“WHITE PLAINS – As the debate over safety at Indian Point escalates, a Westchester County committee yesterday approved a resolution asking Congress to require an in-depth review of the nuclear plants.

Members of the Board of Legislators’ Environment and Energy Committee voted 5-0 to send the legislation to the floor for the Feb. 12 meeting of the 17-member county lawmaking body.

“We want some independent analysis done,” said Legislator Thomas Abinanti, D-Greenburgh, the environmental committee chairman. “As the home county, we want to add our name to the list.”

Westchester joins Rockland County, which approved a similar measure less than a month ago, and other area counties supporting the area’s congressional representatives as they ask their federal colleagues to vote to require an “Independent Safety Assessment” at Indian Point.

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is currently conducting a less-detailed inspection at the Buchanan site as part of its regular oversight process, has said an ISA is not needed.

Opponents of the plant have pointed to continuing leaks of tritium and strontium 90 at Indian Point, unplanned reactor shutdowns and some workers’ saying they can’t speak up without fear of retribution as some of the reasons a deeper look is needed.

NRC officials have said the radiation leaks are being investigated on their own and because of that, the plant is already getting a higher-than-normal level of oversight.

A bipartisan resolution introduced last year to require the NRC to conduct the safety review never made it out of committee in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. The federal lawmakers behind that effort – including Sen. Hillary Rodham
Clinton – have vowed to push the legislation in the new, Democrat-controlled

Local resolutions like the one that the Westchester Board of Legislators will consider are not binding and are often undertaken to officially support a federal action.

Indian Point officials say the plant is safe and opponents’ efforts to force the assessment are thinly veiled attempts to close a plant that generates enough electricity to power 2 million homes.

“We don’t believe an ISA is warranted, but we’ll abide by whatever decision is made by the NRC or Congress,” Indian Point spokesman Jim Steets said in a telephone interview after yesterday’s vote.

“I would hope that if such an inspection proves the plant is operating safely, as the NRC has long said, that those calling for the inspection would then support the energy plant, but I doubt it.”

Legislator Michael Kaplowitz, D-Somers, a member of the environment committee, said the entire federal legislation under which the NRC regulates the nuclear industry is out-of-date. He said that one of the next big battles in that arena is to get Congress to revamp the legislation, called the Atomic Energy Act. The act took effect in 1954.”

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