“Open discussion about the situation at Indian Point nuclear power plant
in Westchester County, N.Y., the closest such facility to this area, is
worthwhile in light of questions that being raised about emergency
preparedness. For that reason, we applaud Connecticut Attorney General
Richard Blumenthal for seeking hearings.

But it’s important to recognize that planning a mass evacuation in the
event of a major nuclear accident or terrorist attack is impractical.
Not only is our region within a 50-mile radius of the Indian Point
facility, but so is New York City. It’s been estimated that more than 11
million people live within that distance from the nuclear plant.

That said, the twin nuclear reactors at Indian Point in Buchanan, N.Y.,
have been the focus of safety concerns for years. More recently,
officials in nearby municipalities in Westchester County have been
outraged by a malfunction in the siren warning system that is to alert
nearby residents about the release of radiation. Not only did a test of
the system earlier this year prove unsatisfactory, but there was no
siren warning when a small amount of radiation was release from the
facility Sept. 1, as the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission reported
last month.

The siren system wouldn’t directly affect this municipality, but it is
important for such notification measures to operate properly to ensure
that more distant communities, such as ours, would also know about
mishaps. If warnings for relatively minor problems aren’t sounded, what
would happen in the event of a serious incident?

When Mr. Blumenthal last week filed his request for a review of the
radiological emergency preparedness plan for Indian Point with the
Federal Emergency Management Agency, he said he wasn’t trying to shut
down the nuclear plant. But plenty of Connecticut individuals and state
and local officials have wondered about the safety of having a nuclear
electrical generating facility so nearby.

Concerns about Indian Point’s security were voiced after the 9/11
terrorist attack, leading to improvements on the part of the plant’s
owners and government authorities. But similar worry about the siren
warning system two years ago appears not to have made a difference.
Meanwhile, there is new emphasis on preparing for catastrophic disasters
in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, making Mr. Blumenthal’s
request to FEMA particularly pertinent. We hope the federal agency,
whose slow and inadequate response to the hurricanes has prompted
federal hearings, will be thorough and businesslike in this matter.

The need for a dialogue is real and it isn’t new. Months before the
hurricanes ravaged the Gulf Coast, Mr. Blumenthal said he was concerned
that the public didn’t have a good understanding of what kind of
emergency response had been planned if this nuclear plant were to be the
scene of terrorism or a mishap that led to a significant release of
radioactivity. While preliminary discussions on the topic took place at
least informally among officials in various municipalities two years
ago, no formal plan by the state of Connecticut, the NRC, FEMA or any
government agency has been made public.

Now that Gov. M. Jodi Rell has ordered officials to prepare plans for
emergency evacuations in Connecticut if a storm similar to Katrina were
to head our way, we believe it’s important for those in our area and
elsewhere in Connecticut to know what plan the state would implement if
Indian Point — or any other nuclear plant within the state or near its
borders — were to release radiation. Mr. Blumenthal’s action should
help to do that.

Copyright (c) 2005, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.”