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Post date: December 22 2011

Feds Side With A.G. Schneiderman On Indian Point, Reject Efforts To Have Severe Accident Analysis Ignored In Relicensing

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Upholds Landmark Ruling That Indian Point Cannot Be Relicensed Before Review Of Upgrades Completed

Latest Success In AG’s Work To Improve Nuclear Regulation & Enforcement


NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a significant federal ruling in ongoing efforts to improve Indian Point’s accident preparedness, and ensure the protection of public health and the environment of the surrounding region. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) rejected a move by Entergy, Indian Point’s owner, to reverse a landmark Atomic Safety and Licensing Board decision ordering the completion of  legally-required analyses of the facility's severe accident mitigation measures before it can be relicensed. Attorney General Schneiderman’s office won that ruling in July.

“It is a significant victory that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission firmly rejected an effort by Indian Point's owner to reverse a landmark federal ruling -- won by my office -- that the facility cannot be relicensed until legally-required analyses of its ability to control severe accidents are completed. Indian Point must follow regulations to protect the public and control the effects of a potentially severe nuclear accident,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “While Entergy might prefer to treat severe accidents as impossibilities, the millions of people who live and work near Indian Point rightfully expect more. My office will continue to take every action necessary to ensure Indian Point complies with all applicable laws and regulations, and that the surrounding communities are protected.”    

As part of the relicensing proceeding, nuclear power plants are required to identify the environmental impacts that could be caused by a severe accident and provide analyses of measures that facilities could take to protect the public if one were to occur.  In its environmental review, Entergy identified numerous such measures at Indian Point Units 2 and 3, including flood protection and auxiliary power improvements.

In the context of Indian Point's relicensing, the Attorney General's office argued that the NRC has the obligation to require Entergy to complete analyses of cost-beneficial measures, or to require that the measures be adopted - consistent with NRC’s own regulations, as well as those of the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. 

On July 15, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) issued a decision, agreeing with Attorney General Schneiderman that Indian Point cannot be relicensed without completing the legally-required analyses of its severe accident mitigation measures.  NRC must require Indian Point’s owner, Entergy, to either adopt cost-effective upgrades that would improve responses and control the impact of a severe accident, or provide a compelling reason why it will not do so. 

Entergy appealed the ASLB's decision to the NRC and today's decision denies that appeal.

Attorney General Schneiderman has taken multiple actions to improve regulations and safety at Indian Point, and that could impact plants nationwide. 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.

The initiative is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General John Sipos, Janice Dean, Lisa Feiner and Adam Dobson of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau under the supervision of Bureau Chief for Environmental Protection Lemuel M. Srolovic and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Janet Sabel.