Nuke Plant Security Readiness Scrutinized
by Jim Fitzgerald, AP
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) – The head of the county that is home to the Indian Point nuclear plant said Monday he will withhold approval for the facility’s evacuation plans until the federal government addresses a study warning the plant is unprepared for terrorist threats.
Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano said the study, which was commissioned by Gov. George Pataki and released Friday, shows guidance from Washington is needed to ensure security. He threatened to call for the shutdown of the plant if such help does not come.
The report compiled by James Lee Witt Associates – a consultant firm headed by a former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency – found the facility’s emergency plans rely on outdated technology and are based on incomplete drills and unrealistic expectations.
“The report has changed our whole perspective,” Spano said Monday.
Spano said he would withhold a form sent to the state government each year that confirms the county has done its part to set up an emergency plan for the area around Indian Point.
The document is sent to the state government, which then reports on readiness to FEMA. An approved emergency plan is a condition for a nuclear plant’s license.
“We’re hoping to put all kinds of pressure on FEMA to make sure there are new regulations in line with the Witt report,” Spano said.
It was not immediately clear if Spano could prevent renewal of the license by refusing to send in the form.
Pataki hired Witt last summer to review emergency planning for New York state’s nuclear power plants, starting with Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3 in the Westchester County village of Buchanan.
A call Monday to FEMA spokesman Mike Beeman was not returned.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, when one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center first flew over Indian Point, fear of a terrorist attack on the plant has made emergency planning a major issue in the lower Hudson Valley. Dozens of politicians have called for a shutdown of the plants.
After the report’s release, Pataki did not call for a shutdown, as some activists had hoped, but called on FEMA and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to “look at the standards used to certify these emergency plans and determine if they are strong enough to meet the post-Sept. 11 reality.”
An estimated 11.8 million people live within 50 miles of Indian Point, far more than around any of the nation’s other nuclear plants.