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Japan Crisis Raises Concerns About Indian Point Power Plant

Rep. Lowey, Among Others, Says Now Is The Time To Review
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Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant (credit: Flickr)

Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant (credit: Flickr)

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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — As nuclear plant issues arise in Japan those who live near the Indian Point power plant can’t help but wonder if it could happen here.

Westchester Congresswoman Nita Lowey is demanding a full federal review, reports CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.

Indian Point is just 24 miles north of New York City and is located about a mile from where two earthquake fault lines intersect. But the people who run it say they’re not worried about a Japan-like meltdown here.

PHOTO GALLERY: Deadly Tsunami Hits Japan After 8.9 Quake

When asked what he would say to people who wonder if a Japan scenario could happen here, Jim Streets, director of communications for Entergy Nuclear Northeast said, “I say only if a tsunami could make its way, you know, up New York Harbor and the Hudson River, somehow avoid New York City, and drench our plant. It just doesn’t seem very realistic to me.”

But Congresswoman Lowey is demanding a nuclear regulatory review of the plant, noting that a 3.9-magnitude earthquake occurred 80 miles off Long Island last November and that experts say a quake with a 7.0 magnitude could happen here.

WCBS 880’s Catherine Cioffi reports: Could what happened in Japan happen in New York?

A 2008 study by Columbia University Earth Observatory found that Indian Point isn’t exactly on firm ground and is in one of the worst places to site a nuclear power plant.

“In the wake of this human catastrophe we have to ask ourselves if we are really prepared to deal with a natural disaster or a terrorist event at Indian Point or collateral issues like loss of power or inability to cool fuel rods,” Lowey said.

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino is also on guard.

“With Indian Point what is happening in Japan right now is forcing everybody to look at the assumptions about nuclear energy and nuclear reactors here in the United States,” Astorino said.

Hudson Riverkeeper’s Executive Director Paul Gallay told Westchester County officials that the crisis in Japan raises valid questions and he’s also demanding action.

“The feds should shut that plant down until this earthquake risk is properly studied,” Gallay said. “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is still relying on 40-year-old data that suggests that the risk of seismic activity is somewhere between a 1.0 magnitude earthquake and a 3.0.”

“Two fault lines intersect about a mile north of Indian Point and a Columbia University study tells us a 7.0 magnitude earthquake is quite possible,” Gally said. “They’ve been ignoring this risk for three years, God help us if they keep doing that.”

Gallay thinks to keep betting on nuclear power is a mistake.

“It would be a little bit like sending more money to Bernie Madoff after watching him be led away in handcuffs,” Gallay said. “Nobody should be panicking. What the public should do with this information is get schooled up on the actual risk and make sure that their public officials do the same and then the answer will become clear: we need to get our power from another source and we can do it.”

Indian Point provides up to 30 percent of the electricity to Westchester and New York City.

Officials insist that Indian Point was designed and built to withstand a massive earthquake and that there are not many similarities between the plant in Westchester and the one in Japan.

“Because of the geology and the tectonics of the region that we’re in on the East Coast, Indian Point is not susceptible to the type of earthquake that occurred in Japan,” Indian Point spokesman Jerry Nappi said.

Nappi said the plant is built to withstand approximately a 6.0 magnitude earthquake.

“We’re very confident in our earthquake protection and I think we’re just in a very different environment here,” Entergy’s Steets said. “The problems that occurred in Japan don’t exist here.”

Regardless, some who live near the plant said they’re scared.

Some opponents are calling for the plant to be shutdown, reports 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera

“The unexpected happens. And it should be noted that Chernobyl didn’t have an earthquake and a tsunami to have a meltdown,” said Gary Shaw of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition.

“We have a lot of failsafe systems in place for Indian Point and so far they’ve all worked and I’m sure they’ll continue to work until they no longer do and when they don’t we’re impacting 21 million people,” the Coalition’s Marilyn Elie added.

Indian Point’s licenses come up for renewal in 2013 and 2015. What happened in Japan will surely have an impact on that process and how people live their lives in neighborhoods like these all over the metropolitan area.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is demanding Senate hearings to insure proper safeguards at all nuclear power plants in the nation, including Indian Point.

Do you think what happened in Japan could happen here? Sound off below

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