We all remember last weeks monumentally frightening steam pipe explosion in New York City, and the instant fears of another 9/11. Mayor Bloomberg was quick to rush to the airwaves with the message it was not a terrorist attack, but a simple infrastructure failure. In the aftermath, we have learned it was the simple failure of a steam pipe recently inspected by Con Ed. You know, one of the companies, much like Entergy that owned and mismanaged Indian Point for a period of time.
Eye witnesses stated the massive explosion felt like a volcano going off, and the hole created was large enough to swallow a tow truck, as debris, including concrete and asbestos rained down upon those unfortunate enough to be close to this instant hell on earth as hot scalding steam raced towards the heavens. Numerous people were injured, two seriously, and one person was killed instantly.
The best analogy for this accident, is that one fear was allayed, while another was created for those with reasonable minds. The explosion, the failure of infrastructure was not another terrorist attack on New York City. The new fear though, is Indian Point has a lot of aged, failing steam pipes buried underground at the Indian Point nuclear reactor site that is leaking tritium and strontium 90 into the Hudson River, just a scant 24 miles up the river from New York.
Entergy has a license renewal application pending with the NRC for these ancient nuclear relics, wants permission to continue operating Indian Point for another 24 years in the name of a Nuclear Renaissance. The only real issue that the NRC allows citizens to discuss regarding this application, is the adequacy of Entergy's Aging Management Plan...which in short, amounts to a series of inspections, very similar to the one Con Edison performed on New York's exploding steam pipe in downtown Manhattan just before it exploded. Even more disturbing, is many of the pipes that run under Indian Point are BURIED in concrete, with no way of accessing them for inspection. Much the same reality exists with many of the failing weld joints hidden deep within the bowels of the reactors themselves, Entergy staff at best is playing guess work as they listen to ever changing ultrasonic sounds. Known issues of equipment failure, violations of NRC regulations are swept under the carpet time and again as the NRC grants exemptions to their regulations meant to protect human health and the environment with the issuance of generic findings.
Mayor Bloomberg's assurances of "just failing infrastructure" carry with them a potentially dire and disturbing warning. Obviously, a similar event, a matching steam pipe explosion at the poorly run and mismanaged Indian Point would bring with it far more catastrophic repercussions than last weeks explosion in New York City. After all, we already know of numerous leaks at the Entergy owned reactor site that cannot be pinpointed, found and repaired. We also are very well aware that Indian Point, much like the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant owned by TEPCO sits atop an earthquake fault line. Couple these known and serious issues with known cracks in the reactor domes, and rusting steel liners, one has to wonder what the NRC is thinking in even considering the relicense of such a trouble plagued reactor site sitting smack dab in the middle of 21 million people.
Both Entergy and the NRC attempt to placate the citizens of the host community here in the four county area (Westchester, Orange, Rockland and Dutchess) with false assurances of strict oversight, and a sound evacuation plan should a significant nuclear incident or terrorist attack affect the Indian Point facility. These false promises at best are a cruel hoax on our community, and on every community playing host to these ancient nuclear relics. At this years Annual Assessment Meeting for the Indian Point facility, Sam Collins of the NRC grudgingly admitted to the audience that in the case of a fast moving event and/or terrorist attack at Entergy's failing reactor site, the evacuation plan would not work, and instead citizens would be sheltered in place until it was safe to evacuate. The DeWitt report commissioned by then Governor Pataki has already proven the evacuation plan is fundamentally flawed, so sheltering was and is the only possible option for our citizens.
Sheltering in place amounts to having citizens hiding in their basements with a small cache of basic survival supplies, such as water and pre-packaged food stuffs, and a radio that works on battery power. The NRC suggests having enough supplies to last for three days, but our government's State Department web site has a completely different criteria, suggesting citizens could be sheltered in place for three weeks or more in the case of a serious nuclear incident. Far more disturbing, is information found on the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) website regarding sheltering in place. According to their internal study on sheltering, citizens hiding in a wood frame or brick home in a concrete basement would only be afforded a 40 percent level of protection during a nuclear incident...no basement, and this level of protection drops to a dismal 10 percent. How many citizens live in trailer parks similar to the one located on Route 9 just a few miles from Indian Point?
Just a simple infrastructure failure...America's 104 aged and failing reactors are reaching the end of their originally designed 40 year life span. Many of the companies that manufactured parts for these relics are long gone, replacement parts, like hens teeth hard to find. The NRC has admitted they have little knowledge of the aging effects of reactors being bombarded by radioactive particulates, yet in the name of a Nuclear Renaissance want to play Russian Roulette with the safety and health of 67 host communities here in America. That bursting steam pipe in downtown New York must be a wake up call for the citizens of New York. With the lives of 21 million people at stake, we cannot risk having Indian Point operating in our midst for another 20 years. Hear the warning, heed the call and get plugged in too the actions aimed at stopping the license renewal application. Only through citizen involvement and outrage can we get Washington, DC and the NRC to listen, only through citizen action can we see Entergy's application denied.