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Public Citizen Petition for Emergency Planning At Indian Point Reactor Denied

March 5, 2001

Public Citizen Petition for Emergency Planning
At Indian Point Reactor Denied

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? Despite repeated failures on the part of Consolidated Edison to adequately test and implement its off-site emergency plan for the Indian Point 2 nuclear reactor, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has denied a petition filed by Public Citizen and a coalition of environmental groups asking that the agency force the utility to conduct a drill or shut down the nuclear reactor.

“Emergency planning is especially important at Indian Point,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “The government never should have allowed a nuclear reactor to be built 25 miles from New York City. The least the NRC can do is ensure that local residents can get out in the event of a meltdown, and the agency isn?t even doing that.”

In a letter sent late Friday to Public Citizen denying the group’s petition, the NRC claimed that the emergency planning regulations governing two owners on a single site, as is the case with Indian Point 2, are ambiguous. However, Public Citizen maintains that they are quite clear. The agency said it would issue a proposed rule soon to address the matter.

NRC regulations require off-site drills to be done every two years. When conducting an emergency off-site drill, plant workers must practice the steps they would take to evacuate nearby towns in the event of a nuclear accident. The last time such a drill was performed at Indian Point 2 was June 1998.

NRC has claimed that because personnel at New York Power Authority’s Indian Point 3 ? which is located at the same site ? conducted an off-site drill within the past two years, Consolidated Edison?s staff at Indian Point 2 need not comply with the biennial requirement in the regulation.

That?s absurd, because Indian Point 2 is a different reactor, run by a different company, said James Riccio, senior analyst for Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program.

“It?s unbelievable that the NRC would say that Con Ed has complied with the regulations, when, in fact, a different company that happens to be located at the same site conducted the drill,” said Riccio. “We have serious concerns about Con Ed?s ability to react swiftly in the event of a nuclear accident, and the NRC?s denial of our petition has done nothing to change that.”

Currently, Consolidated is negotiating to sell its reactors to Entergy Operations Inc. Postponing the issue of the emergency planning until after the sale would effectively render it moot, Riccio said.

“The only thing that?s ambiguous is the NRC’s dedication to protecting the public,” Riccio said. “The agency is merely running interference for Consolidated Edison until it can get out of the nuclear business. By the time NRC addresses the supposed ambiguities in the emergency planning regulations, Consolidated Edison will likely have sold the Indian Point 2 reactor and avoided conducting an off-site drill for more than four years.”

Public Citizen in January petitioned the NRC to halt the operation of Indian Point 2 until Consolidated Edison conducted a full participation emergency planning exercise as required. Emergency planning is especially important because Indian Point 2 is located about 25 miles from New York City and has the highest population within 10, 30 and 50 miles of any nuclear power plant in the U.S. At 50 miles, its population is more than double any other nuclear reactor in the country.