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New York nuke plant seismic review gets top priority


The Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, New York, is seen from across the Hudson River, April 6, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Segar
The Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, New York, is seen from across the Hudson River, April 6, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Segar

By Dan Wiessner

ALBANY, New York (Reuters) - U.S. regulators have promised to make the Indian Point nuclear power plant near New York City their top priority in a review of seismic risk at U.S. nuclear plants, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday.

The plant 25 miles of New York City, already a source of safety concern among state officials, has faced renewed scrutiny since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that crippled Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex.

Cuomo, a Democrat who has worked to prevent the federal relicensing of the Indian Point facility, said the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has pledged to make the plant its "top priority" as it reviews earthquake risk at 27 nuclear facilities throughout the country.

"It is essential that the NRC move quickly to answer the significant and longstanding safety questions surrounding Indian Point," Cuomo said after New York state officials met with regulators at the NRC's Maryland headquarters.

An NRC report in September found Indian Point was at the greatest risk from seismic activity among the nuclear plants under review. Indian Point sits near two geological fault lines. The plant provides up to 30 percent of New York City's power.

The NRC will be investigating 27 plants' ability to handle earthquakes.

"It is important to note that while the study indicated the seismic risk has increased for some plants, it is not by a margin that would give us cause for any immediate concern," Eliot Brenner, a spokesman for the NRC said in a statement.

Indian Point owner Entergy Corp purchased a full-page advertisement in The New York Times on Tuesday touting comments by U.S. Energy Secretary Steve Chu saying that the reactor is safe and an NRC report saying all U.S. nuclear plants remain safe.

It was built to withstand an earthquake 100 times the magnitude of any quake measured in the area, Entergy said in the advertisement. The company has pledged to conduct its own review of seismic risk and safety procedures.

Entergy also said it is considering a plan to store mobile emergency generators off-site that could be relocated to Indian Point after any emergency. Reactors at the crippled Japanese plant overheated when the tsunami knocked out backup generators to power the cooling system. The quake had cut off main power.

The NRC has agreed to share data related to seismic risk with the state and will include the governor's staff in on-site reviews of the plant, said Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy.

"This is an emotional topic, and we want to make sure we have all the facts before we make a decision," said Cuomo, who added that he does not know when the review would take place but that it would be "expeditious."

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