NRC meets with Entergy

Entergy officials are set to meet with representatives of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at 7 tonight at Crystal Bay on the Hudson at Charles Point Marina in Peekskill.

For information about the meeting, visit the NRC’s Web site at www.nrc.gov/public-involve/public-meetings

Indian Point’s two tests of its emergency network of 156 sirens yesterday found only a few problems, results that local emergency officials found encouraging after two earlier, larger failures.

Between 9:55 and 10:35 a.m., the nuclear plants in Buchanan ran two tests — one of the backup and another of the primary notification system over four counties — and the preliminary results showed connectivity problems with two sirens in Rockland County and five in Westchester.

All the sirens in Putnam and Orange counties worked during both tests, an emergency official said.

Throughout the last few years, the four counties and Indian Point officials have disagreed about whether sirens actually failed to sound or merely to register on the computer software programs that monitor their functions.

Officials representing the Indian Point nuclear plants said the actual number of sirens that failed to sound was two — one in Rockland and one in Westchester. Local emergency officials agreed with that count.

“We’re pleased with the results but we’re still not comfortable,” said Dan Greeley, assistant director for Rockland County’s Office of Fire and Emergency Services. “After two failures, the system doesn’t have a good record. My recommendation will be to test the siren system more often, maybe once a month rather than quarterly.”

Officials of Entergy Nuclear Northeast, which owns the Indian Point plants, have promised to replace the siren system as soon as possible and will meet tonight in Peekskill with representatives of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to discuss alternatives to the decades-old notification system and installation of backup power.

Jim Steets, a spokesman for Entergy, said the company expects to make its recommendation for a replacement at the meeting, which the public is invited to observe.

At previous meetings, the company has sought input on possible replacements from the county officials within the 10-mile emergency evacuation radius of the plants.

A key element of the new system will be tying the notification to means of communication that many people now take for granted, such as text-messaging to cell phones and mass e-mails sent to desktop and hand-held computers, in addition to interrupting regular television and radio programming.

The sirens have notified residents who can hear them since they were installed in early 1980s that they should seek more information by turning on their radios, for example, but have never been able to provide more information than the steady signal that was sounded twice yesterday.

Until another system is in place, however, county officials want to ensure that the current system will work in the event of an actual emergency.

The sirens have been a major issue in the Lower Hudson Valley for nearly three years, since the issue of whether they would sound in the event of a power failure brought backup power into the debate. As recently as the spring, the NRC declined a petition calling for backup power to be required.

Since that decision, however, the sirens have failed a number of times, including a period in which the failure went undetected for at least six hours. In the two most recent systemwide tests, whole sections of the system failed to work properly, first in Rockland in September, then in Orange County last month.”