“NEW CITY – Rockland County has joined an effort to get the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to change its relicensing criteria regarding Indian Point.

Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano took the case to federal court in February after the NRC denied the county’s petition to change the criteria. He said the agency decided without holding hearings or making fact-finding efforts.

The NRC does not consider factors such as population density and the ability to conduct an effective emergency evacuation as part of the relicensing process.

Spano wants the NRC to consider both those issues, along with plant security, including its vulnerability to terrorist attacks.

Rockland County is now seeking the same.

“We want them to look at the plant as if it were a brand-new plant coming in,” County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef said. “Would you put it here if you were starting over?”

The case is before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in Manhattan and could be heard in mid-October.

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan, said yesterday that the agency’s primary areas of focus was plant operations, including safety systems, structures and components, and potential environmental impacts that could result from a 20-year license extension.

He said the NRC had received requests over the years to expand its criteria, but it had not done so because the agency routinely reviewed many of the issues raised by Spano.

For example, the NRC does not wait 20 years to review evacuation plans but does so routinely, he said.

“We’re not looking at it separately as part of the license renewal,” Sheehan said. “We’re looking at it on an ongoing basis.”

Rockland Legislature Chairwoman Harriet Cornell said she expected that more action would be needed and that it was possible the county would officially intervene in the NRC’s review process. Such action would provide the county with certain legal standing as the review proceeded.

Vanderhoef said it might be difficult to intervene if the county cannot determine specific scientific and environmental concerns. The county cannot raise issues such as population density and its compatibility with nuclear power, since the NRC does not consider those criteria in its review.

Entergy Nuclear Northeast, which owns and operates Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3, announced plans the day before Thanksgiving to apply for license extensions for both plants. If granted, the renewals would allow the plants to operate until 2033 and 2035, respectively.

The original 40-year license for Indian Point 2 will expire in 2013. A similar license for Indian Point 3 will expire in 2015.”

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