Indian Point conducted what was described as a “flawless” test of its 156-siren emergency alert system yesterday.

Big deal.

The test came a week after the whole system flunked because of a computer glitch. Indian Point has been good at getting it right on a second chance. Trouble is, life doesn’t always offer second chances, certainly not as many as Indian Point has gotten for its emergency tests. It therefore behooves people who operate such risk-laden things as nuclear power plants to get it right the first time as much as possible. Lord knows, that certainly would help the people who live in the immediate vicinity of the Hudson River facility feel more comfortable.

The second-chance scenario has become so commonplace at Indian Point and caused such angst among public officials as well as average citizens that Entergy, the company that operates the plants, agreed last summer to install a new alert system. That’s long overdue.

Entergy says it hopes to have the new system installed by the end of the year, which – assuming it works better than the current one – would certainly ease some anxiety. State and federal agencies that have to approve the new warning system are well-aware of Indian Point’s repeated failures, which one would think should lend some urgency to the approval process.

But that’s not the whole of it. The safety concerns were heightened in February when test results on a well drilled within 150 feet of the Hudson River showed levels of radioactive materials in excess of acceptable standards for drinking water. The testing well is near an Indian Point spent-fuel pool. The presence of radioactive material in water in such close proximity to the river is obviously disturbing. It suggests that a leak previously identified at Indian Point poses a greater threat than originally thought and makes finding the source of the leak a higher priority. Entergy needs to do more testing along the river as well.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has finally responded to demands by local congressional representatives for a thorough, independent assessment of safety at Indian Point. That review should go beyond the recent problems and it, too, needs to be given priority status. In addition, the NRC plans to hold a public hearing soon to discuss all the recent safety problems at Indian Point. That promises to be interesting.

Entergy says it will work with the NRC on its review, which is only right. People whose lives can be directly impacted by the presence of Indian Point’s nuclear power plants need to know that the facility’s days of second chances are about to end.

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