“ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – Gov. Eliot Spitzer said Thursday that the Indian Point power plants should undergo a rarely imposed outside safety review before being licensed for 20 more years of operation.

Citing a leak of radioactive elements into the groundwater beneath Indian Point and the owners’ failure to install a new emergency siren system, Spitzer said, “Never has the need for this type of evaluation been greater.”

In a letter to the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the governor said the commission should order an Independent Safety Assessment for Indian Point, which comprises two reactors in Buchanan, on the Hudson River 35 miles north of New York City.

He noted that Indian Point’s proximity to the metropolis means “a serious accident could threaten millions of people.”

The governor’s letter came as the NRC met with Indian Point’s owner, Entergy Nuclear Northeast, to review in public the plants’ performance in 2006. The commission issued its assessment months ago and found no problems of major safety significance.

The NRC has resisted an Independent Safety Assessment, saying Indian Point is already receiving enough scrutiny. Spokesman Neil Sheehan said Thursday that the current oversight process incorporates many elements of the Independent Safety Assessment and negates the need for one.

But those demanding the special safety check now include the governor, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chuck Schumer and several members of Congress from the area, all Democrats.

Rep. John Hall, whose district includes Indian Point, has introduced a bill requiring an Independent Safety Assessment within six months and making it a condition of relicensing. Clinton and Schumer co-sponsored a matching bill in the Senate, and Spitzer said Thursday he was backing those bills.

Licenses for the two reactors expire in 2013 and 2015. Entergy has applied for relicensing, which would add 20 years to each.

When he campaigned for governor last year, Spitzer said Indian Point should be closed “as soon as replacement power is available because it is vulnerable to terrorist attacks and environmental disasters.””

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