The annual Nuclear Regulatory Commission hearing on the relicensing of the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan drew a packed and boisterous crowd of about 200 Thursday, many of whom carried signs or dressed up in costume.
The meeting, held at Tarrytown’s Doubletree hotel, gave citizens and elected officials on both sides of the contentious Indian Point debate a chance to air their concerns and directly address NRC officials.
Before members of the public and anti-nuclear activists spoke, elected officials and business leaders were given the opportunity to present their case to the NRC panel.
Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster said she acknowledges the safety dangers of her city’s proximity to the plant — specifically in terms of evacuation concerns — but appreciates the facility’s role as an economic engine and its parent company, Entergy’s, role in funding cultural programs.
“The lessons are about how to do better,” she said. “My request here is really to understand how [the Federal Emergency Management Agency], the NRC and the elected officials can work both on the first-responder matters and the emergency evacuations.”
But not all elected officials were in favor of relicensing the aging plant, like Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, the Democrat whose district covers the towns of Greenburgh and Mount Pleasant, as well as several nearby villages.
“Indian Point is an old car whose time has come,” Abinanti said. “So far we’ve been lucky, but for how long can we continue to bet before the house wins and we lose everything?”
Both politicians, as well as several other elected officials and business leaders who spoke — like Mount Vernon Councilman Richard Thomas and Business Council of Westchester President Marsha Gordon — were frequently interrupted by shouts of “Shut it down!” and “Keep it open!”
But the furor grew loudest when anti-nuclear activists took the microphone, like Spring Valley resident Susan Shapiro, who brought a Geiger counter with her and found herself in a shouting match with the event’s moderator over the length of her remarks.
Shapiro said the NRC must remember that their greatest responsibility is to protect those who live in Indian Point’s shadow, both those in the oft-discussed 10-mile radius and the approximately 25 million people who live in the plant’s 50-mile radius.
“This is a big and expensive plant, and we’re your insurers … not Entergy, not the government,” she said. “You work for us, not for anybody else.”
Michel Lee, with the Washington, D.C.-based Nuclear Information Resource Service, said she’s confident there was at least one individual on the NRC panel fighting behind the scenes to close Indian Point; she urged that hypothetical individual to keep working hard.
“You’re not going to get million-dollar jobs when you come out, but you’ll be saving millions of lives,” she said.
Responding to union representatives who held up signs with slogans like “Indian Point = Jobs,” anti-nuclear activist Marilyn Ellie of Cortlandt Manor said the safety of surrounding communities should take precedence over plant workers’ job security or factory pride.
“It’s old, it’s dangerous and it’s unnecessary,” she said. “It’s not a job factory. It’s a nuclear power plant.”