Posted by: Dawn Powell | May 15, 2013

NRC information meeting – 5-14-13

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Public information meeting, May 14, 2013

 In Tarrytown, at Doubletree.  Their overflow lot has permeable pavers! Yay!

 These seem like nice gentlemen and everything goes along politely, until your head feels like it is going to explode, as you hear the things they have to say.

 If you’ve never been to one of these events, I highly recommend them, the NRC, Entergy, information meetings, public hearings, any of it.  This is citizen participation at its best.

 The NRC is responsible for the safety of Entergy’s Indian Point plants.  They are responsible for the safety of all of them, but right now, it is Indian Point that we are concerned about.  Our nuclear power plants are located near two earthquake faults, the nuclear power most likely to be damaged by an earthquake.  There is more population within 20 miles of this plant than any other nuclear plant in the nation.

 So, the NRC, in their own words, tries to think of everything.  As you listen to them talk, all kinds of other things flood into your brain.  That insurance company commercial about humans doing human things, the air conditioner dropped onto a car, the open car door ripped off the car.  People are human. Mistakes are made.  Even when you minimize the margin of error, error still finds a way in.  The NRC standard is “adequate and reasonable.”

 A woman asked a question.  If there were a low probability, high consequence event, what would happen to us?  Reluctantly, and perhaps sadly, there was an admission that we would not all be taken care of.  They could not possibly evacuate all of us.  They could not possibly relocate all of us as refugees.  They could not possibly reimburse us all for our losses.  And of course, this whole area would be uninhabitable.  “We cannot assure that the people in this room can be taken care of.” “…not a satisfactory outcome.”

 There is a low probability of that, but then, all those other things flood into your brain.  The World Trade Center was mentioned, the Tsarnaev brothers, the Challenger, Chernobyl, and Fukushima.  It was mentioned that NASA tried to think of everything.  I believe that.  I believe that they were exceptionally careful.  And yet, an O-ring caused the Challenger to explode and lives were lost.

 Now that we have lived through many very low probability events, the electric grid going down, the earthquake, the hurricanes , the Gulf oil spill, the Exxon Valdez, the Pegasus pipeline spill, and the disasters above, it is hard to believe that major catastrophic events are of such low probability.  And as we see the struggle to move beyond Sandy, we understand that a low probability event at Indian Point would destroy life as we know it.  We should know that Fukushima has done that.  “There may be something we haven’t thought of.  Nobody thought that Fukushima could drop 6 feet and lose power.”

 A passionate employee said that they fire anyone who is found violating safety standards.  But by then, it is too late.  Two brothers put two backpacks down on a crowded street, and life is forever changed.

An IP engineer in my community kills his family and himself, and by then, it is too late.  If someone human does something human, there could be a catastrophic outcome.  No matter how much they try to think of everything, people are human.

I understand the care that they take to make it all work, but I also hear the care they have not taken.  The fire insulation that burns through in 23 minutes – it was discovered quite awhile ago, in 2007.  They know about it.  They are addressing it.  It will be resolved.  In the meantime, worry about a 24 minute fire.  The flood evaluation will be finished by the end of the year, then they will decided what needs to be done.

A Rockland fire fighter said that he had never been trained in any Indian Point related events.

A professor from Pace said that when studied, only 47% of people who received those Indian Point emergency guides (you got one), only 47% read them.  I admit it –  I haven’t read mine.  And only 1% said that they knew their evacuation route, fewer actually knew it.

Several people brought up the decision to keep Indian Point open during Hurricane Sandy, and this was one of those head exploding moments.  The criteria for closure hadn’t been met.  Winds have to be 100mph.  And the power might be needed for emergencies?  But the gird was down.  They couldn’t get the power anywhere.  And if there was an emergency, if anything happened to the plant in the storm, no one could get anywhere.  No one could leave.  Emergency vehicles could not get out or in.  In the event of any event at the IP plants, a grotesquely inadequate evacuation plan was non-existent.  Verplanck, a stone’s throw, was seriously damaged in Hurricane Sandy.   And the NRC really didn’t see the problem.  They believe, in the presence of irrefutable facts, that they have thought of everything.

I have tried, with slight snow on the road, to get back into my hilly, little community, and been unable to.  I have tried to get up those hills with a little more snow on the roads.  I have been on the parkways with rain, as they have flooded.  I have been in the Bronx in afternoon rush hour.  In those instances, no one is going anywhere.

It is a strange exercise.  Everyone attends the meetings.  Everyone discusses a better evacuation route, when what we want is for the plant to close.  The NRC moves inexorably to relicensure, to finding ways for a 40 year old plant to stay open, as if there is no other possibility.  They tell us that the plants are not 40 years old, that everything has been replaced, but we can’t even seem to plan for a 40 year old baseball stadium to make it through another 20 years.  And it would not be licensed today.  It could not be sited there now.   There are union members and business people who speak up for the jobs, but the jobs are not worth it.  We have turned away from Fukushima.  That is not the route to economic development. 

We will need to deal with the spent fuel rods forever.  They are in overcrowded pools now.  There is an aggressive plan to change the storage to dry casks – 3-5 years.

 NRC does not take evacuation into account in relicensing.  That is up to FEMA, state and local governments.   No one is truly responsible.  The license for one of the plants expires in September, but the plant will continue to operate because they applied for the relicense 5 years ago.  It seems that once you have them, you can never get rid of them.  

 In Putnam County, we get no electricity from Indian Point.


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