“WASHINGTON – Closing the Indian Point nuclear power plants would be costly and difficult, but it could be done if the state and power companies moved quickly and built big, new facilities, a group of scientists said yesterday.

A National Academy of Sciences committee said there is no technological barrier to replacing the Westchester nuclear power plants, but rather a host of financial and regulatory hurdles.

Since 9/11, residents around the plants in Buchanan have worried about terrorist attacks.

Federal regulators and the private company that runs Indian Point have repeatedly insisted the site is secure, but that has not stopped the criticism.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Westchester), who wants to close Indian Point, had sought the scientific review, which suggests the growing energy demands in the metropolitan area would make shutting down the reactors difficult.

“The committee has identified no insurmountable technological barriers to the replacement of Indian Point’s capacity, energy and ancillary services, but significant financial, institutional, regulatory and political barriers also would have to be overcome to avoid threatening reliability,” the group said in a report.

“We can meet the region’s increasing energy demands without Indian Point,” Lowey said.

The problem, the report argues, is that Indian Point now cranks out nearly a quarter of the power used in the metro area, with demand growing fast.

The report, by design, took no position on whether Indian Point should be closed.

The committee warned that generating capacity in the New York City area may be outstripped by peak demand in as little as three years.

Indian Point is a 2,000-megawatt facility, and the state’s power needs are expected to grow by 1,200 to 1,600 megawatts by 2010.

The experts also suggested public resistance, bureaucratic delay and market forces may slow the expansion of needed power plants until the demand reaches a crisis point.

A spokesman for the plants’ owner, Entergy Nuclear Northeast, praised the report, saying, “It’s actually a good illustration of the value of the plant.

“They not only point out the hurdles that would have to be overcome to close the plant, they point out the toxic gases, the contribution to global warming, seeing electricity costs rise,” said spokesman Jim Steets.”

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