to play political dodge ball by announcing that he (actually, he said "we") would continue to study the Witt report, which will not be finalized for another week. In the meantime, he threw the issue back to the feds, urging FEMA and the Nuclear Regulatory Agency to "consider the concerns raised by the counties and continue working with us to ensure that these plans will protect our residents in the event of a nuclear emergency." 

I'll bet that was appreciated. 

###

NY's Spitzer urges closing Indian Point nuke plant

Mon Jan 31, 2005 05:24 PM ET (Reuters)

http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=7490371

WASHINGTON, Jan 31 - The Indian Point nuclear power plant in
Buchanan, N.Y., just 45 miles north of New York City, should
be closed as soon as possible, New York Attorney General
Eliot Spitzer said on Monday.

"It makes no sense to have a nuclear facility there. I think
we should close it when and as soon as we have alternate
energy sources to substitute for the power that is currently
being generated," said Spitzer, who is running for governor.

He was asked about the nuclear power plant, located in the
Hudson River Valley, during a question-and-answer session
after he spoke to the National Press Club on financial issues.

"We absolutely should do what we can to close it because it
is a security risk," he said of the plant operated by New
Orleans-based energy group Entergy Corp. (ETR.N: Quote,
Profile, Research) .

A spokesman for Entergy's nuclear unit said Indian Point is
a "terrifically safe place," and invited Spitzer to visit.

"If (Spitzer) were to come and actually see how well
protected it was I think he'd be less inclined to think (the
plant) should be replaced," the spokesman said.

Some local activists are trying to have the plant shut,
citing risks of terrorists flying a commercial jet into the
plant's reactor -- causing widespread radiation contamination.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said that such a
release is highly unlikely barring multiple failures.

Spitzer, 45, has won national attention for investigating
wrongdoing on Wall Street and elsewhere. He announced in
December he is running for governor of New York in 2006.

###

NEW YORK TIMES

January 30, 2003
Study Warns Attack on Fuel Could Pose Serious Hazards
By MATTHEW L. WALD

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 — A successful terrorist attack on a spent fuel storage pool at a large nuclear reactor could have consequences "significantly worse than Chernobyl," according to a new scientific study. But it said the risk could be cut sharply by moving some of the spent fuel to dry casks near the reactors and making changes in how the rest is stored.

The report, which will be published this spring in a scientific journal of Princeton University, is one of the few broad analyses of the risk posed by spent fuel that is being made public. Because there is no long-term storage site for nuclear fuel, the risk it poses would persist for years even if the reactors where it is now stored are shut down, as some critics are seeking for the Indian Point plants in New York.

Many reactor operators have already moved some fuel to dry casks because their pools have filled up as the federal program to bury the fuel has slipped further into the future. Burial can be done only with fuel that is more than five years old, because newer fuel gives off so much heat that it must be kept in water. The older fuel can be kept dry because air will safely dissipate its heat. It would cost $3.5 billion to $7 billion to move old fuel to dry casks, the authors predicted.

But if the federal government opens a burial site at Yucca Mountain near Las Vegas, as it says it will in about a decade, some of that money will have to be spent anyway to put fuel in casks for shipment to a permanent burial site. 

The paper will appear in the spring issue of Science and Global Security, a journal at Princeton. Some of its eight authors began briefing federal officials in Washington today. Their recommendations include reinforcing the casks to make them less vulnerable and designing them so that if a large airplane were crashed into them, the plane's fuel could not pool around them and overheat them as it burned.

The nuclear industry has generally argued that a successful attack is highly unlikely. At the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry's trade association, Stephen D. Floyd, a senior director, said that an aircraft could not do the job, and that adversaries could not assemble a larger attack without attracting attention.

Security improvements, Mr. Floyd said, should be limited to those that address realistic threats. "Otherwise you're going to chase your tail and spend this country out of existence on what-if scenarios," he said.

Today, two of the authors briefed one of the five members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Edward McGaffigan Jr., who said the study overstated the possible effects. At Indian Point, Mr. McGaffigan said, even if terrorists could puncture a spent fuel pool, it would be very difficult to drain the water because the fuel is almost entirely below ground.

"If you're at all rational as an Al Qaeda planner, you don't choose this target where you have a probability of failure," he said. "You have other targets where you have a higher probability of success." 

But the authors, reviewing European tests and other studies, suggest that a plane moving fast enough could cause the building over a spent fuel pool to collapse, or could create an explosion under a pool.

The authors say that the industry has raised the risk by reconfiguring its pools over the years to squeeze in more and more fuel and that in their current configuration the pools are vulnerable to heating up and catching fire if they are breached.

Nuclear experts, including at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, acknowledge that the vulnerability of the pools has increased because they are so full. With older fuel removed, the authors say, remaining fuel could be spread out, and reactor operators could install air-moving equipment that could help keep it cool even if the pool were drained.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruled in December that it was impossible to determine the likelihood of a terrorist attack and thus has resisted using its standard method for deciding whether to make improvements, which is to multiply the probability of an event with its consequences, and using the product to rank the hazard and determine how much should be spent to reduce it. "This situation calls for more explicit guidance from Congress," the paper said.

Nuclear plants create radioactive material as they operate, splitting atoms of uranium, which are only slightly radioactive, into a variety of products that are highly unstable and give off gamma rays or subatomic particles to achieve stability. Nearly all the radioactive material stays inside the fuel, which continues to generate heat over the years as it gives off radiation.

When the nuclear plants were designed, engineers believed that the fuel would be removed quickly from the pools, and were more concerned about releases from inside the containment, where water and steam at high temperatures and pressures seemed more prone to escape. Spent fuel pools are designed to withstand earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural hazards, but were not explicitly designed with terrorism in mind.

The authors plan to brief some members of Congress on Thursday. The authors include Frank N. von Hippel, a Princeton physicist; Gordon R. Thompson, director of the nonprofit Institute for Resource and Security Studies, in Cambridge, Mass.; Alison Macfarlane, of the Securities Studies Program and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Edwin Lyman, president of the Nuclear Control Institute; and Robert Alvarez, a former adviser to the energy secretary. 

###

January 30, 2003

Guards: We're 'sitting ducks'
Indian Point towers mostly for show, guards say

By Wayne A. Hall
Times Herald-Record
waynehall@th-record.com

Buchanan – Imagine this: Terrorists break through wire-topped chain linked fences and concrete barriers around the wooded perimeter of the Indian Point nuclear power plants.

As they crouch, weave and shoot, the terrorists run into what plant owner Entergy says is a 360-degree field of fire from new defensive shooting towers. The cream-colored towers are about 25 feet tall. Made from steel, they're Bullet Resistant Enclosures on stilts. And according to Entergy, they're just one more post-Sept. 11, 2001, security measure designed to stop a terrorist in his tracks.

"But it's a joke," says one veteran Indian Point security officer who, like a dozen others interviewed for this story, wouldn't be identified for fear of getting fired.

"These boxes," says the security guard, "are designed to take one .308-caliber bullet, but the second .308 fired at the same spot goes in and kills you. This is a turkey shoot, and we're the turkeys."

"Sitting ducks" might be a more apt term, according to the guards, who say the towers cause more problems than they solve. A recent discussion with several guards revealed the following troubles with the towers:

-If a guard is forced to evacuate the tower, he'd be an open target for terrorists, the guards say, and they don't have enough ammunition to hold out for long. "The only way out is by an outdoor catwalk they could pick you off of," says a guard, "and they only give you three magazines of ammo [about 90 bullets] so what happens if you run out? Do you think you can tell the terrorists, 'oh wait, I have to send for ammo from the ammo locker inside the plant and reload?' "

-The towers can't stop armored piercing rounds or rocket propelled grenades, both favorite weapons of the type of terrorists the FBI has warned nuclear power plants to expect.

-An internal complaint filed last year by a security guard warned that the towers don't have unobstructed views of the property perimeter.

-Green mold has been found growing inside the uninsulated steel structures.
-In the cold weather, conditions in the towers are nearly unbearable because of inadequate heating that has left "ice on the door frames from the cold," a guard says.

-Even if the physical trouble with the towers could be repaired, guards say they haven't been trained to shoot down at an angle.

The towers are part of the changes plant owner Entergy has made on the 200-plus-acre compound to make it look impregnable, say the guards.

"They tried to make it look like Sing-Sing with all the concertina wire and towers," one guard says.

These are some of the latest complaints to surface since suspended security guard Foster Zeh went public Dec. 10 with a barrage of criticisms about poor training and outdated equipment. His revelations followed Entergy's own internal survey of guards that found many of them didn't think the plant could be defended.

The complaints also dovetail with a report commissioned by Gov. George Pataki. That report was critical of Indian Point's evacuation plans and, taken with the earlier revelations, has led everyone from political leaders to grassroots organizers to call for the plant's shutdown.

Entergy officials dismiss some of the latest criticisms as typical disgruntled employee comments. They say these are frequent now that Entergy is thinking about combining its two reactor forces. Each has its own union.

Entergy security superintendent Terrence Barry says Entergy is simply following security standards from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Those standards will be heavily revised this spring to include, for the first time, defense against as many as 12 or 13 attackers armed with automatic weapons, including grenades and rockets, at multiple entry points. 

Barry chalks up many of the complaints to "legacy issues" Entergy inherited from previous plant owners.

"As you peel back the skin of the onion, it's going to stink," Barry says of the inherited problems. "But we're not hiding anything, we're bringing everything to the table and fixing it."

The guards, though, are bringing other complaints to the table:

-Guards say two of the random, continuous perimeter patrol vehicles were in such bad shape that the seat adjustment levers no longer worked and guards had to sit up straight or they couldn't see over the steering wheel. Tire treads were showing right through the tires, too, and once, "the front axle assembly dropped out," said a guard. The vehicles are being repaired.

-A mass of bug larvae was found under the floor in the Indian Point 2 unit's central alarm station. The bugs have since been cleaned.

As for the mold, that's true, says Barry, but it was cleaned up, and is monitored. Ceramic heaters have been installed to supplement the heaters already in the towers. 
Plus, Barry says the towers are meant to be just one part of a complex, in-depth grid of fences, barriers and checkpoints.

"That's a crock," says a guard, "if they attacked today we'd be toast."

Entergy security chief Rich Goodrich says the criticism about downward angle shooting from the towers is on target. That's a recognized training need that's being addressed, he said.

Barry flatly denies, though, that the guards would ever run out of ammunition.
The guard who made the charge remains skeptical.

"Yeah? Well, I when I asked my supervisor what happens when I run out, he said, 'go find a building and hide.' "

###

NEW YORK TIMES

New York Times, January 30, 2003
Study Warns Attack on Fuel Could Pose Serious Hazards
By MATTHEW L. WALD

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 — A successful terrorist attack on a spent fuel storage pool at a large nuclear reactor could have consequences "significantly worse than Chernobyl," according to a new scientific study. But it said the risk could be cut sharply by moving some of the spent fuel to dry casks near the reactors and making changes in how the rest is stored.

The report, which will be published this spring in a scientific journal of Princeton University, is one of the few broad analyses of the risk posed by spent fuel that is being made public. Because there is no long-term storage site for nuclear fuel, the risk it poses would persist for years even if the reactors where it is now stored are shut down, as some critics are seeking for the Indian Point plants in New York.

Many reactor operators have already moved some fuel to dry casks because their pools have filled up as the federal program to bury the fuel has slipped further into the future. Burial can be done only with fuel that is more than five years old, because newer fuel gives off so much heat that it must be kept in water. The older fuel can be kept dry because air will safely dissipate its heat. It would cost $3.5 billion to $7 billion to move old fuel to dry casks, the authors predicted.

But if the federal government opens a burial site at Yucca Mountain near Las Vegas, as it says it will in about a decade, some of that money will have to be spent anyway to put fuel in casks for shipment to a permanent burial site. 

The paper will appear in the spring issue of Science and Global Security, a journal at Princeton. Some of its eight authors began briefing federal officials in Washington today. Their recommendations include reinforcing the casks to make them less vulnerable and designing them so that if a large airplane were crashed into them, the plane's fuel could not pool around them and overheat them as it burned.

The nuclear industry has generally argued that a successful attack is highly unlikely. At the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry's trade association, Stephen D. Floyd, a senior director, said that an aircraft could not do the job, and that adversaries could not assemble a larger attack without attracting attention.

Security improvements, Mr. Floyd said, should be limited to those that address realistic threats. "Otherwise you're going to chase your tail and spend this country out of existence on what-if scenarios," he said.

Today, two of the authors briefed one of the five members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Edward McGaffigan Jr., who said the study overstated the possible effects. At Indian Point, Mr. McGaffigan said, even if terrorists could puncture a spent fuel pool, it would be very difficult to drain the water because the fuel is almost entirely below ground.

"If you're at all rational as an Al Qaeda planner, you don't choose this target where you have a probability of failure," he said. "You have other targets where you have a higher probability of success." 

But the authors, reviewing European tests and other studies, suggest that a plane moving fast enough could cause the building over a spent fuel pool to collapse, or could create an explosion under a pool.

The authors say that the industry has raised the risk by reconfiguring its pools over the years to squeeze in more and more fuel and that in their current configuration the pools are vulnerable to heating up and catching fire if they are breached.

Nuclear experts, including at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, acknowledge that the vulnerability of the pools has increased because they are so full. With older fuel removed, the authors say, remaining fuel could be spread out, and reactor operators could install air-moving equipment that could help keep it cool even if the pool were drained.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruled in December that it was impossible to determine the likelihood of a terrorist attack and thus has resisted using its standard method for deciding whether to make improvements, which is to multiply the probability of an event with its consequences, and using the product to rank the hazard and determine how much should be spent to reduce it. "This situation calls for more explicit guidance from Congress," the paper said.

Nuclear plants create radioactive material as they operate, splitting atoms of uranium, which are only slightly radioactive, into a variety of products that are highly unstable and give off gamma rays or subatomic particles to achieve stability. Nearly all the radioactive material stays inside the fuel, which continues to generate heat over the years as it gives off radiation.

When the nuclear plants were designed, engineers believed that the fuel would be removed quickly from the pools, and were more concerned about releases from inside the containment, where water and steam at high temperatures and pressures seemed more prone to escape. Spent fuel pools are designed to withstand earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural hazards, but were not explicitly designed with terrorism in mind.

The authors plan to brief some members of Congress on Thursday. The authors include Frank N. von Hippel, a Princeton physicist; Gordon R. Thompson, director of the nonprofit Institute for Resource and Security Studies, in Cambridge, Mass.; Alison Macfarlane, of the Securities Studies Program and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Edwin Lyman, president of the Nuclear Control Institute; and Robert Alvarez, a former adviser to the energy secretary. 

###

Experience shows Indian Point evacuation would be tough 

By BOB BAIRD

(Original publication: January 28, 2003) 

Among the faults a recent study found with the Indian Point evacuation plans is that drills prove little because no one is actually required to leave the area. While the plant and emergency personnel conduct their test, average citizens go about their day as if nothing is happening. That's because, for them, nothing is. 

That's been a talking point for Rockland critics of the evacuation plan, who believe a real test would prove it impossible to evacuate a 10-mile radius — including a large segment of Rockland — should there ever be a serious nuclear emergency at the power plants. But over a little more than a decade, we've had some small-scale tests of our own in Rockland. They had nothing to do with Indian Point, but they were very real emergencies or potential emergencies. They demanded immediate action and the response had immediate results. 

The biggest test came following a bomb threat against the Palisades Center mall called in to Clarkstown police in November 2000. 

Police took the 3:06 p.m. call seriously enough to prompt a mass evacuation starting at 3:25 p.m. Officials said at the time they were low-key, hoping to prevent a panic, which they did. 

About 12,000 people poured out of the stores and into their cars, jamming the parking lots and the ring road around the mall. People stood in the cold outside their cars as they watched a sea of brake lights form. 

Valet-parking attendants handed shoppers their keys, pointing them toward the lot where their cars were. People who didn't emerge where they had entered the mall had to circle the building to reach their cars. 

Others who didn't have cars of their own, including many teens, scrambled to call parents or get other rides away from the area. 

The building emptied in about 15 minutes, but it took some drivers more than 90 minutes to get from parking spaces, through lots, around the ring road to exits and onto the area's major roadways. 

Other incidents, too, have crippled our major roads. We've seen truck or bus crashes on the Tappan Zee Bridge create gridlock north and west to Orange County and New Jersey and east to Connecticut. 

We've seen that kind of impact, or close to it, several times when gasoline or propane trucks have crashed or spilled their contents in western Ramapo. 

Take your pick. 

In 1991, a gasoline tank truck flipped over in Hillburn, closing Route 17 for about eight hours. Although it happened about 2:30 p.m., highways in the county were snarled through the evening rush. Traffic forced off Route 17 in New Jersey poured north on Franklin Turnpike onto Suffern's Orange Avenue, where it met westbound traffic on Lafayette Avenue to gridlock the village and an area east to Airmont Road and beyond. 

There was the same kind of traffic impact in January 1995, when a propane truck overturned and slid down an embankment from a ramp between the New York State Thruway and Interstate 287 in Suffern, a situation emergency officials said had the potential to blow up a third of the village. 

In cases where an evacuation was necessary, the area has always been small. Traffic jams have been more the result of people just trying to get home from work. 

North Rockland Schools Superintendent Dodge Watkins has spoken several times about his district's experiences in the aftermath of a boiler explosion at the Lovett Generation Station in Stony Point in May 2001. Buses that were to evacuate students to Rockland Community College, as would happen in the case of an Indian Point emergency, couldn't reach Stony Point Elementary School. The roads around it were clogged with parents heading there to pick up their children. 

Four months later, on the morning of Sept. 11, parents all across Rockland headed to local schools to reach their children. 

And officials who hope to pull off a school evacuation quietly before letting the general public know of a problem at Indian Point got more evidence last week of just how difficult that would be. 

When several Rockland schools went into lockdown because of a threat of a Columbine-style attack, students used cell phones to alert their parents, some of whom called school offices, where staff didn't know the reason for the move. 

In these and other incidents, our emergency response has been admirable and the lessons learned have resulted in changes in emergency plans, improvements to facilities and better training. But we've never had that kind of true test of the Indian Point plan. And most of us hope we never do. 

###

Tuesday, January 27, 2004 

Government finds nuclear plant attack drills 'tainted'

Ted Bridis
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON- Security guards who repelled four simulated terrorist attacks at a Tennessee nuclear weapons plant had been tipped in advance, undermining the encouraging results, the Energy Department's watchdog office said yesterday. 

The surprising successes by guards at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant last summer in Oak Ridge, Tenn., spurred an internal investigation. It determined that at least two guards defending the mock attacks had been allowed to look at computer simulations one day before the attacks. 

The plant processes parts for nuclear weapons and maintains vast supplies of bomb-grade uranium. 

The Energy Department's inspector general, Gregory H. Friedman, declared the exercises "tainted and unreliable." He said each mock attack cost up to $85,000 to stage, and he urged the department to consider his conclusions when awarding contracting fees for Wackenhut Corp., which employs guards at Oak Ridge. 

The plant paid Wackenhut award fees of $2.2 million and rated its work "outstanding" for the period through July 2003. The cheating reported by the inspector general had taken place just weeks earlier. 

A broader investigation uncovered more evidence of cheating during mock attacks against U.S. nuclear plants over the past two decades. Results from such simulations are commonly classified for national security reasons. 

The inspector general said guards in another mock attack in late 2000 or early 2001 were improperly told which building would be attacked, the exact number of attackers and where a diversion was being staged. 

Investigators also said managers substituted their best security guards for others scheduled to work the day of attacks; standby guards would sometimes be armed and used to bolster existing security guards on duty. 

In other cases, security guards disabled laser sensors they wore to determine whether they received a simulated gunshot. Guards removed batteries, deliberately installed batteries backward and covered sensors with tape, mud or Vaseline so they wouldn't operate properly. 

Such cheating is "not uncommon at all," said Ronald Timm, president of RETA Security Inc. of Lemont, Ill., a consulting company that has worked with the Energy Department to analyze vulnerabilities at its plants. "Most security forces don't like to lose; they go through great lengths to cheat to win. A loss is considered a negative mark against them." 

A senior vice president for Wackenhut Services Inc., Jean Burleson, described details in the inspector general's report as "old news," which he said "may or may not have occurred." Burleson added: "There is no impropriety right now going on. Security is better today than it has ever been." 

Investigators said the claims they heard were based on interviews with current and former guards, which they described as "credible and compelling." But they acknowledged they could find no documentary evidence to support the claims of previous cheating. 

"There's no point in doing them if you have people who are going to cheat," said Richard Clarke, a former senior White House counterterrorism official. "That's ridiculous. It kind of defeats the whole point of having these tests." 

The National Nuclear Security Administration, which protects nuclear plants, said in a letter disclosed yesterday that it already has taken unspecified action. 

That agency within the Energy Department was sharply criticized in May 2003 by congressional investigators, who accused it of failing to make sure contractors were adequately protecting nuclear facilities. 

Rep. Christopher H. Shays, R-Conn., who requested the earlier audit, said it showed the Energy Department couldn't provide assurances that weapons-grade material was protected against a "determined, well-trained adversary force willing to die in a nuclear detonation." 

An associate administrator, Michael C. Kane, wrote to the inspector general that if the attack simulations "were in any way compromised so as to skew the quality of information we have about our ability to protect, the results could have extremely significant effects in a way that is entirely unacceptable." 

"We will take all appropriate steps to ensure that is not the case," Kane wrote. 

The inspector general said two guards at Oak Ridge acknowledged looking one day in advance at the computer simulations of the pending mock attacks. The guards denied they did anything differently to prepare, but Friedman said the information would have revealed important details that would tip off the guards about which simulated attack was being launched. 

"It's blatant cheating," said Peter Stockton of the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington-based watchdog group that has been critical of security at Oak Ridge, about 20 miles west of Knoxville. "It doesn't say much for the integrity of the guard forces and some managers who knew this kind of thing was going on." 

Computer models had predicted guards at the plant would decisively lose at least two of the four simulated attacks, all on June 23. Two other guards identified as improperly looking at the plans in advance denied doing so, the report said. 

The report came just one week after the Oak Ridge plant operators replaced the security manager, Judy Johns. A spokeswoman for BWXT Y-12 LLC, which operates the plant, said she could not immediately say whether the transfer was related to the inspector general's findings. Johns was given a new homeland security assignment and replaced by Willis "Butch" Clements, who previously held the job from 1994 until 1998. 

Citing the federal Privacy Act, the inspector general's report did not identify any of the Oak Ridge guards. Security at the plant is handled by Wackenhut, the largest supplier of guards for U.S. nuclear facilities, including the Nevada Test Site, the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, Colorado's Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site and the Nonproliferation and Nuclear Security Institute in Albuquerque, N.M. 

###

Fight over Indian Point may have just begun 

By ALLAN DRURY 
(c) 2003 THE JOURNAL NEWS 
(Original publication: January 19, 2003) 

Entergy Corp. is threatening a flurry of lawsuits against any government agencies that play a role in closing the nuclear reactors at Indian Point, but legal experts have doubts about whether the suits would succeed. 

Entergy and its shareholders may absorb billions of dollars in losses if environmentalists, political leaders and worried residents persuade regulators to decommission the reactors in Buchanan, legal experts say. 

In addition, a permanent closing of the reactors would reverberate on Wall Street, as investors would lose even more confidence in the already-battered energy sector, especially companies that own nuclear plants, an analyst says. 

The wholesale price of electricity in the New York City region, which includes Westchester, would increase up to 100 percent on days of peak demand, state officials say. On other days, the increases would be smaller, but consumers would still feel a pinch. 

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has never shut a nuclear plant permanently, meaning there is no precedent to determine whether Entergy would receive compensation, how investors would react or what else might happen. 

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan says regulators have seen nothing that indicates Indian Point should be closed. Sheehan says the agency would have to find that a plant posed an extreme and uncorrectable danger to terminate an operator's license and order a plant decommissioned. 

"It's a pretty high bar," Sheehan says. 

The NRC hasn't ordered a temporary shutdown since March 1987 when the Peach Bottom Nuclear Power Plant in Delta, Pa., had to close because control-room operators were sleeping on the job. 

Entergy and advocates for the nuclear industry would surely wage a furious legal battle to prevent the government from closing Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3, the two active reactors at the site. 

Calls for closing 

But a recent consultant's report that says Indian Point emergency evacuation plans are inadequate has intensified calls for the plants to close permanently. 

The $804,000 study, which was commissioned by Gov. George Pataki and prepared by a firm headed by James Lee Witt, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, say the public would face unacceptable levels of radiation in the event of a terrorist attack or other disaster at Indian Point. 

Entergy has defended the evacuation plans and noted that the report did not say it is in violation of its NRC license. But three county executives, including Rockland's C. Scott Vanderhoef and Westchester's Andrew Spano, say they will not certify that the evacuation plans are adequate. 

The State Emergency Management Office has until the end of this month to notify FEMA that adequate evacuation plans exist. Without that notification, Indian Point would be in violation of its NRC license. 

The company has maintained it believes that there is virtually no chance of the NRC closing Indian Point. Company officials say they are confident that Entergy would win huge judgments if the government forced a permanent closing. 

Compensation battle 

Lawyers who specialize in energy law and property rights, however, are less sure. They say courts generally provide governmental agencies wide latitude to exercise oversight of private industry, especially when public safety is at issue. 

"I would think they (Entergy) probably would have no claim against the government," says David Stahl, a Chicago lawyer who has represented energy companies and practiced before the NRC. "There is an aura about the federal government that it has an almost absolute right to regulate for public safety and health." 

The so-called takings clause of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires the government to compensate parties that lose their property to government seizure or, in some cases, the ability to use their property the way they want. 

But Stahl says the takings clause "has much less weight" when regulators halt a business to protect public safety. 

Entergy says if opponents force a permanent closing, the company will sue for money it paid to acquire the plants, the hundreds of millions of dollars it has put into improvements and the profits the company and its shareholders expected the plant to yield in the future. 

Larry Gottlieb, a spokesman for Entergy in White Plains, says the New Orleans-based company does not have a specific figure in mind, but the number would be in "the billions and billions and billions of dollars." 

The company paid $502 million to buy Indian Point 2 from Consolidated Edison Inc. in 2001 and $967 million to buy Indian Point 3 and the James A. FitzPatrick plant near Oswego from the New York Power Authority in 2000. 

"There's a long list of items you would look at" when trying to determine compensation, Gottlieb says. "We've invested hundreds of millions of dollars back into the plants and you're denying shareholders future earnings. Guys a lot smarter than us would sit down and come up with a number." 

In November, when Spano proposed buying the plants and replacing them with natural-gas fired generators at a cost of about $3 billion, an Entergy official says Spano had underestimated the cost of buying the plant by "several-fold." 

Some may point to the costs of the Shoreham Nuclear Power Station as a guide for what Entergy would get for Indian Point. 

The Long Island Lighting Co. fought for 25 years to generate nuclear power on Brookhaven's north shore. The $5.5 billion plant was decommissioned in 1994, five years after Gov. Mario Cuomo and the utility reached agreement to dismantle it. The plant never operated commercially. 

The loss was absorbed by the utility's investors, electricity customers and federal taxpayers. 

Gottlieb said the comparison is invalid. 

"I'm sure all sides would put forth compensation models saying what the company should be paid," Gottlieb says. "But I tell you the dollar figures put forth for Shoreham would be nothing close to what this would be. That was not even a working reactor." 

But sending a swarm of lawyers to the courthouse to file lawsuits does not guarantee success. To prevail, Entergy would have to show that the government shut the plants even though the company did nothing wrong, says Robert Temple, a Chicago lawyer who specializes in energy law. 

The current evacuation plan was approved just last year. The company could argue that no factors within its control have changed since then, Temple says. 

"The government would have to find something is wrong, but is it the fault of Entergy that the population density in the area has increased, for example?" Temple says. 

The Indian Point license expires in 2014, but Entergy says it plans to file for a 20-year extension. The NRC generally issues licenses to nuclear operators for long periods of time to allow them to recover the costs of building, buying and running plants. 

Blow to investors 

Since the downfall of Enron Corp., investors have been wary of putting money in energy stocks. Energy companies have also had trouble getting financing to build plants and for other purposes. 

Paul Larson, an energy analyst who follows Entergy for Morningstar Inc., says if the NRC ordered a nuclear plant permanently shut, investors would have even less confidence in energy stocks. 

"When you have core assets that are threatened and can be shut at a moment's notice, I think that's going to raise the ire of investors," he says. "It's not like the energy industry hasn't been shaken up enough and now you add this." 

A closing would also be a blow to Entergy's strategy of increasing its profits by expanding its nuclear operation. The company generally depends on its nuclear division for about 20 percent of its profits. 

Along with the three plants in New York, the company has purchased the Vermont Yankee plant in Vernon, Vt., and the Pilgrim Nuclear Station in Plymouth, Mass., in the past several years. 

The company owns 10 nuclear plants at eight sites. It does not report profit numbers for each site in its Securities and Exchange Commission filings. But none of the other sites produce as much electricity as Indian Point. 

The twin reactors combined are able to produce about 1,950 megawatts when operating at full power. A megawatt can provide electricity to about 1,000 homes, meaning the Indian Point plants can provide juice for nearly 2 million households. 

Enough energy? 

The state already has a tight energy supply and taking Indian Point out of commission would make the shortage worse, says Steve Sullivan, a spokesman for the New York Independent System Operator, which monitors the wholesale power market. 

Sullivan says the NYISO is neutral on the question of whether Indian Point should stay in operation, but believes that it is important to point out what effect closure would have on the power supply. 

The state barely has enough supply to meet its needs on peak demand days during summer heat waves, he says. 

Sullivan says the NYISO ran studies to figure out how much the wholesale price of electricity would rise if the Indian Point plants were closed. 

On a peak day, the wholesale price, which is what a consumer supplier such as Consolidated Edison Inc. pays a producer such as Entergy, would double for the New York City region, he says. 

On an average day, the wholesale price in the New York City region would rise 25 percent. 

Figuring precisely how much of a rise customers would see in their bills is difficult because a host of complicated factors would be involved. But the state Public Commission said in a July 1 report that Con Edison customers who used 250 kilowatts paid $50.91. 

About $24.43 of that was for the supply of electricity, with the rest of the bill being for distribution, transmission, taxes and other fees. 

A 25 percent increase would add $6.10 to the bill. 

Reliability also would be an issue, Sullivan says. 

The reserves the state has now should keep outages from happening more than once a decade, he says. If New York imported electricity from New England to make up for lost power, it would mean an outage on average every five years, he says. 

"A lot of people say you can shut these units down and there will be no impact," Sullivan says. "That's not the case. There's going to be a significant impact on price and on reliability." 

###

Report on Indian Pt is only effective if those that matter bother to listen 
North County News, January 17, 2003

Former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director James Lee Witt surprised many onlookers with his thorough, independent and honest appraisal of the so-called evacuation plan for the Indian Point nuclear power plants.

It was expected in many circles that Witt’s five-month review would consist of nothing more than a political rehash of rhetoric for the $900,000 he was handsomely paid by the state.

To his credit, Witt told it like it is, and like anyone with a shred of common sense has been saying for years—the evacuation plan won’t work because it is not realistic in so many ways.

Therefore, without a workable evacuation plan, the plants, saddled already with an awful track record, should no longer be allowed to operate in an area where 20 million people are at serious risk if an accident were to occur.

Witt was not commissioned to give his two cents about whether the plants should be shut down but shortly after his much-anticipated report was released, many opponents spoke for him in calling for the switch to be immediately pulled.

Even Congresswoman Sue Kelly (R/Katonah), a longtime proponent of Indian Point, jumped on the bandwagon.

However, Governor George Pataki continued his house of pancakes routine by waffling on the issue, as he did during his recent campaign.

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees the plants and ultimately will hammer the final nail in the coffin if a decision is ever made to do away with Indian Point, also hasn’t said boo.

The license for Indian Point, which opened in 1974, is set to expire in 2013.

There is no dog and pony show that Entergy can put on that could convince the NRC to extend the license, and they shouldn’t even be given the opportunity.

The decommissioning of the plants should begin immediately, including plans for the 150 workers at Indian Point, where the electricity the plants provide will come from and how the Hendrick Hudson School District, Village of Buchanan and all other entities that rely heavily on their tax revenue will survive.

Predictably, Entergy responded to the aftermath following Witt’s report as being “knee jerk” but with that kind of reaction it once again proved how it either has its head in the sand or just doesn’t give a damn about the lives of the people its reactors are jeopardizing.

Witt’s report didn’t say anything that wasn’t already known. It just reinforced what has been said ad nauseam, and what keeps going in and out of the ears of Entergy, the NRC, FEMA and everyone else who feels Indian Point isn’t a threat.

If it takes the words of a former federal official to close the gates, so be it but the case to shut down the plants has been made many times already.

Maybe this time those that have the power to make it happen will finally listen.

###

Escape plan flawed, county leaders say 

By ROGER WITHERSPOON 
THE JOURNAL NEWS 
(Original publication: January 16, 2003) 

Four county executives agreed yesterday that emergency evacuation plans will not protect residents from a disaster at the Indian Point nuclear power plants and asked for a meeting with state and federal officials to determine if the plan could be fixed. 

The unanimous assessment of the Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Orange county leaders places increased pressure on state officials to take a position on emergency plans that have been routinely approved for decades. The State Emergency Management Office has until Jan. 31 to notify the Federal Emergency Management Agency that effective emergency plans exist for the region around the Buchanan plants. Without that formal certification, Indian Point would be in violation of its operating license with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 

Adding to the urgency was the decision of Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef not to sign an annual county letter stating that local components of the plan have been upgraded. The certifications are used by the state to determine that the plan would work in a nuclear emergency. 

"It is clear to me," said Vanderhoef, "that it would be wrong, if not outright irrelevant, to submit any formal review indicating that the plan is 'current,' given the substantial concerns raised by the Witt report and its conclusion that the regional plan is inadequate to protect the public." 

Vanderhoef, who discussed the plan in a conference call with his counterparts yesterday, joined Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano and Orange County Executive Edward Diana in refusing to provide the local certification. 

The three also agreed that, if federal officials can't fix the plan and pay for any improvements, the plants need to be shut down. 

"The federal government has to step in," said Diana, "so we can make a hard decision as to whether to keep the plants open or not." 

And Vanderhoef went further, calling for the immediate shutdown of the plants until all issues regarding the emergency plans were resolved. 

The decisions of the executives were triggered by the release Friday of an $804,000 study by former FEMA Director James Lee Witt, which found the emergency plans did not account for terrorism and could not protect the public. 

Only Putnam County Executive Robert Bondi said he will go ahead and sign the certification before the month ends unless he is ordered not to by the county legislature. The certification, he said, is simply a checklist of things the county did last year to fulfill state emergency planning requirements. 

"The county and all the volunteers fulfilled the requirements of the state, and therefore we should sign it," Bondi said. "We can attach a cover letter that points out that there are issues not covered on that checklist but, unless the county Legislature tells me not to sign it, we will fill it out." 

Legislative Chairman Robert McGuigan, D-Mahopac, said last night he intended to ask the legislature to pass a resolution within the next two weeks instructing Bondi not to sign the annual letter. 

"The county executive has put us on notice that the decision is now in our lap," McGuigan said. "We will pass a resolution not to support the existing plan and not to sign off on the certification. I will push for a resolution and seek at least six votes to make it veto-proof." 

"Bondi is wrong and should not sign the certification," said Betsy Calhoun, head of the Philipstown League for the Environment and Safe Energy, a civic group seeking the shutdown of the twin Indian Point plants. "There are two kinds of elected officials: those who lead us as best they possibly can, and others who reflect the least controversial views going and wait to act until there is mass support. 

"That is what Bondi is doing, and I do not think that is a responsible leader." 

State officials did not respond to inquiries last night. FEMA spokeswoman Carol Harris said "we will stay out of it unless the state asks us to join in." 

###

NEW YORK TIMES
January 16, 2003
3 Counties Maneuver in Bid to Close Down Indian Point
By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD

Rockland County yesterday joined an effort by two neighboring county governments to shut the Indian Point nuclear plant by refusing to sign off on plans for a possible radioactivity emergency.

The move by C. Scott Vanderhoef, the Rockland County executive, came in response to a report last week that called evacuation plans for the plant inadequate, particularly given the potential for terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks.

His decision means that three of the four counties surrounding the plant will refuse to send the state their usually routine annual certification of disaster plans. The certification is a checklist confirming that rescue workers have completed training and have the resources to deal with a radioactive emergency. The counties' opposition, while largely symbolic, could bolster legal efforts to force a shutdown of the plant.

Only the Putnam County executive, Robert Bondi, has decided to sign the plan, saying that certification is a technicality that should be free of political calculations.

"We should all be spending more time talking about how to protect the plant from a terrorist attack rather than arguing over whether it should be shut down immediately," said Mr. Bondi, a volunteer fireman. He added, "If we close the plant down, probably we would be doing just what the terrorists would like us to do: alter our lives forever."

But Mr. Vanderhoef, joining his colleagues in Westchester and Orange Counties, said he could not certify the plan, in light of a report released Friday by James Lee Witt, a consultant for the state, that said an evacuation plan required for a 10-mile radius around the plant was unworkable and emergency planning was inadequate to protect the public.

The report found, among other things, that roads would probably be clogged by panicked residents well beyond the 10-mile radius, and that emergency workers, many of them volunteers, might not respond because of the perceived danger.

"The whole Witt report is disturbing, and obviously its conclusions are disturbing," Mr. Vanderhoef said after a conference call with the three other county executives, who plan to request meetings with state and federal officials to discuss the findings.

Every year, the state is required to send the Federal Emergency Management Agency a certification that the disaster plan is in place and current. The state typically sends its certification after collecting letters from the four counties.

But state officials say they will be hard-pressed to send the certification if the counties responsible for responding to emergencies do not certify the plan. The state's Emergency Management Office has not decided whether to certify the plan.

Even if FEMA decides that the plan is not current, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission could still allow the plant to operate, at least temporarily. But opponents plan to use the lack of certification in a legal fight to force a closing, a process experts say could take at least a year.

Jim Steets, a spokesman for Entergy, which owns the plant, said that the company stood by the plan and that Mr. Witt had overstated the problems with it.

###

January 15, 2003
New York Times
Move to Close Indian Point Gathers Steam
By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD

WHITE PLAINS, Jan. 14 — The drive to close the Indian Point nuclear power plant intensified today as a coalition of groups urged Gov. George E. Pataki not to certify disaster plans that a consultant hired by the state has called inadequate to protect the public. 

The environmental group Riverkeeper, joined by 54 other organizations, took its action as members of Congress expressed concern about the plant's safety in the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks. 

Representative Nita M. Lowey, a Westchester Democrat, and Representative Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, called on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to explain what it was doing in response to a different report, written last year by a consultant to the plant's owner, Entergy, that said most of its security guards did not believe that they could adequately defend the two active reactors against an attack.

Representative Eliot L. Engel, a Democrat whose district includes the Bronx and Westchester and Rockland Counties, today renewed his call to shut down the plant, 35 miles north of Midtown Manhattan in the Westchester village of Buchanan. He joined Representative Sue Kelly, a Republican from Katonah whose district includes the plant, who called for a shutdown on Friday after reading last week's report.

The actions showed that opponents pressing for the closing of the plant planned to keep up their momentum, which was reinvigorated by the release of a report Friday by James Lee Witt, a former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It said evacuation plans for the area surrounding the plant were unworkable, especially in the event of a large release of radiation from a terrorist attack.

The next front in the battle is the usually perfunctory certification of the disaster plan, which describes how thousands of people living within a 10-mile radius of the plant would be evacuated or sheltered from radiation. Critics of the plant said the governor's refusal to recertify the plan would send a strong signal to federal regulators and begin the process of shutting the plant down.

Every year, the director of the State Emergency Management Office must send a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency certifying that the "radiological emergency preparedness" plan is in place. The federal disaster agency then tells the Nuclear Regulatory Commission whether the plan has been approved.

The state sends its certification after collecting forms, essentially checklists, from the four counties surrounding the plant confirming that they have resources in place for an emergency.

But today, the Orange County executive, Edward A. Diana, said in an interview that the county would not send its certification letter because of his concerns about the Witt report. He joins Andrew J. Spano, the Westchester executive, who also said he would not sign off on the certification. 

A spokeswoman for the Rockland County executive, C. Scott Vanderhoef, said he had made a decision but would not announce it until after a conference call planned for Wednesday among the four county executives. Robert J. Bondi, the Putnam County executive, did not return a phone call.

Pataki administration officials have said the certification letter is not an endorsement of the plan, but a bureaucratic formality confirming that the state has complied with federal regulations for such plans.

A spokesman for the Emergency Management Office, Dennis Michalski, said it was waiting to see what the counties do.

Mr. Michalski said he was not sure what the state would do if one or more counties took the unprecedented step of not certifying their piece of the plan.

"We're in uncharted waters," Mr. Michalski said. "We have never been to this point before."

Although opponents of the plant believe that they can push for a shutdown this way, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said it could still allow the plant to operate without the emergency plan.

Even if FEMA were to tell the commission that planning was deficient, the commission would have to find that the preparations did not provide "reasonable assurance that adequate protective measures can and will be taken in event of a radiological emergency" before it would act, N.R.C. guidelines say.

###

The Journal News

An editorial

Spano pulls the plug 

(Original publication: January 15, 2003) 

Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano has taken the sensible step of withholding his approval of an Indian Point emergency plan that an independent, state-commissioned study has demonstrated would not protect the public. 

Spano plans today to request the same action from his counterparts in the other counties within the Indian Point evacuation zone: C. Scott Vanderhoef in Rockland, Robert Bondi in Putnam and Edward Diana in Orange. We urge them to agree. 

Technically speaking, the county executives are not asked to certify the effectiveness of their plans for mass evacuation and other measures to be taken should a disaster strike the nuclear power plants in Buchanan. What they are called upon to do annually is confirm that their counties have fulfilled a number of duties — such as holding mock emergency drills — that are required by federal authorities. They have routinely done that, sending their completed checklists to the state, which has passed them along to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA then assures the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, which licenses nuclear plants, that adequate emergency planning is in place. 

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, an increasing number of critics have called the process meaningless, insisting that the emergency plan, and particularly its evacuation component, is a sham. They were vindicated last week when James Lee Witt, a former FEMA director hired by Gov. George Pataki to study the emergency plan, reported that it wouldn't work. Finding fault with a host of technical issues, the report also found, significantly, that the plan did not account for a fast-moving emergency that a terrorist attack might cause, and that it did not take into account that people — out of ignorance of the plan and out of instinct — wouldn't follow directions. 

Even so, the county executives, if they chose, could retreat behind a technicality and send their documents to the state once more. We did what was asked of us, they could shrug; it's not our fault that we weren't asked to do enough. 

Indeed, that was Spano's initial reaction when the Witt report surfaced Friday. He continued to call the plan a good one while acknowledging Witt's observations about its limited scope. 

Spano apparently had second — and better — thoughts. His new conclusion: It doesn't matter if federal authorities are satisfied, if they are satisfied with a plan that would fail. If FEMA can't somehow fix the emergency plan's standards in line with Witt's recommendations, a spokeswoman said, Spano would be in favor of an Indian Point shutdown. 

The Witt report has brought renewed calls for that step to be taken from many sources, including Westchester legislators and Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, D-Greenburgh, whose own critical analysis of the evacuation plan foreshadowed many of Witt's findings. Rep. Sue Kelly, R-Katonah, has become a convert to the cause. 

The state Emergency Management Office is supposed to tell FEMA by the end of the month that the counties have their emergency acts in order. If the counties — if even Westchester alone — does not vouch for the plan, the state office would not be able to. Unless the federal agency knows something about the emergency plan it has not shared, it would not be in a position to tell the NRC that emergency planning — a condition of nuclear licensing — is in order. 

The NRC could order emergency planning to be fixed within four months. But, given the deficiencies cited in the Witt report, that seems impossible. 

A temporary shutdown of Indian Point, at the least, seems inevitable. 

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Indian Point plans rejected again 

By ROGER WITHERSPOON 
THE JOURNAL NEWS 
(Original publication: January 15, 2003) 

Orange County yesterday joined Westchester in its refusal to certify the effectiveness of the emergency evacuation plans for the 300,000 people living within 10 miles of the nuclear power plants at Indian Point. 

Orange County Executive Edward Diana ordered his staff not to certify the plans for the state and said it may be necessary to close the plants. Diana followed Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano's decision Monday not to certify that the county has done everything it can to ensure the emergency plan will work. 

The State Emergency Management Office uses the certifications from Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Putnam counties to officially report that the evacuation plans are effective. 

Similar notices are required for counties within 10 miles of the other six nuclear plants in the state. 

"If the counties do not provide the information," said SEMO spokesman Dennis Michulski, "then the state cannot move forward." 

The state emergency agency will meet with representatives of the counties today in Albany to hand out the certification forms. The certification is sent to the Federal Emergency Management Agency which, in turn, notifies the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the plant has effective emergency plans in accord with its license. 

Without approved plans that can protect the public health and safety, the NRC may be forced to close the plants. The deadline for the state certification is Jan. 31. 

Suzanne Morris, spokeswoman for Gov. George Pataki, said "if two counties certify the plan and two counties don't, that is a circumstance we have never dealt with before. SEMO would have to evaluate it in consultation with the governor. But the state certification is dependent on the county certification. If the counties don't certify the plan, then SEMO won't certify the plan." 

Joseph Picciano, acting regional director of the federal agency, said if the state doesn't submit its report, "we will have to go back to the state and find out why and, at that point, talk to the NRC." 

The decision by the county executives to refuse to certify the plans is a "symbolic gesture" intended to force the federal agencies to get involved in improving the evacuation plans, said Jim Steets, spokesman for Entergy Nuclear Northeast, which owns the Indian Point plants. 

Orange County's Diana said that he and his staff read the 550-page analysis of the nuclear emergency plans released Friday by former FEMA Director James Lee Witt, which concluded the plans will not protect the public in an emergency, particularly a fast-breaking crisis caused by a terrorist act. 

"Prior to the Witt report," said Diana, "we have been told by the so-called experts at FEMA and the NRC that everything was fine. Now, we are finding that that is not true, and I am very concerned. Certainly, an event like terrorism was not taken into consideration in the plan and, after 9/11, we know it could happen again." 

"Some plants such as Indian Point may not be able to be operated safely in such a heavily populated area," he said. "If our questions are not answered, then there may be a point where we will have to call for the closure of the plant." 

Diana said he will confer today with Spano, Rockland County Executive Scott Vanderhoef, and Putnam County Executive Robert Bondi to discuss their responses to the Witt report. 

Vanderhoef said he will announce his decision after the conference. The Rockland plan calls for the evacuation of most residents and school children to reception centers in Bergen County, N.J. But Bergen County Executive Dennis McNerney said he has directed his staff to explore legal means of forcing the shutdown. 

Bondi, however, said he intends to sign. "My feeling," he said, "is this is a checklist of functions and duties that every county has to perform, and we have hundreds of volunteers who have faithfully executed the functions required, including drills and training seminars." 

Bondi said the evacuation plan does not take terrorism into account, "but there is no preparation or training that can prevent people from running away and fleeing in abject terror following a terrorist attack. We should do our very best to prevent terrorism in all the facilities, which we feel could have a major impact on life in our community. That doesn't mean closing all the nuclear plants in our country." 

In Washington, Rep. Nita Lowey, D-Harrison, sent a letter to FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh asking him to decertify the emergency plans for Indian Point. 

The Witt report, she said in the letter, "confirms that the current evacuation plan is inadequate to protect the public from unacceptable doses of radiation. Denial of Indian Point's emergency evacuation plan is now essential to protect the nearly 21 million people living near Indian Point." 

And Rep. Eliot Engel, D-Bronx, said "there are too many questions about the effectiveness of the evacuation plan," and urged Pataki not to approve it. 

Earlier in the day, members of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, about 50 organizations seeking to close the plants, asked Pataki to refuse to certify the plan. 

"We are calling on the governor to shut down immediately the Indian Point nuclear reactors, given the overwhelming evidence that that plant is posing a major risk to Westchester residents and residents throughout the 50-mile New York metropolitan area," said Alex Matthiessen, executive director of the environmental group Riverkeeper. 

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Demands Grow for Improving Indian Point Emergency Plan
By MATTHEW L. WALD
New York Times

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 — Demands by elected officials for improvements in emergency plans for the Indian Point nuclear plant grew more strident today, but experts on the workings of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said its history suggested that it would not consider emergency planning problems as a reason to close the plant.

The protests, after a consultant's report that the plans are inadequate, are spreading to areas away from the plant, in Buchanan, N.Y., on the east bank of the Hudson River. Today, Dennis McNerney, the executive of Bergen County, N.J., said, "I promise that I will use every means at my disposal, including legal action, if necessary, to shut down the reactors if it is not done voluntarily" until the plans are improved.

Andrew J. Spano, the Westchester County executive, said he planned a conference call on Wednesday with his counterparts in Orange, Rockland and Putnam Counties, to urge them not to certify their evacuation plans to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. An adviser, Susan Tolchin, said Mr. Spano wanted the agency to add terrorist attacks to its requirements and take over the cost of local responses.

While county and state approval of emergency procedures is desirable, Nuclear Regulatory Commissions rules do not require it for a plant to continue operating. The commission has shown no sympathy lately for arguments based on the threat of terrorism; last month it said its administrative law judges should not consider such arguments in four licensing hearings.

Under the Atomic Energy Act, the federal government decides whether the reactors may run, and the commission has shown little inclination to close plants because of problems in emergency planning. But a spokesman, Neil Sheehan, said the commissioners would listen.

"The N.R.C. would value input from anybody with expertise on the topic of emergency planning, and certainly Mr. Witt, as the former director of FEMA, has considerable knowledge of the way these plans are put together," Mr. Sheehan said, referring to James Lee Witt, the consultant Gov. George E. Pataki asked to evaluate the Indian Point plans. 

Mr. Witt's report found that the Indian Point plans were "not adequate" to "protect the people from an unacceptable dose of radiation in the event of a release from Indian Point." The report recommended a revision of federal regulations guiding the the disaster plans.

Mr. Sheehan said that even if the emergency management agency were to tell the commission that planning was deficient, the commission would have to find that the preparations for an emergency did not provide "reasonable assurance that adequate protective measures can and will be taken in event of a radiological emergency" before it would act. Then the commission would give the plant 120 days to fix the problem. It did that in several cases in the early 1980's, but not recently, Mr. Sheehan said.

Peter A. Bradford, who was on the commission in that era, recalled that in the case of the Shoreham nuclear reactor on Long Island, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo said the emergency plans were unworkable and that the plant should not be licensed. The commission, Mr. Bradford said, "threw him out of the case."

The commission licensed the plant, reasoning that even if Mr. Cuomo and county officials boycotted drills, they would participate in a real emergency. The commission called this its "realism rule."

The debate could find another forum in Congress. Representative Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who is one of the foremost nuclear critics in the House, said today that he would reintroduce a bill that dealt with half the terrorism problem — protection of plants. His bill, which passed the House in the last session but died in the Senate, would have the federal government take over plant security just as it took over airport security.

Representative Nita M. Lowey, a Westchester Democrat, was a co-sponsor, as were Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut and Harry Reid of Nevada, all Democrats; and James M. Jeffords of Vermont, an independent.

Amid the debate about safety, one of the plant's reactors, Indian Point 3, was shut down yesterday when a water pump failed. A spokesman for Entergy Corp., the plant's owner, said there was no danger to workers or the public, and that the adjacent reactor remained at full power. The spokesman, Jim Steets, said that it was unclear how long the shutdown would last, but that it could be several days. 

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For Immediate Release:
Friday, January 10, 2003

Contact: Rob Ostrander 
202-225-5441

Kelly Calls for Temporary Shutdown of Indian Point

Urges NRC, FEMA to Resolve Issues Raised in Witt Report

WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Sue Kelly (R-Katonah) today issued the following statement regarding the Witt Report on Indian Point:

"All along, my top priority has been to make Indian Point as safe as possible because the plant is an important source of energy for our region. Today, with the frank conclusions of this independent report, I am calling for the temporary shutdown of Indian Point until concerns raised by the Witt report are fully resolved.

"It is clear that current safety plans at Indian Point are inadequate. The Witt report itself states that the current evacuation plans 'are not adequate...to protect the people.' That is simply unacceptable.

"Our community cannot be left unprotected while the plant is still running. Until I can look my constituents in the eye and tell them they are protected by the plan, I believe the plant should be shut down. 

"The Witt report shows that the NRC and FEMA are operating with a pre-September 11 mentality when it comes to safety plans at Indian Point. That must change immediately.

"The report has revealed significant problems that must be dealt with immediately by the NRC and FEMA. I have today written to both agencies urging them in the strongest terms to immediately begin addressing the issues raised in the Witt report and I will work with the rest of the area's congressional delegation to see that this happens." 

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