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NRC Chair Calls Review of Earthquake Risk at Nuclear Plants Inadequate; Doesn’t Have a Plan for Spent Fuel


Contact: Tina Posterli, 914-478-4501 x 239, [email protected]

Riverkeeper: NRC Chief’s concerns and no solutions in sight signal that it’s time to start planning to close Indian Point

Ossining, NY – August 15, 2012 – In a recent interview, newly appointed chairwoman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Allison Macfarlane, stated that industry’s review of seismic risk at nuclear plants is inadequate. She also said that the NRC has no deadline in mind for drafting a policy for nuclear waste storage. Following is a statement by Paul Gallay, President and Hudson Riverkeeper:

“As a geologist, Chairwoman Macfarlane brings to the table knowledge about a critical issue that Riverkeeper has been raising for years in the relicensing of Indian Point. NRC has historically denied the submission of earthquake risk as part of the public hearings. In the wake of Fukushima, the NRC even stated that it wasn’t in a rush to get new earthquake data because “it is not a serious concern.”

Chairwoman Macfarlane’s statements about earthquake risk assessment need to translate into immediate action by the NRC to include it as a priority before Indian Point is relicensed. The risks of not doing so are far too great. According to August 2010 NRC data, Indian Point is considered the most dangerous plant in the country when it comes to the risk of meltdown due to earthquake, and Columbia University says the risk of an earthquake as large as 7.0 on the Richter scale is possible at Indian Point. Entergy admits it can’t handle an earthquake of this magnitude and that at best the plant could withstand a 6.1, although they provide no proof to back up even this number.

The issue of where to store unsafe, on site nuclear waste is another potential game-changer in the relicensing of Indian Point. In June, a federal appeals court reached a decision to throw out the NRC’s longstanding rule that has allowed the agency to relicense aging nuclear reactors without having to address the risks of storing highly radioactive spent fuel on site until a permanent disposal solution is developed. As a result, NRC voted unanimously to hold off on deciding whether to relicense Indian Point until it addresses this issue.

This recent decision and the statements by Chairwoman Macfarlane herald that it is time for change at NRC.

We will head into the relicensing hearing for Indian Point this fall, joined by the New York Attorney General and Clearwater presenting at least ten separate legal and factual challenges against relicensing, not counting our pending challenges on endangered Atlantic sturgeon and the risks of nuclear waste storage. We continue to fight for a thorough review of the data about the multitude of issues affecting this plant’s safety and we are confident that a fair trial will show that keeping Indian Point in operation for another 20 years poses far too great of a risk to the nearly 20 million New Yorkers who live in its vicinity.”

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