“CORTLANDT – Indian Point officials renewed their vow last night to deliver a new emergency siren system by Aug. 24, but federal and local officials said there is still much to be done to accomplish that goal.
“Aug. 24th sounds pretty soon to me,” said Rebecca Thomson, a top official with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which must sign off on the new system.
FEMA’s in-depth review of the new 150-siren notification system and operational training for emergency staff from Westchester, Orange, Rockland and Putnam counties are two critical elements of the project that Indian Point officials don’t control.
Michael Slobedien, Indian Point’s top emergency preparedness official, said he thought the system would be ready enough to train county workers by the end of this month, though Anthony Sutton, Westchester County’s top emergency preparedness official, noted that schedules this time of the year can be difficult to coordinate with people taking summer vacations.
Sutton said the counties would do everything possible to provide Indian Point with what it needed.
“We want to get this system up and running,” Sutton said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
Slobedien said the company would have to work as closely as possible to make sure FEMA had all the information it needed to complete its work.
“I think we have more discussions we need to have with FEMA,” he said. “But it’s our intent to have the system operational by Aug. 24th.”
The company acknowledged to FEMA and officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at a sparsely attended public meeting last night that there is no single source of some of the problems technicians have found as they race to meet their third deadline after missing one in January and a second in April.
If Indian Point is successful, the new $15 million alert system would finally take over as the primary way to notify residents in an emergency at the nuclear plant.
It would replace a decades-old system that until the past six months had produced headaches with each successive failure, including once when all the sirens failed to sound.
Luckily for residents, as the new system has been under construction, periodic tests of the old system show it to be performing reliably.
Residents and public officials who stayed through the two-hour meeting raised concerns about everything from reliability and whether sirens were loud enough to be heard to whether continual testing was leading residents to too easily ignore warning sirens.
Slobedien said the company would continue to conduct a public outreach campaign to keep residents informed of testing, so they can differentiate between a test and an actual emergency.
NRC officials have said they will review the situation if another deadline is missed, but have not ruled out further financial and other sanctions.
The agency’s top regional official said the NRC would continue to commit resources necessary to ensure that Indian Point’s road to a completed installation wasn’t impeded by the federal government, a sentiment echoed by FEMA representatives.
“We’re looking forward to this coming to a successful end Aug. 24th,” said Samuel Collins, the NRC’s regional administrator.”
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