“On April 6 at 11:43 a.m., the company that owns the Indian Point nuclear plant reported an “unusual event” at the No. 3 reactor. These are, needless to say, not comforting words to hear when they refer to a nuclear reactor—particularly one located 35 miles from midtown Manhattan, and one with an abysmal history of safety problems. Twenty million Americans live within a 50-mile radius of Indian Point; a 2004 study concluded that a terrorist attack on the plant could kill 44,000 people right away, cost the U.S. economy $2.1 trillion, and cause the long-term cancer deaths of 500,000 people.

The “unusual event” last Friday wasn’t a terrorist attack, thankfully, but rather a fire. While no injuries were reported, the fire forced the plant’s fourth unplanned shutdown in 12 months. If that sounds troubling, it is: The national average is fewer than one shutdown per year. Meanwhile, the plant has been found to be leaking radioactive fuel into the surrounding soil and, most likely, the Hudson River. And if that doesn’t keep you up nights, consider that, in a recent test, the plant’s alarm sirens failed to work. This week, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission downgraded its safety assessment of Indian Point’s No. 3 reactor and will be sending inspectors to the site.”

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