A.G. Schneiderman Faults Nuclear Regulatory Commission For Proposing To Allow Fire Safety Violations At Indian Point To Continue

NRC Proposes Incomplete, Voluntary, And Unenforceable Measures To Address Indian Point’s Ongoing Violations Of Federal Fire Safety Requirements

Schneiderman: NRC's Failed Approach Fuels Lingering Questions About The Plant's Safety And That Of The 17 Million People In Close Proximity To It

NEW YORK-- Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced his opposition to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC's) proposed resolution of his petition for enforcement of federal fire safety requirements at the Indian Point facility in Westchester County. Schneiderman's petition, filed in March 2011, asked the NRC to identify all fire safety violations at Indian Point and compel immediate compliance. Federal fire safety regulations were established in 1980 to ensure nuclear power plants would be able to shut down safely during and after a fire emergency.

In comments he submitted to the NRC opposing the proposed resolution, the Attorney General demonstrates that the proposal fundamentally fails to ensure fire safety at Indian Point because it does not require the identification and correction of all violations of fire safety requirements at the facility. Further, the limited compliance actions proposed by the NRC would correct only those fire safety problems previously identified, and the obligation to correct is, in fact, voluntary, unenforceable, and will not be achieved by a date certain. Finally, the Attorney General faults the NRC proposal for failing to impose a monetary penalty for allowing known fire safety violations to continue for years.   

"Federal fire safety requirements were established to keep nuclear power plants secure in the event of a fire emergency," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "However, for over 30 years, and with a 'wink and a nod' from the NRC, Indian Point has ignored its responsibility to comply fully with these critical safety requirements. The NRC is now proposing to continue this shameful tradition by failing to force Indian Point to ensure that all violations of federal fire safety requirements are promptly eliminated. The NRC's failed approach fuels lingering questions about Indian Point's safety and that of the 17 million people who live and work in close proximity to it."

On March 28, 2011, Attorney General Schneiderman filed a petition with the NRC to take enforcement action against Indian Point for failing to comply with long-standing federal fire safety regulations established to ensure nuclear power plants would be able to shut down safely during and after a fire emergency. The petition asked the NRC to identify all fire safety violations at Indian Point and then require the facility to immediately correct them. In addition, the petition asked the NRC to deny the over 100 exemptions from these critical safety requirements that had been requested by Indian Point. In February 2012, in an action separate from the petition, the NRC sided with Attorney General Schneiderman and rejected the great majority of the fire safety exemptions sought by Indian Point.  

On July 2, 2012, the Director of the NRC's Division of Operating Reactor Licensing responded to Attorney General Schneiderman's petition, in the form of a "Proposed Director's Decision."  In the Decision, the NRC proposes to resolve the petition by accepting Indian Point's voluntary schedule to correct only those fire safety violations which were not granted an exemption by the Commission in February.

In the comments he submitted to the NRC Thursday in opposition to the proposal, Attorney General Schneiderman argues that, due to its multiple, fundamental deficiencies, the proposal fails to ensure that all fire safety violations at Indian Point will be eliminated. Deficiencies include:  

  • Failing to commit NRC to the identification and correction of all fire safety violations at Indian Point;
  • For those violations that the Commission does identify and require correction, failing to set  a schedule for compliance that is both mandatory and enforceable; and
  • Failing to set a date by which Indian Point must be in full compliance with all fire safety requirements.

The Attorney General also faults the proposed resolution for failing to impose any monetary penalties against Indian Point's owner, Entergy, for its 20 years of non-compliance with federal fire safety requirements at Unit 2 and Unit 3.  

"New Yorkers deserve nothing less than a full, fair and open examination of numerous critical questions about the safety of Indian Point before any decisions are made about its relicensing," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "Clearly, questions about Indian Point's fire security, and its ability to shut down safely during and after an emergency, need to be completely addressed and resolved."

Attorney General Schneiderman has taken a number of highly successful  actions aimed at improving safety at Indian Point that also have important benefits for nuclear power plant security nationwide. For example:

  • In June 2012, the Attorney General won a landmark victory in a lawsuit against the NRC challenging its finding that the long-term storage of radioactive waste at the nation’s nuclear power plants is safe and has no significant environmental impacts. This decision means that the NRC cannot license or relicense any nuclear power plant -- including Indian Point -- until it examines the consequences of long-term storage of nuclear waste at the power plants.  
  • In July 2011, Attorney General Schneiderman won a landmark ruling by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board ordering the Commission staff to complete a legally-required analysis of Indian Point’s severe accident mitigation measures before a relicensing decision is made. In December of that year, the NRC rejected a move by Entergy to reverse that decision. 

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General John Sipos, Janice Dean, and Charlie Donaldson of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Janet Sabel.

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