Activists Note Concerns About Indian Point on Chernobyl Anniversary

Counties ringing the Indian Point nuclear power plant are prepared to mobilize and evacuate residents in the event of a Chernobyl-like disaster, but some activists are concerned that their logistics may be flawed.

NBC 4 examined Indian Point evacuation plans on the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the former USSR and found that some people are concerned that the planning is inadequate.

The federal government mandates a 10-mile evacuation zone around the facility.

Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Orange counties are within the mandated evacuation zone.

But activists argue that the existing zone fails to take into account that the Indian Point plant has the highest population density of any nuclear facility in the United States.

"Beyond 10 miles, I don't think one jurisdiction had a radiological plan specific to Indian Point," said Ben Smilowitz, executive director of the Disaster Accountability Project. The Maryland-based nonprofit issued a report about the plan a year ago.

Smilowitz is among those who worry that communities outside the 10-mile evacuation zone have no plan for responding to an Indian Point disaster. And that could create massive bottlenecks on escape routes.

"If the people from the jurisdictions outside the 10-mile zone are evacuating themselves, then the roads are going to be full of people from that," he said. "It will be harder for people within the 10-mile zone to get out."

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Indian Point management maintain that the current size of the emergency planning zones is appropriate.

"Based on our inspection activities, as well as FEMA evaluations, the NRC continues to determine the emergency plans for Indian Point are appropriate to protect the public in a radiological emergency,” the agency said.

Entergy Nuclear, which operates the Indian Point facility, told NBC 4 that it has a comprehensive emergency plan and conducts drills to ensure the plan works.

"In the unlikely event of an accident, the public will be informed and protected,” the company said.

Activists have called for the zones to be expanded to 50 miles. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has said she supports the idea.

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