Joins County and Village Governments in Urging Safety Measure
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
The Philipstown Town Board last week added its voice to the growing grass-roots demand for greater public protection in the event of a radiation disaster and urged extension of the Indian Point nuclear power plant evacuation zone from 10 to 50 miles.
Operated by Entergy Corp., the Indian Point facility has been the focus of a burgeoning citizen-environmental-governmental movement, spurred by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan, where radiation spread 140 miles to threaten Tokyo’s water supply. Indian Point is located along the Hudson River at the edge of Peekskill, just beyond the Philipstown border.
The plant contains three nuclear reactors, two of which are active, with the third no longer in use. Critics contend that, among other serious safety hazards posed by Indian Point, the current 10-mile evacuation zone is dangerously inadequate.
Meeting in a workshop on June 12, the Town Board voted 3 to 1 in favor of the “Resolution for Public Health and Safety regarding Indian Point Nuclear Plant.” Supervisor Richard Shea and Councilors Nancy Montgomery and Dave Merandy backed the measure, Councilor John Van Tassel opposed it, and Councilor Betty Budney was absent following the death of her husband, Mackey Budney. (The Town Board consists of the supervisor and four council members, known as councilmen or councilwomen, or simply as councilors.)
In its resolution, the Town Board observed that after the Fukushima accident, President Barack Obama and Gregory Jaczko, then-Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, both called for evacuation of Americans in Japan within 50 miles of Fukushima.
Among other points it made, the resolution observed that reservoirs for Westchester County towns, Putnam County communities, and New York City lie within 20 miles of Indian Point and that a New York state-commissioned report found the state’s emergency plan for Indian Point “inadequate to protect the public from radiological exposure.” It declared that those deficiencies must be remedied; that better storage of spent nuclear fuel rods at Indian Point should be implemented, along with other upgrades; and that the “Town Board for the protection of its citizens calls for the emergency evacuation zone around Indian Point to be extended from 10 to 50 miles.”
The Putnam County Legislature passed a comparable resolution in April and in May overrode County Executive MaryEllen Odell’s veto of the measure. Likewise in May, Cold Spring’s Village Board of Trustees approved a resolution similar to the Town Board’s.
Indian Point falls under the jurisdiction of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Legislation approved at the village or county level thus imposes no clear constraints, although it makes a statement to higher-level regulators of grass-roots government concerns and gives nuclear safety advocates another tool for molding public opinion.