New York Governor Will Review Safety at Nuclear Plant

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that he wants to review information from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about safety of a nuclear plant that lies near a seismic fault line 35 miles north of Manhattan.

“Frankly, that was surprising to me,” Cuomo told reporters. “So that matter is a concern. We are going to check into it … immediately.”

The nuclear plant operator also announced Wednesday that it plans its own review.

Cuomo said his administration’s review will cover the Indian Point Energy Center on the Hudson River in suburban Westchester County. The plant is near the Ramapo Fault in New York, where substantial earthquakes are infrequent. Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto described the action as a review of data within the administration, rather than an order.

“This plant in this proximity to New York City was never a good risk,” the Democratic governor said. “But this is new information we are going to pursue.”

Entergy Nuclear company spokesman Jerry Nappi said the plant is built to safely shut down in the event of an earthquake of magnitude 6.0 or greater on the Richter scale, but can handle a much more severe quake. The plant is built to “withstand an earthquake greater in size than this area has ever experienced,” he said Wednesday.

“Indian Point is neither susceptible to the type of earthquake that occurred in Japan, nor the tsunami that followed that ultimately removed the cooling capability of the Japanese plant,” he said. “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.”

A 2008 analysis of recent earthquake activity around New York City, however, found that many small faults that were believed to be inactive could contribute to a major, disastrous earthquake.

The study’s authors, who work at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Observatory in Palisades, acknowledge that the biggest earthquakes — in the 6- or 7-magnitude range — are rare in the New York City region. They say a quake of magnitude 7 probably comes about every 3,400 years, but no one knows when the last one hit.

The NRC is reviewing a renewal application for Indian Point. Cuomo opposed the effort when he was state attorney general.