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New York attorney general urges seismic study of nuclear plant

By Deborah Brunswick, CNN
The Indian Point nuclear power plant is 35 miles north of Manhattan.
The Indian Point nuclear power plant is 35 miles north of Manhattan.
  • Indian Point reactor, north of Manhattan, is up for renewed license in 2013
  • Official demands nuclear agency amend regulations on reviewing plants
  • Nuclear commission says all operating nuclear plants are safe

New York (CNN) -- In the wake of the current nuclear crisis in Japan, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Friday that the federal government must conduct a seismic study of the Indian Point nuclear power plant before it renews its operating license.

In an open letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the agency in charge of nuclear safety, Schneider demanded that it amend its regulations to include seismicity when reviewing facilities for relicensing.

"It's beyond troubling that at the same time the federal government acknowledges increased seismic safety risks at some nuclear power plants in this country, it refuses to fully and openly assess these specific risks to Indian Point as part of its relicensing process," Schneiderman said.

Japan is focused on potential disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which was severely damaged in last week's magnitude-9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

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Indian Point, a nuclear facility about 35 miles north of Manhattan, has two nuclear reactors; one is up for relicensing in 2013. If approved, the license would be extended to 20 years.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission claims that Indian Point is not dangerous, stating recently that all "operating nuclear power plants are safe and that every plant is designed with a margin of safety beyond the strongest earthquake anticipated in the area."

In addition, according to the Indian Point website, the nuclear facility "is designed to withstand an earthquake greater in size than the area has ever experienced."

However, the commission has also recently released a report indicating an increased vulnerability to seismic risk among some U.S. power plants.

"Whether or not you support the relicensing of Indian Point, we can all agree that we must answer the health, safety and environmental questions affecting the nearly 20 million people living in close proximity to that facility before making any relicensing decisions," Schneiderman said.

This is not the first time the state of New York has asked the commission to include seismic analysis in its relicensing criteria. The group rejected a similar request in 2007. Nevertheless, over the next 30 days, as part of an industry initiative, Indian Point will be performing a comprehensive review of the plant's ability to respond to catastrophic events.

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