Indian Point: A Clear and Present Danger

It’s a sad comment that it may take a lawsuit to do what the owners of the Indian Point nuclear plant have failed to do: protect the 20 million people who live within the danger zone should an accident or terrorist strike occur.

Last week, the Friends United for Sustainable Energy (FUSE) filed papers with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, opposing the re-licensing of Indian Point. Their argument is that the N.R.C. has allowed Indian Point to skirt safety-oriented design requirements that have been imposed on nuclear plants in the years since Indian Point was first built. FUSE says the plant should not be relicensed until it is updated to meet those criteria.

This makes, of course, profound sense: If advances in technology and knowledge have resulted in new safety requirements for the latest generation of nuclear reactors, any reactors built years ago should also be modernized, to make sure the highest standards of safety are met.

It’s outrageous that Entergy Nuclear Northeast, the plant’s New Orleans-based owners, would even consider arguing against this logic. But it’s not a surprise: Entergy has been a sloppy and irresponsible steward of this trouble-prone nuclear plant, which should have been closed years ago. Entergy fought against a proposal that would have forced the nuclear industry to pay for extra security at nuclear plants. Earlier this year, the company was fined $130,000 for missing a deadline to have its emergency warning system operating properly, and has yet to heed warnings from the N.R.C. to fix the problem.

The lawsuit will shed welcome light on Entergy’s despicable efforts to keep New Yorkers in the dark about the danger that sits just 35 miles from midtown Manhattan. Unfortunately, 9/11 taught us to imagine the unimaginable. A terrorist strike on Indian Point could cause tens of thousands of deaths immediately, not to mention a full-scale evacuation of New York City.

What more can we say about Indian Point but that is has a record of incompetent management, excessive risks and an unacceptable proximity to the country’s economic center? If something goes wrong, the entire nation would be thrown into chaos.