“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.

This editorial originally appeared in the Times Herald-Record