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What is the risk, what can you do about it, can it be mitigated?

Cuomo pledges review of nuclear power plant

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Governor Andrew Cuomo says the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has pledged to make the Indian Point nuclear power plant it's first priority in reviewing seismic risk at the nation's nuclear power plants in light of the disastrous earthquake in Japan.

Cuomo stopped short, though, of calling for a shutdown of the Indian Point nuclear power plant. Karen Dewitt reports.

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Reported by

Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

Cuomo as Attorney General expressed deep concerns, about the safety of the Indian Point nuclear power plant , which is located in the population dense Westchester County around 25 miles north of New York City. The governor says his worries were heightened after the Japan earthquake, and after new information that seismic threats to the plant might be greater than previously believed.

Cuomo says his staff and nuclear regulatory commission staff will soon conduct a new review of the potential dangers posed to the plant, which sits near a significant earthquake fault line.

“What is the risk, what can you do about it, can it be mitigated?” asked Cuomo, who said he’s seeking “solid information”.

New York State does not have the power to shut the plant down, only the federal government can do that. Cuomo is asking though, that the NRC “reevaluate” it’s criteria before it decides whether the plant should be re- licensed in 2013.

Cuomo says he will ask the NRC officials, “given what you know today, should that plant be licensed today?”

Cuomo says evacuation plans were discussed at the meeting, which was attended by Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy, but he says there’s been no decision to revise those plans. The governor says though, a fifty mile radius evacuation that the US is recommending be put in place in Japan after the nuclear power plant failures there would be almost impossible to carry out if a similar situation occurred  at Indian Point.

“You’re talking all of New York City, you’re talking about parts of Connecticut, you’re talking about Long Island, you’re talking about New Jersey,” said Cuomo, who said those locations represents 6% of the entire US population.

“Evacuation, I don’t believe, is even a feasible concept,” Cuomo said.

The governor did not say that the plant should definitively be shut down, but he did say that if the nuclear power plant is eventually deemed too great a risk to continue to operate, alternative sources of energy would have to be found to replace the power. He admits adequate replacement supplies do not exist right now.

Cuomo says new plants would have to be built, he says he does not believe that hydrofracking of natural gas deposits, which is under debate in New York,  would be a reasonable replacement. Cuomo says at the end of the day, it comes down to “what risk are you willing to live with”, and he says his threshold for that risk is likely much lower than that of the federal nuclear regulatory commission.

Cuomo’s announcement was praised by the New York Public Interest Research Group. NYPIRG’s Laura Haight says the original decision to build the nuclear power plant over an active earthquake fault line was “crazy”.

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