Could an Earthquake Take Out Indian Point?
23 Mar, 2011
By Joyce Newman, Environmental Reporter
After today’s earthquake, we thought this story we ran last March was well worth reviving.
In the wake of the disaster in Japan, Riverkeeper, a member-supported clean water advocacy group based in Westchester, has called for an immediate, objective, and independent analysis of the risk of earthquakes near the 40-year-old Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant owned by Entergy.
An independent 2008 study by Columbia University Earth Observatory found that Indian Point’s three reactors sit at the intersection of two active seismic zones where the risk of earthquake as large as 7.0 on the Richter scale exists.
According to Riverkeeper, the study “…contradicts Entergy’s earlier representations that the risk of seismic activity is low (i.e., 1.0 to 3.0). This is highly significant because the energy released in a 7.0 level earthquake is literally over a million times more than in a 3.0.” (continued below map)
In a statement from Entergy, the company says it “will continue to monitor closely the situation in Japan, and lessons will be learned and translated to even greater safety and effectiveness to meet the challenges of the most adverse and unexpected events.”
Last fall, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) listed the Indian Point Plant, along with 26 other plants across the U.S., as among those whose “seismic safeguards” were in need of review by the agency. That review has not been completed yet. However, when the NRC calculated the odds of an earthquake causing catastrophic failure of a nuclear power plant in the U.S., the Indian Point reactor 3 was ranked number one for the highest risk! See the top rankings listed here.
Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Westchester/Rockland) today issued the following statement on the NRC’s rating. “We have always known that a nuclear facility in our nation’s most densely populated region could pose serious risk to the public and must be operated with the highest safety standards. Coming on the heels of a potentially catastrophic meltdown in Japan following an earthquake, news that Indian Point is at greatest risk in the U.S. of earthquake-related failure is highly alarming, made even more so considering flaws in Indian Point’s emergency preparedness and evacuation plans in the event of an incident.”
Lowey added, “A 1 in 10,000 chance that the core could be damaged by an earthquake, exposing the public to radiation, is greater than the chance of winning the lottery, getting struck by lightning, or being attacked by a shark. That is not acceptable. NRC should not consider relicensing Indian Point reactors 2 and 3 in 2013 and 2015 until the risk the public faces has been addressed.”