“Located only thirty-five miles north of New York City, the most populous area in the United States, is the Indian Point nuclear reactor; safety officials are questioning the wisdom of operating a plant so close to New York City; a fifty mile evacuation radius around the plant would affect nearly twenty million people and some say evacuating that many people on short notice is a “fantasy”; NRC is currently conducting a thorough safety review of U.S. nuclear plants and the Indian Point reactor is one of seventeen under scrutiny; New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently called for the plant to be shut down
Located only thirty-five miles north of New York City, the most populous area in the United States, is the Indian Point nuclear reactor. In light of recent events at Japan’s nuclear power plants, safety officials are questioning the wisdom of operating a plant so close to New York City.
At the height of the Japanese nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Chairman (NRC) Gregory Jaczko declared that a fifty mile evacuation zone should be established if a similar accident occurred in the United States.
These remarks have resulted in greater scrutiny of nuclear plants located near large population centers, particularly the Indian Point nuclear station.
A fifty mile evacuation around the plant would affect nearly twenty million people, and experts believe the logistics of evacuating that many people on short notice would be impossible.
Daniel P. Aldrich, a political science professor at Purdue University, said, “Many scholars have already argued that any evacuation plans shouldn’t be called plans, but rather ‘fantasy documents.’”
Indian Point’s current emergency plans primarily consist of evacuating roughly 300,000 in a ten mile radius. A twenty mile radius, like that imposed in Japan, would require evacuating nearly a million people and a fifty mile radius evacuation plan does not exist.
NRC is currently conducting a thorough safety review of U.S. nuclear plants and the Indian Point reactor is one of seventeen under scrutiny.
When asked if Indian Point should continue operating, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said, “We’re going to have to look at whether this reactor should remain.”
“It’s an NRC decision, but the NRC will be looking at that, I’m sure, based on the events” in Japan, he added.
Secretary Chu also said that the plant’s evacuation plans were under review.
In 2003, then Governor George Pataki, ordered a thorough safety investigation to be conducted on the Indian Point reactor.
The report concluded that, “current radiological response system and capabilities are not adequate to overcome their combined weight and protect the people from an unacceptable dose of radiation in the event of a release from Indian Point.”
Current New York governor Andrew Cuomo recently called for the plant to be shut down.
He said, “It should be closed. This plant in this proximity to the city was never a good risk.”
Cuomo expressed concern over the fact that the reactor was located near a fault line.
“The suggestion is that of all the power plants across the country, that the Indian Point power plant is most susceptible to an earthquake because Reactor No. 3 is on a fault,” he said.
Indian Point supplies as much as 30 percent of New York City’s power and so far no plans have been announced to replace those supplies if the plant were shut down.”
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