The Indian Point nuclear power plant will be the first in the country to undergo a review of seismic risk by federal regulators, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.
The announcement came after members of the Cuomo administration, including Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, met with officials from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) at the agency's Maryland headquarters.
"Indian Point will be the NRC's top priority and will be reviewed first among the 27 plants that are being reviewed by the NRC," Duffy said, adding that he did not know when the review would take place.
According to a report released last fall Indian Point, which lies near the Ramapo fault line, is than any other nuclear plant in the eastern or central United States. That fact has come into focus in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan that destroyed the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.
Cuomo, a longtime vocal opponent of Indian Point, has repeatedly called for the NRC to deny the plant's reactors new licenses when the current ones expire in 2013 and 2015.
"My position has been that the plant is risky and should not operate, and that being said I was surprised to hear of the significant seismic risk," Cuomo told reporters on Tuesday.
The freshman governor went on to say that he took issue not only with Indian Point, but with the NRC's entire process of reviewing nuclear sites.
"They don't take a whole new look. They see it more as an update on the physical plant capacity," he said. "Things have happened, the world has changed."
The NRC has also agreed to share seismic data with state officials and include members of Cuomo's cabinet in on-site inspections of the Westchester plant.
Officials from Entergy, the company that owns the plant, discussed a range of issues with county legislators at a committee meeting on Monday.
John McCann, the company's vice president for nuclear safety, insisted that Indian Point could not face a disaster similar to that in Japan. But he did concede that federal regulators will likely force an overhaul of procedures designed to mitigate fallout from an earthquake.
“I have no doubt there will be changes we make in response to this event,” McCann said, adding "we need to be careful about not moving too quickly."
At that meeting, lawmakers repeatedly raised concerns about the effectiveness of current evacuation plans, which only cover a 10-mile radius. About 18 million people live within 50 miles of Indian Point.
Legislator Peter Harckham (D-Katonah) said that he was evacuated during the 1979 meltdown at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania, and that the plan "didn't work."
"When I hear about evacuation, whether it's 10 miles or 50 miles, I personally don't have a lot of confidence," he said.
Cuomo on Tuesday echoed Harckham's concerns.
"Evacuation, I don't believe, is even a feasible concept when you're talking about this plant, in this area, with this [population] density," he said.