NRC must do its job and regulate Indian Point
For a regulatory agency responsible for the safety of millions of people living near nuclear power plants, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission sure has a funny way of showing it.
Just last week, when asked about concerns with Indian Point raised in the wake of Japan's crisis, the NRC's spokesperson said safety data regarding the Buchanan plant is "really not a serious concern."
Not serious? Then why did the NRC release a study last September identifying Indian Point's risk for a seismic event greater than previously believed?
Considering that proceedings to extend Indian Point's license for another 20 years are well under way, New Yorkers cannot afford anything less than a full and honest inquiry into all the relevant issues.
Japan's horrifying events shine light not just on Indian Point's lack of preparedness, but on the NRC's dismissal of concerns that this office has repeatedly raised.
Before any conversation about the continued operation of Indian Point can take place, the NRC must answer questions about the seismic risk to the facility, and the safety of long-term radioactive waste storage - an issue seen as the next threat to the plants in Japan.
So far, the NRC has failed to conduct immediate, comprehensive and transparent reviews of these critical issues.
While it said it will eventually study seismic risk, it has refused to commit to completing a review in time for relicensing proceedings. It also failed to respond to concerns regarding a misleadingly named "waste confidence rule," which allows long-term on-site storage of radioactive waste without any serious environmental or public health studies.
As a result, my office filed a lawsuit in February demanding that the NRC first examine those effects before saying with any "confidence" that radioactive waste will not blight our communities.
On top of all of this is another concern that has garnered very little attention but is no less alarming.
As you read this, the NRC is now considering Indian Point's application for more than 100 exemptions from federal fire safety requirements that were established to keep nuclear plants secure in an emergency.
Given all of the improvements in fire safety technology in recent years, it would be unconscionable for the NRC to critically reduce the number of fire safety measures Indian Point must follow. Yet rather than compelling it to comply with fire safety regulations, the NRC is considering exempting Indian Point from the rules it is supposed to follow.
Instead of refusing to consider important data, and scaling back safety requirements, the NRC should take the steps that we expect from the federal agency charged with ensuring nuclear power plants' safety: conduct immediate, comprehensive, and transparent studies, and then use the results to inform the decision-making on relicensing, as well as the safety measures for Indian Point's day-to-day operations.
Whether you are for or against the relicensing of Indian Point, we can all agree that before any decisions are made we should have as much information as possible about the public safety risks posed to New Yorkers who live near the plant.
Nearly 20 million people live and work within 50 miles of Indian Point's two nuclear reactors and the radioactive waste it stores onsite. It should not require legal action to get the results we need to ensure our communities' public health, but I will continue to take all necessary measures until the questions surrounding Indian Point are answered.