Indian Point: A Scary Comedy of Errors

Six years after the attacks of Sept. 11, New York City and its suburbs remain vulnerable to an even worse nightmare: A well-planned assault on the Indian Point nuclear plant in the Hudson Valley, just 35 miles north of midtown Manhattan.

It’s bad enough that this unnecessary and outdated facility remains open. Even more outrageous is the apparent inability of its owners, the $10 billion, New Orleans-based Entergy Nuclear Northeast, to meet federal deadlines for the installation of an emergency warning system.

Again, the question must be asked: Why is this time bomb still ticking?

The latest news from the Hudson Valley is almost comical. An inspector from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission found a security guard asleep on the job at two o’clock in the afternoon. Shortly after this fiasco, the N.R.C. threatened Entergy with fines because Indian Point’s warning sirens were not operating properly despite an order from the feds to get the system in working order. Thankfully, the N.R.C. refused to grant Entergy an extension.

Nobody has to tell this city and its suburbs about the post-9/11 world. We know all about it, because that dangerous era was born here. We saw firsthand the bloody work of America’s enemies. Nobody who lived through that day, nobody who has grieved ever since, can deny any possibility, however terrible. A 2004 study concluded that a terrorist attack on Indian Point could kill 44,000 people immediately, cost the U.S. economy $2.1 trillion, and cause the long-term cancer deaths of half a million people.

It’s true that New York and the nation have not lived through a repeat of 9/11. But only a fool would argue that we are safer today, or that those who wish us harm have given up. Recent arrests of terror suspects in the United Kingdom and Germany remind us that the enemy we face is global, it is active, and it remains intent on causing mass destruction.

In that context, the presence of a nuclear plant so close to Manhattan is intolerable. It is a threat not only to the city, but to some 20 million people in the immediate tristate region. In the awful calculations of our terrorist enemies, an attack on Indian Point would deliver the most bang for the buck—and don’t think for a minute they don’t know that. Plans for U.S. nuclear plants were found in Al Qaeda caves during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

Of course, Entergy’s record makes matters worse. It ferociously lobbied the State Senate to kill a proposal that would have forced the nuclear industry to pony up chump change, about $13 million, to pay for security that would have been provided by the National Guard. Earlier this year, the company was fined $130,000 for missing the deadline to have its warning system and sirens up to par. And now it has missed another deadline. U.S. Representative Nita Lowey said it best: There is “little reason to have confidence that Entergy is properly managing the safety plans for Indian Point.”

Enough already. Forget Indian Point’s faulty sirens: We’ve already received a warning. It came on 9/11, when those planes hit the Twin Towers. One of the planes actually flew over Indian Point on its way downtown. It’s time for Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton to work together to shut down Indian Point for the good of the city and the country.

Six years after the attacks of Sept. 11, New York City and its suburbs remain vulnerable to an even worse nightmare: A well-planned assault on the Indian Point nuclear plant in the Hudson Valley, just 35 miles north of midtown Manhattan.

It’s bad enough that this unnecessary and outdated facility remains open. Even more outrageous is the apparent inability of its owners, the $10 billion, New Orleans-based Entergy Nuclear Northeast, to meet federal deadlines for the installation of an emergency warning system.

Again, the question must be asked: Why is this time bomb still ticking?

Indian Point: A Scary Comedy of Errors