Nuclear Plant Misses Public Emergency Notification Deadline

WASHINGTON, DC, August 30, 2007 (ENS) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission today issued a Notice of Violation to Entergy for its repeated failure to meet established deadlines to achieve operability of a new alert and notification system for the Indian Point nuclear power plant. Entergy operates the plant, which is located in Buchanan, Westchester County, New York.

Twenty million people live within the 50 mile "peak injury" zone of Indian Point, located on the banks of the Hudson River, just 24 miles north of the Bronx, the most northerly of New York City's five boroughs.

Riverkeeper and a broad-based alliance of environmental, health, public policy, and civic groups united as the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, warn that the plant lacks a workable evacuation plan, and is vulnerable to terrorist attack.

On July 30, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NRC, ordered the plant's operator, Entergy, to complete installation and testing of the new alert and notification system. Entergy was ordered to receive approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, prior to an August 24, 2007 deadline to declare the new emergency notification system operable.

On August 23, Entergy wrote in a letter to the Commission that it had completed all pre-operability activities required by the order but had not received FEMA’s approval.

As a result, the NRC has entered its enforcement process to determine the appropriate actions to take against Entergy.

In a letter issued today to Entergy, the NRC stated that it is considering imposing daily civil penalties for Entergy’s failure to meet the August 24 deadline.

The NRC said that it will determine the appropriate enforcement action after Entergy comes into compliance and will consider Entergy’s due diligence in resolving this matter with FEMA. The NRC said it believes that Entergy’s primary focus should be on supporting the FEMA review of the new emergency notification system.

Indian Point's existing siren system has been maintained and tested, and remains operable, providing what the NRC called "reasonable assurance" that the public would be alerted in the event of a radiological emergency at the plant.

"Unfortunately, Entergy has missed another NRC mandated deadline to have the new Emergency Notification System operable," said Cynthia Carpenter, NRC director of enforcement. "This is the second violation of an NRC Order and warrants escalated enforcement action."

Like other U.S. commercial nuclear power plants, Indian Point is required to have an emergency notification system within the 10-mile-radius emergency planning zone around the facility.

An outdoor warning system, it is designed to promptly notify the public should a serious incident occur at the plant so that citizens can listen to emergency broadcast stations for information and instructions.

The existing system meets this requirement; however, it does not have the capability to sound during an electrical power outage as the new system does.

Citizens and elected representatives in the area around Indian Point are calling for a shutdown of the nuclear plant on safety grounds. Riverkeeper's call for closure is supported by over 400 elected officials, including 11 members of Congress, and the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.