Friday, April 15, 2011

Ramapo Fault Possible Threat to Indian Point Energy Center; a New Concern

By John Clancey

Nuclear energy has long held a place at the boundaries of man’s imagination. The raw destruction and overwhelming energy produced by nuclear fission does not come without its risks. Tragedies such as the bombing of Hiroshima and the disaster at Chernobyl remain painful reminders of the awesome power held within atomic energy. Recently, safety regulations regarding nuclear facilities the world over have been called into question. The recent Japanese nuclear crisis, where reactors teetered on the verge of meltdown, has sent up warning flags regarding atomic facilities both at home and abroad. The possibility of meltdown via natural disasters is a chilling prospect that has more than a few Americans’ losing sleep.

The Indian Point nuclear power plant, located thirty eight miles north of New York City, remains a top concern for residents of New York and New Jersey. For years the plant has operated with little notoriety, providing thirty percent of the power diverted to New York City and Westchester County. Owned and operated by Entergy Nuclear Northeast, the plant utilizes two operating reactors built between 1974 and 1976.The reactors, designated Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3, produce 2000 megawatts and employ 1,683 workers in their operation. However, despite the facilities uneventful history, recent discoveries regarding fault lines gives officials’ new reason for concern.

Researchers from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have located a previously active seismic zone running from Connecticut, into the Hudson Valley, and under the plant. The fault, appropriately dubbed “The Ramapo Fault” proves a serious concern regarding the possibility of nuclear catastrophe. If such an incident was to occur along this fault, the consequences would be horrific. "Frankly, that was surprising to me," stated New York’s Governor Cuomo. "One normally doesn't think of earthquakes and New York in the same breath."

Officials at the plant stress that speculations of these kinds are completely ungrounded. "… only if a tsunami could make its way up New York Harbor and the Hudson River, somehow avoid New York City, and drench our plant," said Jim Streets, director of communications at Entergy Nuclear Northeast. "It just doesn't seem very realistic to me," continued Streets, who claimed the chances of a rector failing in this manner are minuscule at best. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which regulates the plants, reassures citizens that the facility is built to withstand an earthquake measuring a 6.1, larger than any quake ever recorded in the area.

Still, despite reassuring words from plant officials, the risk of nuclear fallout in one of the densest areas of the nation is more than enough to keep citizens on their toes. "It should be closed,” Gov. Cuomo continued. “This plant in this proximity to the city was never a good risk." Supporters of the plants closing may be in luck as the NRC announced recently that the plants operating licenses are up for review in 2013 and 2015. "We're going to do a systematic and methodical review of the information,” stated an NRC spokesperson. “If we need to make changes to our program, we'll make changes."

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