Lawmakers Blast NRC for Faulty Analysis of Pipeline Near Plants

Federal, state and county lawmakers criticized the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Friday following a report that the federal agency allegedly failed to properly analyze the safety risks of a natural gas pipeline being placed near the Indian Point nuclear power plants in Buchanan.

The report from the NRC Inspector General indicated that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relied upon NRC to assess the impacts of the pipeline that now traverses the Indian Point site as part of the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) project.

Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Westchester/Rockland), chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, called on NRC Chairman Kristine Svinicki to hold an immediate briefing in the wake of the Inspector General’s report’s release, stating the report is alarming considering the plants are slated to start being decommissioned next year.

“The IG findings show outrageous failings by an agency charged with the important responsibility of protecting the health and safety of our communities,” Lowey said. “This report indicates repeated failings to use proper analysis by the same commission that oversees the decommissioning of Indian Point. NRC must immediately explain to our communities the risks they face as a result of the agency’s faulty processes and take steps to protect the public from any dangers that have resulted from the pipeline’s approval and installation.”

State Senator Pete Harckham (D) reacted to the report by describing the NRC’s actions as a “colossal error that erodes public’s faith in good governance.”

“The chief responsibility of our government officials, through policy and action, is to safeguard our residents—and that’s it,” said Harckham. “But in this terrifying and unbelievable instance, the federal regulators involved with the approval process for the Algonquin pipeline project have failed all of us and put tens of thousands of lives at risk. Instead of carefully conducting a thorough examination of whether this pipeline should be situated under a nuclear power plant, with its decades of spent nuclear fuel roads in storage on site, they allowed industry to lead them by the nose to a desired conclusion.”

Several members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators also joined in on the NRC bashing.

“We are outraged by the findings of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Inspector General. The IG found serious irregularities in the NRC’s risk assessment in approving a 42-inch, high-pressure natural gas line crossing the Indian Point nuclear power plant property,” Board Chair Ben Boykin, Majority Leader MaryJane Shimsky, Legislator Colin Smith, Chair of the Board’s Committee on Public Safety, Legislator Catherine Borgia, Chair of the Board’s Committee on Budget & Appropriations, Legislator Catherine Parker, Chair of the Board’s Committee on Planning, Economic Development & Energy; and Legislator Nancy Barr, Chair of the Board’s Committee on Environment & Health, said in a joint statement.

“The Inspector General’s report raises profound concerns about the safety of that pipeline. It also raises issues about the integrity of the data and of the process the NRC relies on to assess risk.  This calls into question not only safety at the site, but also the integrity of future risk evaluations by the NRC as the decommissioning of Indian Point moves forward,” the legislators continued. “Mischaracterizing analyses, claiming analyses had been conducted which hadn’t, using software for purposes it wasn’t designed for, and other irregularities and mistakes detailed in the IG report are unconscionable.”

Jerry Nappi, spokesman for Entergy, owners of the plants, defended the analysis conducted for the pipeline.

“The safety of the plant, our employees and the community is our top priority. We are confident that the thorough pipeline assessment previously performed by Entergy’s independent engineering experts remains valid, and that safety of the plant is assured. However, Entergy has pledged to work cooperatively with the NRC and to provide any information needed as it completes the review ordered by its Chairman over the next several weeks,” Nappi stated.

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