BUCHANAN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A disaster at the Indian Point nuclear plant could affect a much larger area than covered by current emergency response plans, a watchdog group claims.

As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported, the Disaster Accountability Project, a nonprofit organization that monitors responses to nuclear emergencies, says the Westchester County power plant needs a disaster warning zone of a 50-mile radius.

Currently, there is a 10-mile zone, which covers sections of Orange, Rockland, Putnam and Westchester counties, where there must be plans for evacuation and more.

A 50-mile zone would stretch from Ulster County down south to Somerset County, New Jersey, and east to west from Suffolk County to Pike County, Pennsylvania.

“Preparedness is all about planning for things you really hope will not happen,” said Ben Smilowitz, executive director of the Disaster Accountability Project.

“Fifty miles, by many accounts, is a good distance to prepare for radiological incidents,” he added.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission oversees reactor safety and has repeatedly said the 10-mile zone for Indian Point is enough.

Jerry Nappi, spokesman for Entergy Corp., which operates Indian Point, said the Disaster Accountability Project report was done without the company’s scientific input.

“That (10-mile) zone was arrived at through years of scientific study,” Nappi said.

“If that regulation were to change, we would adhere to those also,” he added.

A 50-mile zone would require dozens of counties to plan evacuation rates, buy equipment and hire staff.

Dutchess County, for example, would be willing to do it, but not without a big influx of federal funding.

The commissioner of its Department of Emergency Response told CBS2, “Dutchess County does not have the staffing or the expertise to undertake these planning efforts independently without federal guidance and support.”

Some residents said they support a wider zone.

“I would say they would probably go 20, 25 miles — meet it halfway,” said Larry Montague, of Ossining.

The Disaster Accountability Project did the study in response to the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011.

A spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the Fukushima site is very different with more reactors packed closely together.

At Wednesday’s NRC hearing, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., was among the lawmakers who supported the 50-mile emergency response zone.

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