Op-Ed: Regulators Say Indian Point Nuclear plant is safe, But Can Chernobyl-On-The-Hudson Happen?

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[By: Michael Daly for the NY Daily News]

Gaze up the Hudson River and hope, hope, hope our regulators are right.

Hope they could not possibly be as wrong as the regulators in Japan who said their nuclear reactors could withstand any calamity.

Hope we never, ever have an out-of-control reactor just 35 miles north – a Chernobyl-on-the-Hudson.
We are assured the Indian Point nuclear plant, which has had its share of problems, is designed to shrug off an earthquake under a magnitude 6.1. That’s a bit above the most powerful one on record in New York – a 5.25 way back in 1884.

We are also told not to be unduly worried that scientists at Columbia University have discovered Indian Point is within a mile of where our region’s two most active fault lines intersect.

The 2008 paper reporting this discovery estimated the chances of a earthquake here measuring a potentially disastrous magnitude 7 are 1.5% over a 50-year period.

Those are very long odds, but as the lottery ads say, hey, you never know.

Can’t you just hear the Japanese regulators saying before their disaster, “What’s the chance of a 9 anyway?”

The Columbia paper noted Indian Point is located “closer to more people” than any other nuclear plant in America, at “clearly one of the least favorable sites in our area from an earthquake hazard and risk perspective.”

In other words, if the folks who built the plant had searched the whole region, they could not have found a worse spot.

Astonishingly, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission declined even to consider the newly discovered fault lines in reviewing the plant’s application to extend its operating license by 20 years.

“[The NRC] … has not permitted any new information to be used or old information on which the old licenses were based to be contested,” the paper noted.

The same agency quickly removed from its website after 9/11 a report estimating fatalities from a full meltdown at Indian Point for fear terrorists would find the information “advantageous.”

That report said a Chernobyl-on-the-Hudson would pose a dire threat to people as far as 500 miles away and necessitate the evacuation of 93 million Americans and Canadians for as long as a year.

After all the lies at Ground Zero, who would believe it was safe to return?

The mayor on Monday described Indian Point as “far away from New York City,” but you can bet that if a nuclear mishap like the ones in Japan struck it would suddenly seem just upriver.

How safe do you think it feels to be 35 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant now there is the threat of an uncontrolled release of radiation into the air?

A spokesman for Indian Point’s owner, Entergy of New Orleans, Monday reported that the application to extend its license is “pretty far along,” including a safety evaluation whose requirements include hardening against the “postulated maximum earthquake” for the particular area.

If the extension goes through, Indian Point will continue providing a third of the city’s power. The two remaining hurdles are state permits involving the 2.5 billion gallons of water that pass through the plant each day, more than twice the water consumed by all five boroughs.

One permit concerns the temperature of the water after it passes through. The other concerns the fish and their eggs sucked into the 40-inch intake pipes.

Indian Point (above) may yet be shut down not because it poses a danger for millions of people, but because of some shad.

In the meantime, a mysterious pool of water on a floor at the plant led to the discovery last year of a leaking underground pipe feeding a backup cooling system.

And, a transformer explosion triggered a brief shutdown in November.

At least the area surrounding Indian Point finally has a properly functioning warning system after only three years of delays and screwups.

Of course the system’s 172 sirens are just a precaution.

A nuclear disaster could never happen here.

Just ask the regulators.

(Source: NY Daily News)


9 COMMENTS

  1. If the Ribono Shel Olam is punishing Japan for its unjust imprisonment of Yoel Zev ben Mirel Risa Chava LOY”T and Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel LOY”T (http://www.japanpidyon.org/story.php), then the U.S. — due to its harsh and unjust treatment of Jonathan Pollard LOY”T and Sholom Rubashkin LOY”T — is surely vulnerable.

  2. There had only been 4 earthquakes of magnitude 9.0 in the entire world over the past century, none of them in Japan. And the nuclear plants in Japan had supposedly been designed to withstand that strong an earthquake. (Japan has the strongest earthquake regulations in the world.)

    However, if we shut down Indian Point, we have to figure out from where to get the electricity it generates. Coal fired power plants emit huge amounts of toxic gas and particulates, literally killing people. And the right wingers who are in charge these days think energy conservation is un-American, objecting even to replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact flourescent bulbs.

  3. Anything can happen anywhere. We have to make it as safe as reasonably possible. In Japan they made the reactors able to withstand an 8.2 quake (maybe more). Did they know that HKBH would give them a 9?

    The comparisons to Chernobyl are not fair. There you had a bunch of crazies running the place. They didnt care about safety too much. Look at it! When it blew, it blew into smithereens, in Japan, the buildings are still standing.

    The op-ed is written by someone who is afraid of his own shadow and wants everyone else to be too. Cars crash, do we stop driving? NO! Airplanes crash, do we stop flying? NO! Only a leftist would become alarmed and shut down industries for no reason. Look at Dear Obama. There was an ACCIDENT in the gulf with an oil rig so he shut down everyone’s production which killed the oil industry in the Gulf. He is going against court orders (Obama listen to a court?! NEVER!) to allow the few that are left to start up again.

    If you are a chicken, get out of the way and let us keep moving!

    BTW, until Chernobyl more people will killed at Chappaquiddick than from a reactor!

  4. CH,

    You made a valid point, but did you really need to say? “And the right wingers who are in charge these days think energy conservation is un-American, objecting even to replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescen bulbs”. This has nothing to what you said prior, Why is everything a left-right wing, Dem-Rep thing with you? You could be commenting on a Yankee game and your reason for them winning would be because the Bronx has a democratic boro president.

  5. CharlieSmall,

    It is a fact that many right wingers are waging an active campaign to repeal the energy efficiency law for light bulbs. And it has everything to do with the issue; we can’t simply take nuclear or coal fired power plants out of service without dramatically reducing electricity usage and light bulbs are the single easiest place to make that reduction. In fact, electric use will likely increase in the future with the increased popularity of plug-in electric vehicles.

  6. All it takes is a major earthquake (and the recent one was one of the largest since they developed a scale for recording earthquakes 150 years ago). According to the goyim’s scholars, the New York region used to have a great many large earthquakes – about 100 million years ago. So if you hold by that, you really need to spend a lot of time worrying.

  7. No. 3: Assuming your last paragraph is factually correct, what public policy lesson can we learn from Chappaquidick, Chernobyl, and the current problem with Japanese nuclear reactors? (1) Don’t build narrow, rickety wooden bridges without guard rails? (2) Don’t rely on senators for a ride home, or to the beach? (3) Don’t rely on nuclear power for your electricity?

  8. What Mark said is not true. (There were several single fatality incidents before Chernobyl) I also look forward to CharlieSmall asking Mark what Barack Obama or Ted Kennedy have to do with this.

  9. CH
    When I saw this I couldn’t help but think of you

    During a Senate hearing last week, Rand Paul complained about the federal energy standards that will force conventional incandescent light bulbs off the market during the next few years.

    “I can’t buy the old light bulbs,” the Kentucky Republican said. “That restricts my choice.”

    The response from an Energy Department official nicely illustrated the know-it-all attitude Paul was criticizing. “I’m pro-choice on bulbs,” insisted Kathleen Hogan, the deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency. “My view is, what you want is lighting.” And the government, in its infinite wisdom, will tell you what kind of lighting is best for you.

    By this logic, the government could ban cars without meaningfully restricting consumer choice, because you can always ride a bike or take a bus. The fact that you have implicitly rejected the tradeoffs entailed by those other options doesn’t matter.

    So it is with light bulbs. The energy-efficiency standards that have doomed the most popular varieties, set forth in a law signed by President George W. Bush in 2007, will begin to take effect in January, making conventional 100-watt bulbs illegal. By 2014 all traditional bulbs (except for a few specialized uses) will be abolished, to be replaced by more efficient alternatives, mainly compact-fluorescent lamps (CFLs).

    Hogan is right: What I want is lighting, and CFLs aren’t very good at providing it. Unlike incandescent bulbs, CFLs don’t go on when you flip a switch; they think about going on and then, after mulling the idea for a few minutes, achieve their maximum brightness when you’re done with what you were planning to do — which is especially annoying in the bathroom.

    CFLs don’t work well with dimmers and sometimes emit an unbearable whine. And did I mention that they cost up to six times as much as incandescent bulbs? “But they last longer,” USA Today insists. Not in our house — we turn them on and off. According to a 2009 report in The Telegraph, “The lifespan of energy-saving light bulbs can be reduced by up to 85 percent if they are switched off and on too often.”

    If you try to avoid this problem by leaving the lights on, you undermine the main selling point of CFLs, which is that they save electricity by producing more light for the same amount of energy. “A household that upgrades 15 inefficient incandescent light bulbs,” Hogan enthuses, “could save about $50 per year.”

    That calculation takes into account the higher price of CFLs, but I suspect it assumes they last longer than they really do. Anyway, I’d gladly pay 14 cents a day for the luxury of lights that go on when I turn them on. But the government won’t let me.

    I’m not a fuddy-duddy clinging to the incandescent light bulb simply because it’s familiar. I’ll use CFLs if and when their manufacturers get the kinks out, or LED bulbs when they become affordable. But we’re not there yet, judging from the Energy Department’s estimate that more than 80 percent of residential-light sockets still held incandescent bulbs last year.

    By forcing this transition, the government is ignoring most Americans’s preferences, as expressed in the marketplace. Which explains why I cheered when Paul declared: “You busybodies always want to do something to tell us how to live our lives better. Keep it to yourselves.”