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March 22, 2011

Amid fears that U.S. nuclear power plants may be susceptible to earthquake damage like the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex in Japan, federal regulators plan to review earthquake risk at 27 nuclear facilities, including New York’s Indian Point which will get “first and top priority.”

According to a release by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will make the Indian Point Energy Center in Westchester County the first of 27 facilities to undergo a review of seismic risks.

"It is essential that the NRC move quickly to answer the significant and long-standing safety questions surrounding Indian Point," Governor Cuomo said. "We appreciate the NRC agreeing to move swiftly and we look forward to working closely with them on this issue to protect the health and safety of New Yorkers."

The facility has known structural and safety flaws. In addition, Indian Point is located near a fault line and does experience seismic activity. Even before Japan’s crisis, there was concern whether the plant could withstand an earthquake.

Gov. Cuomo is against the federal relicensing of the plant when it comes for renewal in 2013.

20 million people live within fifty miles of the Indian Point facility on the Hudson River, including residents of New York City just 30 miles away. Portions of New Jersey and Connecticut also lie in that 50-mile radius.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg told The Wall Street Journal that Indian Point supplies about 30% of New York City’s power.

NRC has agreed to make the review a cooperative between the agency and New York State. NRC has agreed to sign a memorandum that the agency will:

  • Share federal data regarding seismic risk specific to Indian Point with New York technical experts
  • Include New York experts as part of the NRC on-site inspection team that will evaluate Indian Point with regard to seismic risk

"I thank the NRC for hosting us today and for recognizing the legitimate concerns that exist regarding Indian Point," Lieutenant Governor Duffy said. "Seismic activity is a serious concern regarding the facility and we will now work with the federal government to make sure we get answers for the people of New York."

Entergy, the owner of the Indian Point Energy Center, contends the facility is safe.

John McCann, Vice President of Entergy who owns Indian Point, told Westchester County legislators that the earthquake in Japan was more powerful than earthquakes recorded near Indian Point, reports the Associated Press.

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