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Doubts Cast on Future of N.Y. Nuclear Plants

February 23, 2003|From Associated Press

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Saturday it does not know whether emergency plans for the Indian Point nuclear plants adequately protect area residents from radiation because state and local officials have failed to provide crucial information.

In a 500-page preliminary report, FEMA said it could not give a "reasonable assurance" that emergency plans for the facilities would work, a finding likely to intensify already heated debate about the plants' future.

In a letter accompanying the report, a regional FEMA official gave the State Emergency Management Office a May 2 deadline to provide certification or face possible consequences from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The commission decides whether a nuclear plant can operate, but it looks to FEMA to certify that an adequate emergency plan is in place.

"FEMA still has the lead on this and we rely on them," commission spokeswoman Diane Screnci said Saturday.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, when one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center flew over Indian Point, about 35 miles north of Manhattan, fear of a terrorist attack on the plants has made emergency planning a major issue in the lower Hudson Valley. Dozens of politicians have called for a shutdown of the plants.

The counties closest to the plants say they have not certified the emergency plans because a consultant had concluded they ignored the possibility of terrorism. State officials say they are required to wait for the counties to act.

"All I'm going to say is that the conversation continues between the state and the federal agency," state spokesman Don Maurer said Saturday. "We will forward this report to the counties."

Hubert Miller, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's regional administrator, said Friday that although the commission considers Indian Point to be "the most heavily defended plants in the country," there have been recent violations on such security matters as excessive overtime for guards and poor maintenance of weapons.

Jim Steets, a spokesman for Indian Point owner Entergy Corp., said the weapon problem was solved with a cleaning program and the overtime problem was being solved with the hiring of 50 more guards.

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