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Indian Point Debate: Battle Between Jobs and Safety

The public duked it out at Thursday night's long and heated forum surrounding the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's annual assessment of Indian Point.

 

Eleven thousand jobs created by a power plant. Eighteen million lives affected in the New York metro area by its demise. Those were the main numbers the protestors – of which there were many at Thursday night's – were throwing around.

The protestors were louder, or least more organized, than the pro-nuclear folks. They were also more colorful.

There were the Raging Grannies with their purposely frumpy clothes and song (a gimmick, admitted one, but anything to get the message heard).

Some Japanese people wore hazmat suits emblazoned with red nuclear symbols, a powerful reminder of the Fukushima disaster and the fact that Japan's gone fully non-nuclear since. As of two weeks ago, the country closed its last nuclear reactor.

staged a rally before the hearing in the back of the grand ballroom at the , with speakers ranging from Westchester Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (“Indian Point is an accident waiting to happen”) to Occupy Wall Streeters and a Columbia University seismologist. Riverkeeper had a few buses pick up some 70 folks from New York City, but many of the speakers said they lived within a few miles of the energy facility.

Their message again and again (and often chanted) was “shut it down, shut it down.” Their signs read Old and Dangerous or Unsafe, Unsecure, Fatal. They had buttons, pins, stickers, hats, yellow t-shirts.

Once the official forum began, public hearing fatigue can soon set in as the points made by speakers (two to three minutes each, though the rule was only sometimes enforced and other times caused friction) get repetitive and divisions become more divisive. There seemed no common ground between the anti- and the pro-, the safety-fearful and the economy-dedicated (their sign read “Save Union Jobs”).

Many speakers said this wasn't their first hearing; they'd been attending this annual assessment meeting for the last 10 years. Their frustration in feeling less heard and more misled through the years bubbled up into hissing, booing, and interrupting the pro-nuclear people.

County Legislator Michael Smith, who said he was personally supportive of the plant's license renewal but wanted to “raise the quality standards,” begged the hissers to give him the same courtesy he gave to them.

Despite the imbalance in noise-making, there were a fair amount of speakers on behalf of the plant. Marsha Gordon, President of Westchester Business Council, who praised the industry's importance in the region for keeping electricity costs down and people employed. Plant workers who said safety is their utmost priority. Mary Foster, Mayor of Peekskill, another person requesting a “cease and desist” on the rude reactions in the room, who supports the plant's operation but wants a better understanding of the emergency evacuation plan.

What emergency evacuation plan? Abinanti said there was no hope of evacuating the region if there were ever a meltdown. Just look at the traffic on the Tappan Zee Bridge tonight, he said. “You can't even get out of White Plains."

Abinanti compared and contrasted our outdated bridge with the plant. One of the reasons cited for a bridge rebuild is the threat of an earthquake, but this is not a threat to a nuclear power plant?, he asked.

"Lose the bridge, and some cars go in the water. Lose the plant, and you lose millions," Abinanti said. Continuing on the car theme, he said, Indian Point “is an old car whose time has come.”

For their part, the representatives of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission who oversee how plant owner Entergy is performing, at the front table facing the crowd sat grim-faced, taking notes, occasionally answering the questions posed to them, but mostly having to stomach a lot of animosity. “Public health and safety is mission one for us,” Regional Director Bill Dean said.

From the NRC press release:

At the conclusion of last year, as assessed by the NRC’s Reactor Oversight Process, there were no performance indicators for Indian Point Units 2 and 3 that were other than “Green” (very low risk) and no inspection findings that were “Greater than Green” (all findings were of very low safety significance). Therefore, for the rest of 2012, Indian Point Units 2 and 3 will receive the very detailed inspection regime used by the NRC for plants that are operating well.

Entergy officials remained in the hallway not the ballroom, fielding questions privately and explaining diagrams on poster board.

“Where is Entergy?” asked activist Mark Jacobs, one of the founders of Indian Point Safe Energy Coalation and a close neighbor to the facility. “Make a decision,” he urged the NRC, who got bashed that night from others as “whores of the industry” and cries of “you lie.”

“You will decide to relicense the plant,” Jacobs said. “We will stop it in the courts and in the streets. Then we'll shut it down.”

 

The annual assessment for Indian Point plant is available on the NRC web site here. Read more on Indian Point on the Peekskill-Cortlandt Patch.

John Taggart May 20, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Producing power with tides and water flow is to me very green. Here in the Hudson Valley I'm sure it will be protested like every thing else. I don't think the 90 degree (worst case) water discharge is as much as a problem as the fast intake. Fish wont stay where its that uncomfortable and the best place to fish in cold weather was just down stream. Indian point upgraded its nets in past years but has to fast a flow. I don't want my fish killed. Would a different fuel source need less cooling water? The water plant to be built in Haverstraw has a slow flow and the nets are .5 milimeters smaller than eggs or fry. A 747 will not damage the containment domes but of course would badly damage the plant. Not the death toll al queda wants. Every residence and business should have a solar array on the roof. Even a small one can power your central ac all day all summer. Next generation of more effecient cells are on the way. Houses in NY should be designed with one roof line facing south. My roof is wrong so I'm looking into a 12 panel dual axis system , mounts on a pole in the yard and moves with the sun. I just worry about solar farms in a vegetation rich area like NY, nothing grows under or around solar farms.
Sunny Armer May 20, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Thank you for recording this meeting! You have really captured the spirit as well as the content. I am one of two Raging Grannies who sang at the end. We are part of Raging Grannies WOWW in Westchester. We always come to the NRC and other Indian Point meetings and sing if we get a chance. We have other songs about nuclear power, too. Raging Grannies all over the US and Canada support environmental causes as well as peace and justice. http://raginggrannieswoww.org
Sunny Armer May 20, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Take a look at some ways to replace the power from Indian Point http://ossining.patch.com/blog_posts/putting-new-yorks-nuclear-power-in-perspective
Teleman May 20, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Thank you for interrupting and wasting the precious time of others who made the effort to come to the meeting. Hopefully now that you took another opportunity to plug yourselves, you'll go away
Nora Freeman May 21, 2012 at 11:58 PM
I could POSSIBLY be persuaded to support nuclear power if the plants were run by nuclear physicists who derived no profit from doing so. This is not because I think nuclear physicists have some sort of special magic, but rather because they would not have a financial stake in its operation. So they would consistently apply the highest safety standards. In that case it MIGHT be true that a reasonable level of safety would be maintained due to the fabled "multiple redundancies" built into the plants. We don't know because we have never tried it. Unfortunately, the plant is not run by nuclear physicists; it is instead run by businessmen who are responsible to private investors, whose only motive is profit. Thus we have an unknown number of exemptions and variances of the safety standards granted to Entergy by the NRC, an "evacuation plan" that is a mockery of the concept of evacuation planning, and an unconscionably low level of transparency on the part of the NRC, which is supposed to be working for the public.

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