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Unraveling the String of Entergy Half-Truths

IP Misleads the Public about Earthquake Safety

“You Have a Right to Know,” touts Entergy, the owner of Indian Point, in its latest ad campaign aimed at misleading the public about the supposed safety of the aging, environmentally destructive, and unnecessary nuclear power plant located just 24 miles from New York City. And yet Entergy hides the truth about the vulnerability of Indian Point at every possible turn. The hypocrisy of this PR effort is palpable.

Entergy’s newest manipulation of the truth comes in the wake of the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that occurred in Virginia on August 23, 2011 (the shaking from which was felt at Indian Point and the surrounding area): Entergy has quickly dismissed any and all potential concerns about earthquake risks at the Indian Point plant.

Well, Riverkeeper does actually believe that the public has “a right to know:” the right to know how Entergy grossly distorts the facts about the risks of operating Indian Point.

Do not be fooled by Entergy’s propaganda. Here is the truth of the matter:

Entergy Lie #1: Indian Point can handle earthquakes that “far exceed” 6.1 in magnitude.

After the devastating Honshu earthquake crippled the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan this past March, Entergy made repeated and seemingly continuous public statements that Indian Point was built to withstand a 6.1 magnitude earthquake. Entergy never released any proof to support this, and given the age and fatigued condition of the plant, now almost 40 years old, it is highly questionable whether that number even means the same thing today, and certainly about whether Indian Point could handle a 6.1 under current circumstances. And now, despite the fact that no new analysis has been performed, Entergy somehow miraculously claims that Indian Point could handle even higher magnitude earthquakes, in fact, earthquakes of magnitude far exceeding a 6.1.

This entirely unfounded claim was clearly manufactured to fit Entergy’s needs of the day: when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake, just ticks away from the alleged 6.1 Indian Point is capable of handling, knocks on the backdoor, all of a sudden the story changes again, and Indian Point can handle anything. Next, Entergy will claim that the plant can handle a 9.0 and an attack from Mars at the same time!

The truth is, all evidence indicates that Indian Point is ill-prepared for the worst. NRC’s own recent post-Fukushima inspection reports at the plant revealed as much, which you can find here.

Entergy Lie #2: It can’t happen here.

In the months following the catastrophe at Fukushima, Entergy repeatedly denied the potential for a similar situation ever occurring at Indian Point. For example, one plant rep stated, “it just doesn’t seem very realistic to me.”

This position held no water at all in light of a study by Columbia University seismologists in 2008, which concluded that the area surrounding Indian Point was not, as previously thought, an area of low seismic activity, and that, in fact, it was “quite possible” the region could experience upwards of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake (which would be about 32 times more damaging and severe than what Indian Point could allegedly handle). This study showed that two different earthquake fault lines cross just north of Indian Point, positioning it in pretty much the worst location for a nuclear plant imaginable.

Virginia’s 5.8 quake now confirms that the east coast of the U.S. is not immune to damaging earthquakes. If you move the earthquake that occurred just 200 miles north and increase its intensity only slightly, the situation could have been a lot more dire.

Entergy Lie #3: It is okay to rely on NRC’s determination that “Indian Point is safe against a range of earthquakes”

Entergy would love to convince the public that because the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) says “Indian Point is safe” that, in fact, the plant “is safe.” In reality, the NRC’s unsubstantiated statements cannot be trusted. The NRC is, at best, dismissive of the very real concerns about the risks of earthquakes at Indian Point.

Prime example: just hours after promising NY Governor Andrew Cuomo that seismic risk at Indian Point would be a top priority, an NRC representative told the press that NRC was in no rush to analyze the issue “because this is really not a serious concern.” Immediate assessment remains critically necessary in light of a September 2010 NRC report which identified Indian Point Unit 3 as having the highest risk for core damage from an earthquake than any other nuclear plant in the U.S.

The NRC also refuses to assess earthquake risks in the Indian Point license renewal proceeding. Such a stance is utterly unconscionable, given the fact that science and relevant facts have evolved considerably since the plant was licensed nearly 40 years ago.

The reality is starkly clear: the NRC, the agency charged with protecting the American people, is not even worried about critical safety issues facing the plant. Sorry Entergy, you can’t simply punt the issue to an alleged “oversight” agency that never properly deals with it.

It boils down to this: Entergy is once again misrepresenting the facts. Compounded with an utterly indifferent regulating agency, there is major cause for concern about the risks related to possible earthquakes at Indian Point. And this is just one issue in the long list of safety issues surrounding the plant. How many more warnings do we need? The risks of continuing to operate Indian Point heavily outweigh any supposed benefit of the plant, and it’s just not worth it!

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