A major critic of the Indian Point nuclear power plants in Buchanan
yesterday shrugged off President Bush’s proposal encouraging the
construction of new nuclear plants.

“I don’t see how one is related to the other,” said Alex Matthiessen,
executive director of the environmental group Riverkeeper. “Our goal is not
to stop nuclear power plants. Our goal is to shut down Indian Point.”

Since Sept. 11, Riverkeeper has campaigned to close Indian Point, arguing
that its electricity isn’t needed, and the plants’ presence threatens public
safety. Last month, the group kicked off a campaign aimed at preventing the
plants from being relicensed.

In an afternoon speech to a Small Business Administration conference in
Washington, Bush suggested that the government financially compensate the
nuclear industry for any regulatory delays incurred while building a new
power plant. It was his second speech on energy within a week – an
indication of the White House’s increasing concern that both the U.S.
economy and the president’s approval rating could suffer from high energy

Bush’s call to reduce “regulatory uncertainty” and spur the building new
nuclear power plants, Matthiessen said, is code for relaxing already too-lax

Along with proposing the construction of new oil refineries on shuttered
military bases, Bush said he will ask Congress to provide federal “risk
insurance” that would kick in if there were lengthy delays in licensing a
new reactor. About 20 percent of the country’s electricity, comes from
nuclear power and a new plant has not been ordered since 1973.

“That (the percentage) should be increased. The fact is nuclear power,
Indian Point among them, provides the best hope for clean air and less
reliance on foreign energy sources,” said Jim Steets, a spokesman for Indian
Point’s owner, Entergy Nuclear Northeast.

Those factors, Steets said, will most likely compel the federal government
to renew the licenses for the two reactors at Indian Point.

Entergy has not applied yet for relicensing of its two reactors in Buchanan,
which could add 20 years to each plant’s operating life. Indian Point 2’s
license expires in 2013 and Indian Point 3’s expires in 2015. Relicensing
applications are several years away, Steets said.

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