“BUCHANAN – Indian Point officials expect to launch an emergency planning grant program for local communities as early as next week, a step they hope will bolster response capabilities in the event of an accident at the nuclear plant.

“We want to ensure that we provide financial support more visibly and to a broader base in the community,” said Donald Mayer, who oversees emergency planning for Indian Point. “To that end we’ve developed a grant process on local community needs, relating specifically to emergency planning equipment and training.”

The nuclear plant paid for a study last year on safety issues and an independent panel of experts recommended better coordination with local responders as well the financial support.

Mayer also reiterated the company’s commitment to build a new off-site emergency operations center, and officials will likely be choosing that location by the end of the summer.

The grants, which Mayer said will likely be in the $5,000 to $25,000 range, will be handed out after review by Indian Point officials internally and then by respective county officials to ensure that they fit into the larger safety net for the region.

“A key element is give all four counties the opportunity to participate in the prioritization of the grant requests,” Mayer said.

He declined to say how big the grant fund is.

Westchester, Putnam, Rockland and Orange counties are within the 10-mile emergency evacuation radius of Indian Point. The counties themselves already receive money for emergency planning.

Local emergency officials said overall coordination and a more formal program should deliver the expected benefits.

“They’ve done some individual stuff in the past, like a fire prevention grant for a single department, but nothing like this,” said Dan Greeley, who heads emergency response for Rockland County. “It’s a good program and welcomed. We’ll see what happens.”

Greeley’s counterpart in Putnam, Adam Stiebeling, said the four counties are different and have needs that vary. Getting each involved in setting priorities for improving response will increase efficiency.

“I believe it should be routed through the counties,” he said. “We’re in touch with the needs.”

Indian Point officials expect to have two applications periods this year – in June and October. The program will fund projects for equipment or training for first responders and nonprofits and municipalities that provide emergency management type services.

The first checks should be distributed by Sept. 1, with the second wave coming by the end of the year. After the first year, the company said it would assess the programs effectiveness with an eye toward continuing it.

Indian Point has applied to extend its operating license for the Buchanan site through 2035. Though emergency planning is technically not part of that review, it has been a hot-button topic in the region because of evacuation obstacles.

“Indian Point is not a typical site because of its topography and dense population,” Stiebeling said. “It isn’t Kansas.””
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