Riverkeeper Calls for Immediate Shut Down of Indian Point
Plant should be closed until proven safe to operate
The staff of Riverkeeper sends its condolences to the victims of the Honshu earthquake. The unfolding crisis at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant and others makes real the inherent risks of generating electricity from nuclear power, particularly near densely populated metropolitan areas.
Can something like this happen at Indian Point?
The short answer is yes, it is possible for an earthquake to strike at Indian Point; a 2008 study by Columbia University Earth Observatory seismologists found that IP’s three reactors sit at the intersection of two active seismic zones.
According to August 2010 NRC data, Indian Point is now considered the most dangerous plant in the country when it comes to the risk of meltdown due to earthquake. Based on recent information gathered by the government and the Columbia University study, the NRC data shows the odds of core damage potentially leading to a meltdown now are 72% higher than previously believed.
Indian Point also has the highest population density surrounding a nuclear plant in the United States, with 20 million people living within a 50 mile radius. It is also the plant with an evacuation plan that former Federal Emergency Management Agency head James Lee Witt called unworkable, in a 2003 report commissioned by New York Governor George Pataki.
Columbia University says the risk of an earthquake as large as 7.0 on the Richter scale is possible at Indian Point. Entergy admits it can’t handle an earthquake of this magnitude and that at best the plant could withstand a magnitude 6.1 earthquake. This is highly significant because the energy released in a 7.0 level earthquake is roughly 30 times more powerful than a 6.1.
What we don’t know is how much damage an earthquake would inflict on Indian Point, because the Nuclear Regulatory Commission refuses to reassess the risk based on this new scientific data – in fact, the NRC specifically denied New York State’s demand that this issue be examined as part of the relicensing review. As of now, the NRC is basing its conclusion that Indian Point will withstand an earthquake on seismic studies done nearly forty years ago, when the plant was built.
Riverkeeper is calling for an immediate, objective and independent analysis of this risk and its implications for plant operation, emergency response and evacuation planning.
It is our position that until Indian Point is proven safe, it should be closed. We are also calling for spent fuel to be moved out of the poorly-protected pools on site and into safer dry-cask storage.
The residents of the Hudson Valley and New York City deserve better from the NRC.
It’s time for the NRC to prove to the public that these forty year old reactors will withstand an earthquake based on today’s science, not yesterday’s theories. The risk of relying on outdated science is simply too great to take.