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Indian Point Operators Respond To Pipeline Foes' Safety Stands

Foes of Spectra's gas pipeline project hold a protest in Cortlandt recently. A group known as Physicians for Social Responsibility held a tour of the project's site near the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan Tuesday.
Foes of Spectra's gas pipeline project hold a protest in Cortlandt recently. A group known as Physicians for Social Responsibility held a tour of the project's site near the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan Tuesday. Photo Credit: Resist Spectra/Facebook

BUCHANAN, N.Y. --  Calling evacuation and other emergency plans inadequate, a group of health and safety experts Tuesday demanded that Spectra Energy abort its Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) gas pipeline project.

Representatives of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) led a tour of the siting of the 42-inch pipeline, which, they said was “only 105 feet from vital structures at the aging Indian Point nuclear power plant.”

Jerry Nappi, a spokesman for Entergy, Tuesday called the group’s assertions “absolutely false” and “overheated rhetoric.”

Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Earth Institute at Columbia University, and Paul Blanch, a nuclear power expert, warned that a pipeline failure that close to the Entergy facility would cause a catastrophe “worse than the Fukushima nuclear disaster.”

The “vital” structure to which the PSR was referring, Nappi said, is a electrical substation across the road from the Buchanan plant.

The pipeline itself is a quarter mile, or 1,320 feet, from the plant itself, he said.

The substation has, Nappi said, “zero effect on Indian Point’s safety.”

If the substation went down, like it did during the great Northeast outage of 2003, all that would mean is Indian Point would not be able to send power to the grid, Nappi said.

He emphasized that Entergy does not own the pipeline.

Initially, he said, Spectra wanted to site the pipeline closer to the plant’s property, but moved it farther away at Entergy’s request.

Furthermore, Nappi said, Entergy’s blast analysis experts found that the pipeline would have “no effect on nuclear safety.”

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) reviewed the experts’ study and agreed with their findings, Nappi said.

PSR, however, insisted Tuesday that safety experts have submitted “numerous documents” to both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the NRC and other state and federal agencies that reflect “serious concerns” about “the lack of pipeline thermodynamics expertise” and about the “complete absence” of independent risk, health and safety assessments of the project.

They also said requests by public officials and safety experts for emergency protocols “indicate no evidence of planning for a pipeline rupture or explosion adjacent to the nuclear plant.”

Nappi, calling the charges “absolutely untrue,” said that Entergy conducts emergency planning drills at least six times a year.

Every six weeks, the plant’s control room operators are asked to practice emergency responses to scenarios that can range from hurricanes and tornadoes to earthquakes and a pipeline rupture, Nappi said.

Entergy has worked with Spectra on extra safety measures like concrete mats that are placed over the pipeline that would prevent anyone digging in the area from accidentally piercing the pipeline, he said.

Redlener, in a press release following the tour, pointed to the population density surround Indian Point and the potential for “catastrophic consequences” should the pipeline fail.

“It is imperative that these plans be aborted now,” said Redlener, who is a professor of health policy and management at Columbia University.

Blanch accused the NRC of underestimating the probability of a gas line accident impacting Indian Point “by at least a factor of 1000.”

He also charged the federal agency and Entergy with failing to “provide any supportable documentation that Indian Point can safely shut down the plants in the event of a gas line rupture.”

Once the pipeline goes live, Blanch said, “there will be a grave and imminent danger to the surrounding area and residents.”

Spectra said Tuesday that its pipeline system "has been operating safely in the area for more than 60 years."

Its existing pipelines across the Indian Point property "have operated safely without incident," according to spokeswoman Marylee Hanley.

The company worked with Entergy to determine an "agreed-upon location" for the pipeline and also agreed that the pipeline would be "designed and constructed with additional safety measures, above and beyond what is required by federal law," Hanley said.

She added that Entergy and the NRC "provided a thorough review of the AIM Project pipeline, including the additional construction and design features, as well as an on-site review and came to the conclusion that the installation of the AIM Project pipeline would pose minimal or no increased risk to the safe operation of Indian Point."

The NRC conveyed those conclusions to FERC, which acknowledged the findings, and concluded that: “Because of the distance of the proposed project from the IPEC generating facilities and the avoidance and mitigation measures that it would implement, the proposed route would not pose any new safety hazards to the IPEC facility” in its approval of the AIM Project, Hanley said.

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