“Legislation was introduced this week by U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays (R-4) and four Democratic Party U.S. representatives from New York that would require an Independent Safety Assessment (ISA) of the Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC) in Buchanan, N.Y., within six months.

The bill goes beyond previous legislation to require the plant to comply with the ISA recommendations or be denied a license extension in 2013, according to a statement released by Shays. The standard for compliance will go beyond standard Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) review for re-licensing to create a more in-depth assessment of potential problems with the Indian Point Energy Center, he said.

“Indian Point’s location near highly populated areas means we have to go the extra mile to ensure it is safe,” said Shays. “This legislation will ensure that if Indian Point continues to run, it meets strict safety standards and is continually monitored.”

The nuclear site is within about 50 miles of Westport.

The bill also will establish the composition of a 25-member ISA team and a five member Citizens Review Team to ensure public accountability. It also is specifically targeted at Indian Point and does not apply to other facilities.

Eliot Engel, one of the Democrats, warned radioactive waste is leaking from Indian Point and Entergy cannot find the source of that leak. “Now radioactive waste is being found in fish in the Hudson River,” said Engel. “This is unacceptable.”

“Indian Point is the nation’s most problematic power plant in the nation’s most densely populated corridor,” said U.S. Rep John Hall, a New York Democrat. “With 8 percent of the population of the United States within a 50-mile radius of the plant, our bill forces the NRC to give this plant the special attention it requires. This bill will force Entergy to do what it takes to run Indian Point safely or they won’t be able to run it at all.”

U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, another Democrat from New York state added: “No matter how many safety and operational malfunctions occur at Indian Point, the NRC refuses to execute a comprehensive analysis of safety and security measures at the plants.

“Local residents deserve assurance that everything possible is being done to secure this facility. Until NRC takes action to ensure the safety of our communities, my colleagues and I will fight to force NRC to perform an ISA at Indian Point.”

The vast majority of New York residents are worried about the safety of Indian Point and unfortunately those concerns are not unwarranted, according to Maurice Hinchey, another member of the Democrat foursome.

“From trouble with alarms at the plant to known leaks of radioactive material, Indian Point is not functioning properly, which is why we need a comprehensive Independent Safety Assessment,” said Hinchey. “The measure is improved from the one we introduced last year and will help identify the steps we need to take to help safeguard New Yorkers from the nuclear power plant that is their neighbor.”

Basics of Bill

According to Shays and the four Democrats, the bill:

— Requires the completion of an Independent Safety Assessment at IPEC within six months of passage.

— Requires the ISA to be completed and any recommended repairs or actions to be fully implemented prior to NRC renewal of IPEC’S license.

— Requires the NRC and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to complete a detailed evaluation of the radiological emergency plan for Indian Point.

— Specifies that the ISA will be conducted by a 25-member team composed of 16 NRC officials not from NRC Region 1, six independent contractors and three NYS appointees.

— Specifies that the ISA will be monitored by a four-member ISA Observation Group appointed by New York State, as well as a Citizens’ Review Team composed of five individuals appointed by New York, with one resident from each Emergency Planning Zone county.

— Authorizes $10 million to carry out the ISA.

In the News

On the average month, there is at least one article in area newspapers about a problem at Indian Point.

For example, the New York Daily News reported last year that radioactive water was leaking under the Indian Point Nuclear Power plant site and into the ground and has grown to roughly the size of the Central Park Reservoir.

Cleanup of the leaks at the aging Westchester County plant, 24 miles upstream from New York City on the Hudson River, was planned, said Don Mayer, director of special projects for Entergy, which runs the plant.

But even as the long-planned repair begins, the size of the problem continues to grow, according to the New York-based newspaper.

“The underground area has contaminated water that is 50 to 60 feet deep,” said Mayer. “There is also another area, or underground plume, that is about 30 feet wide by 350 feet long.”

Environmental advocacy groups, including Robert F. Kennedy’s Riverkeeper, as well as nearby residents, fear the radiation will seep into underground aquifers and reach public drinking supplies.

“It’s a serious problem,” said Phillip Musegaas, a policy analyst with the Riverkeeper. “Tens of thousands of gallons of water are leaching out into the ground, but most of it is going into the river.”

Entergy, which has dug 54 wells to monitor and detect contamination in the ground water, maintains the drinking water is safe. Drinking supplies tested two miles from the plant last spring were found free of radioactive contaminants, according to Entergy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

In the battle between incumbent Christopher Shays and Democratic Party challenger Diane Farrell in the 4th Congressional District election in 2006, a couple of dozen issues surfaced. Some of them dropped by the wayside during the campaign, but others have life after the election.

Both candidates had discussed the topic before their campaign started, but neither of them talked about the nuclear plants very much. During an election campaign, usually candidates argue about their political philosophy or the need of action on major issues of the day or the mistakes that the opposition party has supposedly made.

Although the rhetoric can get annoying, there can be a plus side to campaigns.”