If there’s ever an accident at the Indian Point nuclear generating facility in Westchester County, the Danbury area might feel the effects.
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has a grim forecast of what would happen if nuclear gas was in the air and people here had to evacuate.
“The clogged corridors of interstates 95 and 84 — already incapable of accommodating normal rush hour traffic — would be completely gridlocked in mass evacuation resulting from a nuclear plant incident,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal sent a letter Monday to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency — an agency heavily criticized for its hurricane response in the South — demanding a review and revision of the evacuation plans for the plant.
James Steets, spokesman for the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, N.Y., doesn’t think such a review is needed. The plant is safe, and if a leak did happen it would not travel more than five to 10 miles, he said.
“There would not be a widespread disaster like what we witnessed in New Orleans or Mississippi,” Steets said. “We are prepared for the extremely slim possibility of a radioactive release accident that would be big enough to make us want to evacuate.”
People would have to evacuate at least 10 miles from the plant, Steets said. The radiation, if it got loose, would not reach more than five miles and would disintegrate in the air after that, he said. The radiation would not likely escape the thick containers, he said, but if it did it would be in a gaseous form.
Indian Point Energy Center is a nuclear power plant near the Hudson River that generates electrical power. It was built in 1974 and has been the target of environmental groups that say the plant poses a danger to surrounding areas. The plant includes two nuclear reactors in one of the most populated areas in the country, about 11 million people within a 50-mile radius. Hundreds of thousands of those are in Connecticut, Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal said the Radiological Emergency Preparedness plans “are false and dangerous.”
“Repeated exercises conducted at Indian Point have demonstrated the failure of even the minimal efforts taken to date to protect the public,” he said.
Specifically, Blumenthal was referring to a September safety test that showed that some emergency sirens did not work properly on three occasion.
Only two of the 156 warning sirens did not work, Steets said, and those sirens were repaired. Meanwhile, he said, the plant’s emergency response drill was observed and approved by FEMA and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Blumenthal, a potential Democratic candidate for governor in 2006, made his request about one week after Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell issued an executive order requiring all major cities and towns in Connecticut to review their emergency response plans.
The federal agencies observe every nuclear plant every two years, said FEMA spokeswoman Barbara J. Ellis.
“Indian Point participated in this exercise just last year in June 2004 and proved their ability to provide for the health and safety of the surrounding community,” she said.
Still, Ellis said, the agency would consider any request made by the state.
Steets maintains that such requests are unnecessary.
“When we hear people talk about traffic jams in Connecticut, we know there is no reason to move people that far away,” he said. “I don’t know what the attorney general is talking about. I don’t think he does either.”
A radiological release at the plant might be unlikely, Blumenthal said, but the consequences if it does happen are catastrophic.
“If the federal emergency planners have learned nothing else from Katrina and Rita, it should be to do the planning before the disaster, not after,” Blumenthal said.
Contact Fred Lucas at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (203) 731-3358.“