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Post date: July 12 2011

Feds Accept A.G. Schneiderman’s Petition To Enforce Fire Safety Regulations At Indian Point

A.G. Seeks Federal Enforcement Against Indian Point For Dodging Basic Fire Protection Requirements

Feds’ Rare Step Brings Indian Point Closer to Compliance With Critical Safety Rules


NEW YORK – The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has accepted Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s petition for fire safety enforcement action at Indian Point. The Attorney General filed the petition over Indian Point’s continued failure to comply with federal fire safety regulations established to keep plants secure in an emergency. As a result, the NRC will now consider action to compel Indian Point to meet the critical fire safety requirements – and action that could bolster fire safety enforcement at nuclear facilities across the country.

“If Indian Point is vulnerable, so too are the tens of millions of people who live and work in the communities that surround it,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “My office has zero tolerance for violations that put New Yorkers at risk and will continue to take all necessary action to ensure the facility meets the safety requirements. I will continue my efforts to ensure the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission does the same.”

The Attorney General filed the petition on March 28 and argued that compliance with fire safety requirements was essential to ensure that the facility would be able to shut down safely during and after an emergency.  The NRC rarely accepts such petitions, and its decision to review ongoing non-compliance with fire safety regulations at Indian Point has the potential to strengthen enforcement of fire safety regulations at nuclear power plants nationwide.

The Indian Point nuclear power plant is currently in violation of established federal fire safety regulations and is seeking approval from the NRC for more than 100 exemptions from these regulations.  Such exemptions would undermine efforts to secure the reactors, which are located at the center of a 50-mile radius where more than 20 million people live, work and travel. 

Attorney General Schneiderman’s petition seeks enforcement of a number of fire safety requirements that Indian Point has been violating for years, and from which the facility is now seeking exemption. For example:

  • The facility has not installed required fire detectors or fire suppression systems in various locations;
  • It has not strengthened electrical cables to withstand fire damage for one- to three-hours, a regulation established to provide necessary plant safety in the event of an emergency;
  • It has not sufficiently separated electrical cables from one another to ensure that a fire would not damage both the primary and back up cables that control important safety systems;  and
  • Moreover, rather than installing automatic response systems, the facility would rely on employees performing a series of manual actions, which the NRC has not authorized as a means of adequately protecting nuclear facilities in the event of a fire.

A copy of the petition is available on the Office of the Attorney General website.

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.

Recently, Schneiderman joined a petition urging the NRC to reexamine operating limitations at the aging Indian Point reactors and lower the reactors’ operating temperatures to increase safety and reduce the risk of meltdown in the event of an accident. The Attorney General has also called upon the NRC to undertake a comprehensive, transparent and fair review of seismic risk before completing the Indian Point relicensing proceeding. He has demanded that the NRC consider seismic risk – which it has so far not taken into account in the relicensing process – before making a decision on whether to extend Indian Point’s operating license for another 20 years.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General John Sipos and Adam Dobson, under the supervision of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic.