“CORTLANDT MANOR, N.Y. — Officials from the towns surrounding the Indian Point nuclear power complex, after meeting with Department of Homeland Security representatives, said Wednesday they were confident the federal government would fully reevaluate the area’s emergency evacuation plans.

Rep. Sue Kelly, R-N.Y., who arranged the meeting, said she left the
get-together with the impression that federal authorities would even
consider whether any plan could work.

“They are going to give every idea a strong look,” she said.

Officials from three counties gathered in Cortlandt Manor to express their
concerns about the plans to Homeland Security representatives, led by
Assistant Secretary Robert Stefan.

“Homeland Security heard us loud and clear,” said Larry Schwartz, the deputy
Westchester County executive. “They’re not going to make policy in
Washington. They’re going to make it here.”

Officials need “to be here and see rush hour … see when it rains two
inches in an hour and the Saw Mill, Hutchinson River and Bronx River
parkways flood … when there’s high winds and the Tappan Zee (bridge) is
closed,” he continued.

Kelly said terrorism was specifically discussed.

Stefan would not take questions after the meeting but said Homeland Security
would work to find “what the gaps are” in the evacuation plans. He promised
more meetings.

Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, many residents and officials in the lower
Hudson Valley have called for a shutdown of the two Indian Point plants in
Buchanan, 35 miles north of midtown Manhattan. They say the plants are an
attractive target and the region is too densely populated to be safely
evacuated after an attack.

In 2002, former Federal Emergency Management Agency head James Lee Witt, acting as a consultant, found that Indian Point’s evacuation plans did not
properly address the possible effects of a terrorist attack.

In the past, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has accepted assurances from
FEMA that the plans are in place and worked in a tabletop exercise. An
approved evacuation plan is a condition of the nuclear plant license held by
owner Entergy Nuclear Northeast.

Wednesday’s meeting was generated last month when Kelly, whose district
includes Indian Point, questioned Homeland Security Secretary Michael
Chertoff about security preparedness issues during a House Transportation
Committee hearing.

Kelly told Chertoff that the poor federal response to Hurricane Katrina had
renewed Hudson Valley residents’ worries about the Indian Point evacuation

Chertoff said, “We should look at the plans. I agree we have to be realistic
about whether the plans work or not. We shouldn’t kid ourselves about it.””

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