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Entergy: Meltdown Such as in Japan Highly Unlikely Here
As nuclear fears persist in Japan following a massive earthquake and devastating tsunami, some Westchester residents have been questioning whether or not such a thing could happen here.
Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner is expressing his concern. He points out that power plants that are experiencing a crisis in Japan are located on an earthquake fault as are the Indian Point nuclear power plants.
He cites a 2008 report authored by Dr. Lynn R. Sykes, with the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, who says Indian Point was built at an intersection of two active seismic zones. In his report, Sykes concluded "Large quakes are infrequent around New York compared to more active areas like California and Japan," but says "The risk is high because of the overwhelming concentration of people and infrastructure." Sykes' co-author, John Armbruster says magnitude 5 quakes along the Ramapo Seismic Zone, could cause a "Significant amount of damage" due to the population density in the area.
"Indian Point," he says, "Is situated at the intersecton of the two most striking linear features marking the seismicity and also in the midst of a large population that is at risk in case of an accident."
Entergy Spokesman Jim Steets disagreed, and played down the risk of significant damge or even a core meltdown as might be occuring in Japan. "There are two things that are unique in Japan that we don't have here and that is Japan is prone to significant earthquakes like we've seen, as well as the following tsunami, that has really wreaked havoc on those two plants there. Those are two conditions that either don't exist here or are present here in small ways," said Steets.
He went on to add, "The other thing is that Indian Point, like other nuclear power plants across the country, are designed with seismic protections. In fact, Indian Point's design includes seismic protections far greater than has ever been experienced in this area. In addition, Indian Point was build on bedrock, which provides additional protection."
Steets says U.S. plants are built with numerous redundancies so that if there are failures of cooling systems or electrical systems or power supplies there are other cooling or electrical systems available as backup.
"So I think we are in a much better position in terms of our ability to protect ourselves against these events and we would not expect events that occured in Japan to be nearly as signifcant or as devastating as what we've seen," said Steets.
Congressman Edward Markey(D-Mass,) the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee and a senior Democratic member of the House Energy and Committee yesterday warned that a nuclear accident such as the one currently unfolding in Japan could easily take place in the United States.
Markey, who has served for 36 years on the House committees that have oversight over the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), called for specific policies to be put in place in light of the current Japanese nuclear reactor crisis.
--Imposing a moratorium on siting new nuclear reactors in seismically active areas.
--Requiring operating reactors located in seismically active zones to be retrofitted with stronger containment and more resilient safety systems
--Requiring top-to-bottom review of whether design flaws in the impacted Japanese reactors contributed to problems in the aftermath of the earthquake. One of the Reactors affected is the Fukushima Daiichi, a General Electric Boiling Water Reactor with Mark Containment, the same type as 23 reactors in the United States.
And, Markey is also calling for a review of whether backup power and reactor coolant systems are adequate in the United States to deal with prolonged power outaages associated with earthquakes, acts of terrorism or other major disasters.
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