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Top priority in US earthquake study: nuclear power plant near New York City

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls the Indian Point nuclear power plant near New York City a 'catastrophe waiting to happen.' Federal nuclear power regulators promise to make Indian Point, which sits near a fault, a top priority in their review of seismic hazards.

By Ron SchererStaff writer / March 23, 2011

Indian Point nuclear power plant stands on the edge of the Hudson River near the Ramapo Fault in Buchanan, N.Y.

John Angelillo/UPI/Newscom

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New York

To New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the nuclear crisis in Japan is a warning bell for his own state.

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Governor Cuomo has long been opposed to the Indian Point nuclear power plant, located on the Hudson River about 40 miles from New York City, calling it a “catastrophe waiting to happen.”

Now, in light of the Japanese situation and with evidence of a previously unknown fault line running near the plant, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has agreed to make Indian Point one of its first priorities in an ongoing study of seismic risk.

On Tuesday, a contingent of New York state officials met with the NRC to express Cuomo’s concerns, especially with regard to the potential for an earthquake to damage the facility.

“When the data comes back in we want to make sure Indian Point is at or near the top of the list when we start looking at the data,” says Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the NRC in King of Prussia, Pa., the regional center responsible for New York.

In Cuomo's battle against Indian Point, however, he's likely to have opposition from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who notes that nearly one-third of the city's power comes from the facility.

“The mayor wants to learn from Japan but realizes that we can't simply close a plant that generates 32% of NYC's power without thinking about what sources will replace it,” writes Jason Post, a spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg, in an e-mail.

All in the family

While nuclear power maybe an important source of energy in New York and beyond, it is also under review in the US, particularly the 35 nuclear power plants that use the same basic design as the Fukushima plant in Japan. And Cuomo is one of those keeping pressure on regulators.

As New York’s attorney general, he asked federal regulators not to renew the license for Indian Point. Moreover, when Cuomo's father, Mario, was governor of New York, he opposed the Shoreham nuclear power plant on the grounds that it would be impossible to evacuate Long Island in case of a mishap. In 1989, the Long Island Lighting Co., which built the $6 billion plant, agreed to decommission it even before it produced any significant amount of electricity.

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