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Cuomo "not surprised" by quake risk at Indian Point nuclear plant

Elephi Pelephi
via Flickr
Indian Point is the most vulnerable American nuclear plant to earthquakes, according to the NRC.

As the situation at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant continues to unfold Americans are looking inward at their own plants. 

New York Mag's Dan Amira reports that Indian Point, in the New York City metro area, is the nuclear power plant most at risk for an earthquake.  The governor's reaction:

Indian Point's operating license expires in 2013, and Governor Cuomo has said he doesn't think it should be renewed. With the plant's potential dangers now in focus because of the nuclear disaster in Japan, that's probably a battle he'll be happy to wage.

Cuomo also said yesterday that he's "not surprised" by the report.

Meanwhile the Senate queried Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials about the safety of domestic plants, and evacuations from dense areas like NYC was top of mind.  Brian Tumulty at Gannet reports that that issue is giving some members of congress pause:

Some members of New York's congressional delegation don't think such a massive evacuation is possible on a timely basis. Democratic Reps. Nita Lowey of Harrison and Eliot Engel of the Bronx say the crisis in Japan highlights the need to prevent relicensing the Indian Point reactors when their permits expire in 2013 and 2015. "In the wake of this catastrophe, we really have to evaluate carefully whether we are able to deal with a natural disaster or terrorist event at Indian Point or collateral issues like a loss of power or inability to cool fuel rods," Lowey said. Republican Rep. Nan Hayworth of Bedford, who lives near Indian Point, agreed that evacuating 15 million people "would be a challenge" but said there's an "exceedingly remote" chance it would be necessary. She described herself as "a supporter of the continued operation of Indian Point." The NRC requires nuclear power plants to prepare evacuation plans for only a 10-mile radius.

A professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell says the "worst environmental actor" coming from the Japanese plants is iodine 131.  That radioactive particle has the potential to spread through wind and to settle in the soil (Cornell University release via Newswise).

Cooling down

Bringing water levels up at the Japanese reactor has been an enormous logistical and engineering challenge for nuclear officials.  Next Big Future shared this video of Chinook helicopters dropping sea water on the reactor.  It's sort of mesmerizing - I recommend turning of the sound and listening to Simon & Garfunkel's "The Only Living Boy in New York" while you watch it.

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