State Lawmakers Condemn NRC for Weakening Indian Pt. Safety Rules

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By Rick Pezzullo

State Senator Pete Harckham and State Assemblywoman Sandy Galef condemned the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in a letter for downgrading safety standards at the closed Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan.

The NRC recently announced it had approved a proposed rule to amend agency regulations for nuclear power plants transitioning from operations to decommissioning, such as Indian Pt. Current NRC regulations establish safety requirements for the commercial operation of nuclear plants. However, the regulations do not reflect, according to the NRC, lower safety hazard following removal of fuel from the reactor during decommissioning.

As a result, the NRC has allowed incremental changes to various requirements, including emergency preparedness, through exemptions and license amendments. The proposed rule would implement specific regulatory requirements for those steps.

“This regulation incorporates lessons learned from plants that have already transitioned to decommissioning and will establish clear and transparent requirements for the future,” NRC Chairman Christopher Hanson stated. “I am convinced that the proposed approach will provide adequate protection while improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the decommissioning regulatory framework.”

Harckham and Galef renewed their calls for continued vigilance by on-site NRC safety inspectors, who the agency plans to withdraw soon. Harckham and Galef said the NRC is ignoring the fact that nuclear spent fuel will continue to be handled during the decade-long decommissioning process and stored on-site for the near future.

“As the legislators representing the Indian Point community, we are deeply disappointed that the NRC plans to downgrade safety standards at nuclear power plants currently undergoing decommissioning,” Harckham said. “We strongly disagree with the NRC’s view that nuclear plants in the decommissioning process pose a lesser danger than operating plants.”

“While Indian Point is no longer in operation, the nuclear materials stored there continue to pose a significant danger for all the same reasons as when the plant was operational,” Galef said. “In fact, the existing hazards are exacerbated by the heavy demolition work that will occur on the site.”

Harckham and Galef said the top concern of residents living near Indian Point is that the heavy decommissioning work will be conducted while multiple high-pressure gas pipelines continue to operate on the site. The legislators called on the NRC and other federal agencies to assess the catastrophic consequences of a gas line rupture and explosion while also devising the necessary precautions to prevent any such horrific incidents.

Once staff has revised the proposed rule as directed by the NRC, it will be published in the Federal Register, which triggers a 75-day public comment period.

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