Are the reckless and irresponsible owners of the Indian Point nuclear plant finally going to be held accountable for their sloppy stewardship? The executives and board-members of the $10 billion, New Orleans-based Entergy Nuclear Corp. have managed for several years to get away with third-rate oversight of the trouble-plagued plant while their shareholders count their profits.
The good news? New York’s elected officials are finally starting to take more aggressive action, refusing to allow Entergy to blithely ignore the safety of the 20 million Americans—including all of New York City—who live within the radius of Indian Point.
Last week, Westchester County executive Anthony Spano, disgusted by Entergy’s casual approach to safety, announced that county officials would stop taking part in Indian Point evacuation drills until Entergy’s employees started taking the drills seriously. And this Monday, Governor Eliot Spitzer and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo called upon the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to halt Entergy’s application for a 20-year extension on its license to operate Indian Point. “The Indian Point relicensing application wholly fails to address a number of crucial issues,” said Governor Spitzer, “and it should not be granted in its present form.” Moreover, the attorney general has concluded that the N.R.C.’s standards for safety are inadequate, noting that owners of nuclear plants are not required to make provisions for defending their plants from attacks by airplanes—a gap Mr. Cuomo rightly calls “unconscionable.” (On Sept. 11 2001, one of the hijacked planes passed directly over Indian Point; plans of U.S. nuclear plants were found in Taliban caves in Afghanistan.)
Entergy—which fought against a proposal requiring the nuclear industry to pay for extra security at nuclear plants, and which was fined $130,000 this year for failing to have its emergency warning system operating properly—is no friend to New York City. We’re glad to see that City Hall has now petitioned the federal government to allow the city to have a say in Entergy’s application to extend its license.
We trust that, even if the city is not granted a say, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will join Governor Spitzer and Attorney General Cuomo in standing up for the safety and health of New Yorkers, and call for Indian Point to be shut down for good. It pays to remember Chernobyl, when a steam explosion caused a nuclear meltdown that exposed over six million people in the former Soviet Union to radioactive fallout, resulting in at least 4,000 cancer deaths and the evacuation and relocation of over 300,000 people.