Is this a sensationalist headline? No.
Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant is considered America’s most dangerous nuclear plant by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) as recent as 2011.
Over the weekend, we learned that radiation leaked out at Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County just 25 miles north of The Bronx border and New York City limits. The radiation leaked into its groundwater monitoring wells raising radiation levels by as much as 65,000%. That is not a typo.
65,000%. Let that sink in.
This isn’t the first time there’s an issue at Indian Point.
Congresswoman Nita Lowey, who represents the 17th congressional district covering parts of Westchester and Rockland Counties (Bronx born and raised, graduating from Bronx High School of Science, by the way) wrote Stephen Burns, chairman for the USNRC on this latest issue:
“This is merely the latest in a long history of safety lapses that pose significant risks to the health and safety of families and businesses in the area. In early 2005, traces of strontium-90 and tritium were detected in the ground under Indian Point and in the Hudson River. In May 2014, two groundwater monitoring wells detected spikes in the tritium levels in groundwater and bedrock under the plant. It is unacceptable that these leaks continue to occur. The NRC must take steps to address these leaks and prevent further contamination.”
To make matters worse and which adds to why USNRC calls this the most dangerous nuclear plant in America is that it sits atop a fault line which has a 1 in 10,000 chance of having a serious enough earthquake to cause damage to the plant.
We’ve seen what happened in Japan at Fukushima during the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster which devastated that region. 5 years later and there is a 12 mile radius exclusionary zone around the power plant to keep people out and protect the general population from exposure to radiation. That was originally at 50 miles or more which would place NYC within the zone with the exception of the southern half of Staten Island.
So with all these past and current issues, why is Indian Point still open? Why is it just 25 miles from America’s most populous city and within the country’s largest metropolitan area? New York City’s population alone at almost 8.5 million is more than twice that of the next largest city—Los Angeles with just over 3.9 million.
Should a similar disaster occur as with Japan’s Fukushima (and note that one of the major reasons Indian Point is considered to be the most dangerous is that it was not designed to be earthquake proof—Fukishima and California ones are).
As Congresswoman Lowey said, “Indian Point would never have been licensed in such a highly populated area had it been proposed today. ”
How many people are at risk should a major disaster strike the plant? Based on the 2010 census:
- 5 miles: 83,398
- 10 miles: 272,969
- 15 miles: 684,580
- 25 miles: 2,193,542
- 50 miles: 17,287,412
Let’s not forget the numerous watersheds that supply drinking water to over 9 million residents of New York City, and Westchester, Putnam, Ulster, and Orange County (The Croton Watershed sits within a 25 mile radius of Indian Point).
Some public officials may tell you that everything is ok but the fact remains that it is time to close Indian Point once and for all. We can do better and need to protect the tens of millions of citizens of the region not to mention the economic engine that fuels this country that is New York City.