Schneiderman: The Safety and Security of 17 Million People Living and Working Near Indian Point Must Be Assured
Decision Follows Release of New Federal Study Revealing Significantly Higher Risks of "Earthquake-Caused Ground Motions" in The Central and Eastern U.S.
NEW YORK, NY — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) sided with Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today by rejecting Indian Point’s request for more than 100 exemptions from critical fire safety requirements. The Attorney General filed a petition last year over Indian Point’s continued failure to comply with federal fire safety regulations established to keep plants secure in an emergency.
“Today, in a major victory for the safety of millions of New Yorkers, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission agreed with our office and denied the great majority of Indian Point's requests for more than 100 exemptions from critical safety requirements designed to ensure a safe shutdown of the reactors in the event of a fire. Indian Point's attempt to weaken safety precautions at the facility was wrong-headed and dangerous, and it is high time that this nuclear facility complied with long-standing federal fire safety regulations,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “The NRC should be commended for its action on this matter. However, many basic questions still remain regarding the safety of Indian Point, and the security of the 17 million people who live and work in close proximity to the nuclear plant. We will continue to use the full force of this office to push the NRC to fully evaluate — and ensure –Indian Point’s safety.” In March of 2011, Attorney General Schneiderman filed a petition with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission urging it to take enforcement action against the Indian Point nuclear power plant for its failure to comply with fire safety regulations. The petition noted that the plant is currently in violation of established federal fire safety regulations, while seeking approval from the NRC for more than 100 exemptions from these regulations. In July, the NRC accepted the Attorney General's March petition for fire safety enforcement action at Indian Point. While today's action by the NRC was taken separately from Attorney General Schneiderman's March petition, it sides with his office on nearly all of the exemptions that petition contested. Further, the NRC's action supports the Attorney General's petition requesting NRC take action to enforce Indian Point's compliance with the long-standing fire safety regulations. A copy of the petition is available on the Office of the Attorney General website.
The decision comes one day after a new government report revealed significantly higher earthquake risks in the central and eastern United States. The 1300-page report was released Tuesday by the NRC, the federal Department of Energy (DOE) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a private non-profit organization representing the electric power industry. NRC states that the report, and its extensive supporting files, are intended to be used to better assess earthquake risks at nuclear power plant sites. However, in the report, NRC fails to provide any information on when reassessment of earthquake risk at nuclear power plants would begin, when the work would be finished, or what plant owners would be required to do if reassessment indicates higher earthquake risk than a nuclear plant was designed to withstand when constructed decades ago.
In light of this report, Attorney General Schneiderman renewed his call on the NRC to require that a full and transparent assessment of earthquake hazards at the Indian Point nuclear power plant is completed before relicensing.
“As the NRC contemplates whether to grant Indian Point a 20-year extension of their operating licenses, the Commission needs to do more than simply acknowledge its poor understanding of earthquake hazards. Whether it’s fire safety or seismic activity, millions of New Yorkers deserve a full, transparent evaluation of these risks — and it must be performed before the decision is made on whether to relicense the plant,” Schneiderman added. The Attorney General has taken several actions that would improve the safety and regulation of plants across the country, including Indian Point. In February, he sued the NRC for authorizing the storage of radioactive waste at nuclear power facilities for at least 60 years after they close – without first conducting the necessary environmental, public health and safety studies. The lawsuit was filed just one month before spent fuel threatened emergency response efforts at the Fukushima nuclear facility in Japan.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General John Sipos and Janice Dean, under the supervision of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic.