Ever since the earthquake in Japan caused a crisis with one of their nuclear power plants, reminding New Yorkers that we too have a nuclear power plant about 25 miles from the city, the public has been told two things: that the plant is completely safe, and anyway, it's the "first and top priority" of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Except, uh, the former may not be true, and the latter may be too-little-too-late.
If an emergency were to take place at Indian Point nuclear plant, which sits at the intersection of two fault lines and was recently branded the most vulnerable to an earthquake in the nation, it would take nine-and-a-half hours to evacuate all 450,000 people who live and work within a 10-mile radius. In their most recent test of the plant's evacuation plans, the Federal Emergency Management Agency found dozens of problems in possible evacuation plans based on various disaster scenarios.
An estimated 195,365 vehicles would be on the roads if the entire 10-mile radius was evacuated, ensuring chaos and clogged roads; the worst disaster scenario would be an autumn weekend at midday with a West Point football game and the wind blowing from the southeast. "I have complete faith in our first-responders. But even with the best plans something can go wrong. The area is too densely populated for a nuclear plant. Indian Point should be closed," said Rockland County Executive Scott Vanderhoef.
Also not giving us much comfort: according to the News, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has historically lax attitude with Indian Point's owner, Entergy, granting them numerous exemptions to regulations governing fire safety, storage of spent fuel, and systems designed to prevent meltdown. The NRC also recently casually mentioned that nearly one-third of the nation's 143 nuclear plants don't report major safety risks because regulations are "contradictory and unclear." "NRC's misuse of exemptions has significantly reduced safety standards and required inspections at Indian Point," said Deborah Brancato, a lawyer for the environmental group Riverkeeper.