Attorney General Andrew Cuomo Slams Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Ruling On Atomic Plant Security

BUFFALO, New York (January 30, 2007) — Yesterday the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) refused to endorse a petition to require U.S. nuclear plants to erect a barrier to protect against a direct attack from an aircraft, and refused to publicly order other security measures as well. The New York Attorney General’s Office had backed the petition and submitted formal comments, along with 7 other state attorneys general.

In 2004 the Committee to Bridge the Gap, a Los Angeles nonprofit group, petitioned the NRC to significantly upgrade security at U.S. nuclear power plants. They urged that the NRC require nuclear plant owners to prepare to repel threats by air, water, or land by a group comparable in size to the 19 al Qaeda operatives who carried out the 9/11 attacks, employing more than one unit and using any suitable weapon, vehicle, and means of sabotage. In particular, the petition urged the NRC to require a defense against an attack with a fully-loaded jumbo jet.

Attorney General Cuomo said, “Yesterday the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ignored the lessons of September 11 and abandoned its responsibility to protect millions of New Yorkers. They failed to heed the warnings of the 9/11 commission, which reported that al-Qaeda terrorists had specifically contemplated attacking nuclear power plants with aircraft. There are simple affordable measures nuclear plant operators can undertake to enhance security. It is outrageous that the Bush Administration caved in to the nuclear power interests over the security of Americans living near these plants.”

Cuomo continued, “This also highlights my ongoing concerns about security and safety at Indian Point. Indian Point is located in a region of 21 million people. No nuclear plant in the nation is located in as dense an area. Yet, even after 9/11 and Katrina, Indian Point’s operator, Entergy, still hasn’t submitted an adequate evacuation plan for New Yorkers who could be harmed by a radiation leak.”

2006 marked the fourth straight year that Westchester, Rockland, and Orange Counties refused to certify Entergy’s county-based evacuation plans as acceptable. In 2003 James Lee Whitt, FEMA director under President Clinton, concluded that Entergy’s plan was “inadequate to protect the people from an unacceptable dose of radiation.”

Indian Point’s original 40 year licenses will expire in 2013 and 2015, respectively. Entergy has announced that it will apply to the NRC to renew these licenses in March 2007.

Cuomo said, “All of these safety measures must be addressed by Entergy. In June 2006, the National Academy of Sciences issued a roadmap to our future without Indian Point. It confirmed that the obstacles to replacing the power generated by Indian point are merely political and not technological. We need to implement demand-reduction strategies, develop alternative energy, and build new power plants that are as safe and clean as possible to move toward a future without Indian Point.

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