A.G. Schneiderman Applauds Major Decision By Federal NRC Commissioners To Require Re-Analysis Of Severe Accident Prevention Measures At Indian Point

Commissioners Of Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission Find Prior Analysis To Be In Violation Of National Environmental Policy Act

Schneiderman: Millions Who Live And Work Near Indian Point Deserve A Fair Assessment Of Upgrades Needed To Protect Them From Severe Accidents

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today applauded a decision by Commissioners of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to require NRC staff to conduct a re-analysis of the impacts caused by severe accidents at the Indian Point nuclear power facility and potential upgrades needed to protect the public against such accidents. 

“I am heartened that the NRC Commissioners agreed with my office that Entergy and NRC staff have systematically undercounted the costs and impacts associated with severe reactor accidents at the Indian Point plant,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “The Commissioners’ decision requires the NRC staff to do what should have been done years ago: provide an accurate account of cost-effective upgrades at this aging nuclear plant that can prevent or minimize severe accidents.  While some might prefer to treat severe accidents as impossibilities, the millions of people who live and work near Indian Point deserve nothing less than a full and fair assessment of the plant upgrades needed to protect them against such accidents.”

In today’s unanimous decision, the Commission reversed an earlier administrative ruling, and found that NRC staff’s analysis of severe accident minimization at the Indian Point facility violates the National Environmental Policy Act.  The decision directs NRC staff to redo its analysis, and consider additional severe accident minimization at Indian Point.  NRC staff had relied on data from other sites, including sites surrounded by farmland, instead of site-specific data for Indian Point.  The ultimate source of the data used by NRC staff could not be found – but the agency went on using the data without substantiation. 

In its decision, the Commission explained that “[w]hile typically we decline to second-guess the Board on its fact-specific conclusions, here the decision contains obvious material factual errors and could be misleading, warranting clarification.”  The Commission found that New York State’s evidence and legal arguments were persuasive and had the potential to materially affect the analysis of severe accident minimization measures and their cost-effectiveness for Indian Point. 

Today’s decision by the NRC Commissioners represents a significant event in the history of the Indian Point site.

The Attorney General’s office has worked to improve Indian Point’s accident preparedness, and ensure the protection of public health and the environment of the surrounding region.   After Entergy submitted an application to the NRC to renew the operating licenses for an additional 20 years, the Attorney General’s Office submitted Contention 12, which argued that Entergy’s environmental report failed to accurately model the cleanup and decontamination costs for a severe accident in the area surrounding Indian Point, which includes the New York City Metropolitan Area. 

In 2010, NRC released its final supplemental environmental impact statement for Indian Point – a document that continued to fail to properly analyze and disclose to the public severe accident risk and mitigation.  In response, the Attorney General’s Office submitted expert testimony, reports, legal briefs, and over 100 exhibits demonstrating the inadequate analysis of severe accidents and severe underestimation of the costs of a severe accident at Indian Point.  Entergy and NRC Staff challenged the State every step of the way, repeatedly lodging challenges to the Attorney General’s arguments.  

In November 2013, the Board’s resolved Contention 12 in favor of NRC Staff and Entergy.  Almost immediately, Attorney General Schneiderman filed to a motion to reopen the record and for reconsideration of the contention, which the Board denied.  The State appealed the Board’s decision on Contention 12 to the NRC Commissioners, and briefing on the appeal was completed in 2014.  Today’s decision is in response to the appeal by Attorney General Schneiderman.

The Indian Point facilities are located 24 miles north of New York City, 35 miles from Times Square, and 38 miles from Wall Street.  The facilities are 6 miles from one of the reservoirs that make up the New York City drinking water system.  According to Entergy, approximately 19 million people will live within 50 miles of Indian Point by 2035.  Indian Point has the highest surrounding population of any US reactor; Indian Point has more than twice the surrounding population as the next nuclear plant site. 

The initial 40-year license terms expired in September 2013 for Indian Point unit 2 and December 2015 for Indian Point unit 3. 

This matter is being handled for the Environmental Protection Bureau by Assistant Attorneys General John Sipos, Kathryn DeLuca, and Laura Heslin, with the assistance of Environmental Scientist Jodi Feld.  The Environmental Protection Bureau is led by Lemuel M. Srolovic and is part of the Division of Social Justice, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg.