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As Threat of Sandy Looms Riverkeeper Calls for Powering Down of Indian Point

Wind speeds near federal limits for nuclear plants, and public’s ability to evacuate severely compromised

Ossining, NY — October 29, 2012 – Hurricane Sandy is picking up momentum and expected to reach 80-90 mile per hour winds as the storm progresses into the evening and into tomorrow morning. This coupled with a flood alert for Westchester County and several closings of major bridges and roads in the area paints a potentially threatening scenario should the aging Indian Point nuclear power plant remain in operation during the largest storm system our area has ever experienced. Following is a statement by Phillip Musegaas, Riverkeeper Hudson River Program Director:

The NRC requires Indian Point to be shut down if winds reach a sustained speed of 75 mph. NOAA is predicting winds of 75-80 mph in Buchanan later tonight, not to mention major flooding from a historic storm surge. Given the high wind estimates, and the closure of so much critical transportation infrastructure during the early impacts of Hurricane Sandy on the region, Riverkeeper is calling for Indian Point to power down immediately because there is no credible way to evacuate the public in case of emergency.

In addition to numerous local roads closed due to flooding, major current or planned closures include the Tappan Zee, George Washington, Throgs Neck, Bronx-Whitestone, Verrazano-Narrows and Henry Hudson, among other bridges; as well as New York State and county roads, including the Bear Mountain Bridge Road (Route 6/202), part of Route 9W in Rockland County and all Connecticut state highways. Other Hudson River crossings may be closed as wind speeds increase.

Even under optimal circumstances, plans for evacuating the public from a 10-mile zone around the plant have been flatly labeled “unworkable” after exhaustive study by former Federal Emergency Management Agency director James Lee Witt. A disaster could easily require evacuation of people within 50 miles, which could include an area stretching from Manhattan in the South to Kingston, NY, in the North; and from Bridgeport, CT, in the East to Middletown, NY, in the West.

Riverkeeper is also concerned about other aspects of emergency preparedness at the plant, given the extraordinary consequences of a disaster at a plant situated in the midst of 20 million Americans. These are ongoing issues of concern that Riverkeeper, the State of New York and Clearwater are arguing in hearings that will determine whether the reactors should be granted a new 20-year operating license. During an emergency situation at a nuclear power plant, as we witnessed to disastrous effect in 2011 at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi meltdown, the viability of backup cooling systems are key to preventing the widespread release of radiation. Riverkeeper sought and received confirmation from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Monday that Entergy has more than one week’s worth of diesel fuel on-site to run emergency generators designed to run both reactor and spent fuel pool cooling systems simultaneously.

Despite this assurance, Riverkeeper is calling for the powering down of Indian Point because an evacuation caused by high winds or other conditions is simply impossible under these circumstances.

Riverkeeper urges the public to call the NRC at 1-817-200-1868 to voice your concerns, and call for Indian Point to be shut down until the storm has safely passed.

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