Indian Point 'emergency' on Tuesday to put county leaders to the test
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"There is a problem at Indian Point."
That is the approximate wording of an email and voice message (prefaced by "This is a drill") that will be sent Tuesday morning to scores of officials for New York State and Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Putnam counties.
They will be participating in an annual federally mandated drill to test preparedness in case of an emergency at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan. More than 200 people will take part, said Jerry Nappi, a spokesman for Entergy, which runs the plant.
After receiving the message, officials, including the county executives of the four counties, will bolt into action in a daylong exercise evaluated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The drill is designed to gauge how effectively plant operators and government leaders can evaluate scenarios, reach a decision and communicate to the public.
FEMA devises unique scenarios to test how government agencies implement emergency plans that have been approved previously by federal overseers. Scenarios run the gamut from terrorist infiltration to mechanical problems to an accidental release of a radioactive plume.
County executives Rob Astorino of Westchester, C. Scott Vanderhoef of Rockland, Edward Diana of Orange and MaryEllen Odell of Putnam will converge on an emergency operations center off the Sprain Brook Parkway in Hawthorne.
Meanwhile, plant operators will confront the emergency at a control room simulator, a duplicate of the real control room at the Indian Point site, Nappi said. Executives of Entergy also will be monitored and judged on how they respond to the issues and inform government officials, who would make any decisions about evacuating all or part of the 10-mile zone around the plant.
"Each nuclear plant in the U.S. has a simulator," Nappi said. "Operators are trained in a simulator and classroom setting. It's akin to a flight simulator that a pilot would use."
Entergy is seeking to secure 20-year license extensions for the two nuclear reactors at Indian Point. The current licenses expire in 2013 and 2015, respectively.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will begin conducting hearings on whether to renew the licenses beginning Oct. 15.
Meanwhile, critics, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, argue the plant should be closed and that a mass evacuation about 40 miles from Times Square is unrealistic.