Attack on nuclear facility could affect boro: Gennaro

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Queens residents could be injured and their water supply would be decimated if terrorists struck the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, Councilman James Gennaro (D-Jamaica Estates) said last week in calling for a shutdown of the Westchester County facility.

Along with 10 co-sponsors, Gennaro, chairman of the City Council’s Environmental Protection Committee, introduced a resolution at the Feb. 27 full city council meeting calling for the plant to be closed until a comprehensive safety study is completed.

“A catastrophic release of radiation from the Indian point facility is not something that we can react to,” Gennaro said. “We must prevent it. The prudent way to prevent it is to shut the plant down and do an analysis and upgrade of all security procedures.”

A spokesman for Entergy, the operator of Indian Point, said shutting down the plant is unnecessary and would remove an important source of power for New York City.

With a surplus inventory of 1,500 tons of hazardous radioactive material and no definitive evacuation plan in the event of a terrorist attack, the Indian Point plant poses a serious threat to public safety, Gennaro said. Two years ago, one of the reactors at Indian Point was designated “red,” giving it the highest risk assessment in the nation.

Some 20 million people, including all 2.2 million borough residents, live or work within the 50-mile maximum injury radius surrounding Indian Point. The facility is the only nuclear power plant in the country in such a heavily populated area. An evacuation plan exists only for those who live within a 10-mile radius of the plant, according to environmental groups.

“This is not just a Westchester issue,” said Gennaro. “New York City and its water supply is in the line of fire of Indian Point.”

In addition to borough residents suffering from radiation exposure, Gennaro said an attack on Indian Point would “render our water supply permanently undrinkable.”

Doni Belau, Indian Point Coordinator for the environmental group Riverkeeper, said New Yorkers have not been as aware of the dangers posed by Indian Point as residents of Westchester County. The resolution is a sign that the city is taking notice, she said.

“New York City would be affected if there was a terrorist attack [on the plant],” she said. “It’s incredibly important for New York City to take a stand on this issue.”

Proponents of the resolution pointed out that neighboring municipalities are taking the threat seriously. Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano recently proposed a plan that would distribute potassium iodide to schoolchildren in the event of a nuclear attack.

“This is not a pie in the sky thing,” Gennaro said. “In the wake of Sept. 11, nothing is unthinkable.”

Jim Steets, a spokesman for Entergy, the company that owns Indian Point, said shuttering the plant is unnecessary.

“Indian Point is safe. It enjoys security unlike any industrial facility in the country,” he said, adding that plant administrators have increased security in an unprecedented manner since Sept. 11. “It’s preposterous to think that an event at Indian Point would result in a public health crisis in New York.”

Steets said Entergy is “more than willing” to work with the City Council and that it looks forward to opening a dialogue with council members on whether or not Indian Point should be closed.

Closure of the plant would result in the loss of 2,000 megawatts of power capacity, removing a source of electricity for 2 million homes, New York City subways, street lights and public buildings such as schools, he said.

But Gennaro said he would “gladly trade increased security at Indian Point for some period of time without that 2000 megawatts of electricity.”

The councilman’s resolution, which is a reintroduction of a similar measure submitted last year by former Manhattan Councilman Stanley Michels, was referred to the Environmental Protection Committee for review. A hearing date was expected to be scheduled shortly.

Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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