WPCNR Morning Sun. By John F. Bailey. August 22, 2002: New York State Assemblywoman Naomi Matusow’s Forum on Indian Point at New Castle Town Hall in Chappaqua Thursday evening put into perspective the sobering choice the public faces about Indian Point.
CONCERNED NUCLEAR PHYSICIST, Dr. Jan Beyea, a nuclear physicist, with twenty years of experience accessing nuclear consequence and risk calculations, and Senior Scientist with Consulting in the Public Interest, of Lambertville, New Jersey, spoke about the best case/worst case Indian Point scenarios. His assessments of possible terrorist attacks on Indian Point, where even a very small release of radioactivity, is not worth the risk, in his opinion.
Photo by WPCNR
He urged the public to make its own decision on Indian Point, and not leave it up to government, regulatory agencies and politicians to make it for them. He called on county, state and federal government to convene an impartial panel of scientists and experts to hammer out an energy policy that would make bipartisan recommendations on the future of nuclear power plants and how the state, and, ultimately, the country can meet its energy needs without nuclear power.
No free lunch.
Candidly, he said there is “no free lunch,” for the energy consuming public. He rejected fossil fuel plants as an alternative power source because of their documented history of causing respiratory diseases by polluting the air. He said the public had to be realistic about considering natural gas pipelines, and purchasing electrical power off the “energy grid” at market prices to replace Indian Point capacity.
“The public has to grow up and make choices.”
He said he thought “cold shutdown” of Indian Point, would have “relatively minor impact,” and that replacing Indian Point power could be achieved by buying power off the national power grid.
Feels Entergy Is Compromised Because It Has to Make Plant Appear to Be Safe
He passionately admonished the audience that no one can be sure the Indian Point scenarios he described in his presentation, would not happen.
He said it was a “no brainer” that government should be studying now how they would handle a worst case Indian Point terrorist attack, where radiation spreads over a wide area, and his demeanor indicated his concern that such a study was not being done.
He said it was also a “No Brainer” to place fuel rods now in pools to dry casks, vastly reducing the danger of a fire, and pay Entergy, the owner of Indian Point for the costs of doing so, even for losses should it be decided to close the plant.
He called on the public to demand a national study to develop a plan to cope with a terrorist strike on Indian Point and its possible aftermath. Currently he said the National Academy of Sciences and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have not considered doing such a nuclear terror coping study.
UNITED IN CONCERN: Assemblywoman Naomi Matusow, with Dr. Beyea. Ms. Matusow said she was so impressed with Dr. Beyea’s presentation to county and state leaders last June 20, she invited him to present this forum because she felt the public should have a chance to hear his analysis. About 40 persons attended the talk in Chappaqua at New Castle Town Hall Wednesday night.
Photo by WPCNR
Matusow: Electrical Power Off National Grid Can Replace Indian Point Shortfall
Speaking after the meeting, Assemblywoman Matusow told WPCNR that Indian Point could be shut down and its power replaced by buying electricity off the national energy grid at market rates.
She said that while Indian Point 2 was shut down for eleven months, there was no power shortage, and prices only went up two cents after Indian Point 2 was brought back on line, as evidence for the ready availability of excess electric power without excessive price increases.
Ms. Matusow, asked if her recent call for an immediate shutdown of Indian Point in the news release for this forum was a change in her position, said it was not, that in November, 2001, she had called for Indian Point’s decommissioning.
Ms. Matusow said to her knowledge, the Assembly Energy Committee was not conducting any studies on the business of replacing Indian Point energy at this time, but she called on Governor George Pataki to take the lead in spearheading the feasibility of switching to alternative energy sources in New York Metropolitan area. She also said conservation measures had to be taken seriously by the public in event of an Indian Point “cold shutdown.”
TAKING WRITTEN QUESTIONS ONLY FROM THE AUDIENCE, Dr. Beyea answers a wide range of questions on the effects of Indian Point radiation plumes.
Photo by WPCNR
Dr. Beyea soberly spelled out the Indian Point risk of a radiation release from a terrorist attack.
He said he began to think seriously after 9/11, what a “knowledgeable terrorist group” might do to a reactor and spent fuel rod pool to spread terror.
Beyea took the media to task for revealing too much information which he feels actually makes the terrorist’s ability to attack Indian Point easier. He said “it is quite possible a terrorist attack will be spectacularly unsuccessful, but it may not.” Meanwhile, he said, the media is saving them time by writing and saying too much.
Warns About the It Cannot Happen Syndrome.
He cautioned about being over confident about Indian Point security, construction and ability to withstand a World Trade Center type of attack. He chillingly noted that on September 10, if you asked about the danger of a fire in the World Trade Center, or its ability to withstand an 747 crashing into it, might have been met with very reasonable assessments that the building was too strong, its fire extinguishing systems too widespread, and the likelihood of a plane crashing into it negligible.
The audience was very quiet when he finished that analogy.
He calculates that there is a 1-in-5 chance that a major attack would succeed, odds he said “are too high to ignore.”
Disputes Radiation Plume Drift Risk.
Dr. Beyea showing a complex series of charts noting the amount of deaths possible, depending on the amount of radiation drift. He commented wryly that we are told not to worry that any accident or release will be small, that plans in place will work, that authorities will have perfect information, even in a terrorist attack, that the spent fuel rod pool will not be breached, causing the fuel rods to overheat and burn.
He said that evacuation and response plans in place deal with only a small radiation release, but he pointed out that there could be multiple releases, wind shifts, that could spread the radiation over a much wider area than the 10 miles envisioned by the county evacuation plan. He also said a second wave of radioactivity would drift across the area within the first week, spread by wind.
Potassium Iodide should be taken 5 hours before a release to be maximum effective.
He noted that most deaths would occur from thyroid cancer, and said that immediate notification of a possible release was needed to make potassium iodide an effective antidote to the radiation in the air. He worried that warning of an Indian Point attack would not be given in time to make maximum use of the potassium iodide medication. Beyea called for more dosages of the drug to supplied to residents.
Anticipated deaths from “delayed excess cancer fatalities” in a worst case release, he estimates would be from 5,000 to 50,000 persons).
Panic Another Fallout from the Attack.
He grimly said that the region could be crippled for years, calling a bad release from a spent fuel rod pool fire “unthinkable,” with the radiation contaminating three times the area envisioned by the Evacuation Plan. He said the region would suffer a $100 billion loss for a start in such a “bad case.”
He said the panic, the inability to return home, with radiation “everywhere,” would be another awful side effect.
Calls for Beefing Up Response Plan; Cold Shutdown; Cask Storage.
Beyea completed his talk by beefing up the response plan, citing too much reliance on information from the Indian Point site. He said Entergy cannot be faulted for putting forth a case that the plant is safe and prepared for anything, because it is unfair to put them in the position of being “in conflict with their financial health.”
He urged supplying citizens with Hazmat masks (personal filter equipment), to avoid inhalation of radiation particles, by which radiation is absorbed by the thyroid gland.
He called for a National Research Council study of a response to a nuclear plant attack.He asked that the county and state continue to move ahead on measures to prepare for disaster and limit risk, even though Entergy and the National Research Council say the present plans is adequate and stronger measues unnecessary.
He warned officials and the public against being paralyzed by conflicting technical arguments, urging a balanced panel of experts.
What he Would Do.
His solution to the problem is to put Indian Point in “cold shutdown,” simply stopping the ongoing nuclear reaction for good. Cold shutdown, he reports, immediately begins to limit the amount of radiation created. He called for place fuel rods in small quantities in concrete casks, which he said will all but eliminate the danger of the fuel rods (now concentratede in the fuel pools) burning and releasing a steady radiation release.
Calls for the public to make the call.
Dr. Beyea’s final words to WPCNR, in chatting with him after the program, was his concern that the public act in its own self-interest, and not leave the decision on Indian Point up to the experts, or the government. He urged the public to evaluate the risks which he feels are enough to warrant a shutdown permanently.