Jaffee to Introduce Resolution Opposing Indian Point Re-Licensing

Cites Japan nuclear disaster and similar risks present in Hudson Valley; renewing push on bill to improve Indian Point emergency preparedness
March 16, 2011

Albany – As an earthquake-induced nuclear disaster unfolds in Japan, NYS Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) will be introducing a resolution to prevent this same scenario from occurring at the similarly at-risk Indian Point nuclear facility in New York’s densely-populated lower Hudson Valley, in addition to renewing her push for legislation to improve the plant’s emergency preparedness.

“Our hearts go out to the people of Japan as they confront this terrifying tragedy, and we must do everything in our power to prevent a similar tragedy from happening here,” Jaffee said. “Indian Point is no less at risk from natural disaster than those critically damaged plants in Japan. We ignore this risk at our own peril.”

Jaffee has authored a resolution opposing the re-licensing of the Indian Point nuclear power plant, located in the Westchester County town of Buchanan just north of New York City.

In making the case against extending the plant’s license, Jaffee cites a Columbia University study showing the facility sits on two active seismic zones capable of producing up to a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, as well as the severe challenges posed by any evacuation of the densely-populated region surrounding the plant in the event of such a disaster. The resolution also calls for a commission to study other sources of energy to power the area.

Even with Japan’s recent and obvious example of the danger posed to nuclear facilities by such seismic activity, nuclear regulators in the United States have failed to act in response. The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which is presently considering Indian Point’s application for re-licensing, has refused to incorporate the evidence of potential seismic activity in its evaluation of the plant’s safety. This despite the fact the NRC itself acknowledges Indian Point is the most likely nuclear plant in the nation to be struck by an earthquake.

Jaffee is currently circulating this resolution among fellow Assembly lawmakers in order to generate support and co-sponsors, and it is scheduled to be introduced on Tuesday, March 29th.

Also realizing that a successful effort to block Indian Point’s re-licensing would still see the plant in operation over the short term, Jaffee has begun stepping up efforts to pass legislation that will strengthen the emergency response in the event of a disaster, natural or man-made, at Indian Point.

Jaffee has re-introduced legislation (A00666) to fund improved emergency preparedness and response efforts at and around New York’s nuclear facilities, including Indian Point. This bill would generate funding by creating a tax on nuclear power plants’ on-site radioactive storage sites, known as dry casks, which are increasingly used as long-term storage facilities but are not currently considered property improvements that would increase property values and, subsequently, the taxable rate of nuclear plants.

This legislation is modeled on an existing Minnesota state law that was successfully developed and deployed as a means of ensuring greater safety at its nuclear facilities.

Jaffee is currently in discussions with potential companion sponsors for this bill in the State Senate, as well as additional members of the Assembly who have expressed interest in co-sponsoring the bill.

“We can debate the merits of nuclear power, but we can never debate our responsibility to ensure public safety,” Jaffee added.

TO: Assembly Colleagues

FROM: Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee

SUBJECT: Sponsorship of Indian Point Resolution

DATE: March, 15 2011

On Tuesday March 29th, I will be introducing a resolution opposing the re-licensing of the Indian Point Nuclear Plant. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) lists Indian Point as the most likely plant in the US to be struck by an earthquake.

The explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan intensify fears that a similar failure at Indian Point could result in far more disastrous results. Scientists at Columbia University’s Lamont Dougherty Earth Observatory found that Indian Point sits on two active seismic zones, with the risk of an earthquake as high as 7.0 on the Richter scale. The NRC has refused to consider these findings in its pending decision to re-license Indian Point II and III.

There is widespread consensus that the evacuation plan for the 300,000 people in Indian Point’s Emergency Planning Zone is unworkable. The inadequacy of the evacuation plan in a “fast breaking scenario” is corroborated by the 2003 Witt Report, submitted by world-renowned emergency planners. An additional 20 million persons live within 50 miles of the plant. A failure at Indian Point could devastate New York City. Given the distance radioactive releases can travel, a release from Indian Point could precipitate a public health crisis of historic proportion.

Provision of energy to our region is essential; however when weighed against loss of life and property, energy becomes insignificant. Our region can and must seek other energy sources.

The re-license period is between 2011 and 2013 for Indian Point II and III respectively. Given scientific findings of threats to Indian Point and the high-density population in the surrounding area, the plant poses too great a risk to human life. The NRC should not re-license Indian Point II and III, and a commission should be formed to recommend alternative power sources.