CHERNOBYL-ON-THE-HUDSON

Indian Point: New York City's Nuclear Reactor

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THERE ARE TWO NUCLEAR REACTORS ON LINE RIGHT NOW
THAT ARE THREE TIMES CLOSER TO NEW YORK CITY
THAN CHERNOBYL IS TO KIEV

There is justified fear of a Chernobyl-like accident in the United States. Yet it is also important to keep in mind that even the routine functioning of nuclear reactors constantly damages our health. Since 1976 there have been two operating nuclear reactors just north of Yonkers - reactors that have been plagued by technical problems and accidents. These reactors are the Indian Point nuclear power plants.

The Croton and Kensico reservoirs, which supply almost all the water to New York City, are only four and 12 miles downwind of Indian Point. A portion of the routine emissions of radiation and radioactive substances go into our drinking water.

Chernobyl deposited over 100 Pico-curies per liter of Iodine 131 in rainwater in New York, as measured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Milk has 1/5 to of what rainwater has. Therefore, a quart of milk in New York had as much radiation as 10 to 20 x-rays. NOAA reports that as being "no threat". Chernobyl radiation traveled several thousand miles and has been found in New York City. The U.S. Government officially believes that people more than ten miles from a reactor are safe and everyone else is in almost no danger. That is how government agencies and utilities can swear that nuclear power is safe. They mislead. They lie.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is officially responsible for monitoring Chernobyl radiation in the U.S. Since their filtering system only measures particles (not gases), their figures are only 1/9 of the actual amounts. Furthermore, they only measured Iodine 131, not other more dangerous elements.

 

HERE ARE SOME QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON INDIAN POINT

How dangerous is Indian Point even if there's no accident?
How dangerous is Indian Point's radiation?
Does Indian Point pollute the Hudson River?
What happens to Indian Point's nuclear waste?
What happens if there is an accident?
How many accidents has Indian Point already had?
Can we trust the nuclear industry in the event of an accident?
What is the difference between U.S. and Ukrainian nuclear reactors?
Will insurance help me recover from a nuclear accident?
Do the government agencies really protect us?
Is Indian Point a target in nuclear war?
Is Indian Point a terrorist target?
Is nuclear power really cheaper?
Would we still have electricity if Indian Point were shut down?
Where Does the Nuclear Industry Get Its Uranium?
Interesting Quotations about Nuclear Power
What Can I Do?
Other sources for Routine Release information

 

How dangerous is Indian Point even if there's no accident?
(Graphic: Susanna Natti, from No Nukes, South End Press)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has publicly stated that thousands of deaths from non-accidental, routine releases of radiation are acceptable in the nuclear fuel cycle nationwide. (Federal Register 46 FR 39580)

When the plants first opened, both Indian Point reactors released radioactive gases to the air for one to two hours twice a day (Atomic Energy Commission, Sep 3, 1974). That was changed to every two weeks, but is now back to several times every week. (800) 822-9602 for IP2 (800) 473-8855 for IP3. The numbers often do not work.

Different types of emissions are treated separately so that "allowable standards" of each seem low. Particles have one standard, gases another, liquids another, gamma radiation another, beta radiation another. The standards are even more deadly when added together. Accidents are never figured into the total amount of radiation a nuclear plant is "allowed" to emit to the public. Emission standards assume people living near a nuclear plant will not be exposed to both the air and the water contaminated by the plant. They do not say how this can be possible.

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How dangerous is Indian Point's radiation? (Graphic from No Nukes, South End Press)

Government, university and independently sponsored studies have all shown that there is no minimum safe level of radiation exposure - the lowest dose damages our health. In fact, current research indicates that many low doses are much more dangerous than one large dose. "The scientific community assumes there is no threshold below which there is no risk and urges that any exposure to radiation be kept to the lowest possible level." (General Accounting Office report to Senator John Glenn, August 24, 1982).

At 80% operating capacity, Indian Point produces as much radioactive material every year (waste, emissions and spillage) as 1,470 Hiroshima-sized bombs. Every month that Indian Point operates, cancer and birth defects increase in our region. General health declines. Indian Point produces 400 - 500 pounds of plutonium per year (Dr. Helen Caldicott, Dr. John Gofman, Dr. Ernest Sternglass, Dr. Michio Kaku).

Four of the more dangerous routine by-products of reactors like Indian Point are Iodine 131, Cesium 137, Strontium 90 and Tritium. All four are released from both Indian Point reactors every other week and enter the soil and water, then plants and animals, traveling the food chain to humans. These elements concentrate in blood cells, bone, muscles, genitals and glands. But the NRC does not mention Strontium 90 in monitoring guidelines. The NRC is supposed to be responsible for nuclear safety.

Tritium is released both to the air and into the cooling water of nuclear reactors. In an anonymous telephone interview in August 1980, a health physicist from Oak Ridge National Laboratory said, "Tritium is no big deal. All it can do is destroy a DNA molecule." Tritium is radioactive hydrogen. Hydrogen is found throughout our bodies.

DNA is found in every cell of the body and contains the genetic information which is passed on to the next generation. DNA molecules include the complete "blueprints" for each individual.

The NRC considers "inert gases" (such as Xenon and Krypton) to be harmless because they do not combine with any other elements when they are breathed. The NRC ignores the fact that during normal radioactive decay, inert gases become deadly. Krypton 90 decays into Strontium 90 and attacks bone marrow. Xenon 137 becomes Cesium 137, which attacks muscles and genitals. Inert gases, when breathed, tend to be taken up by the adrenal glands. Filters cannot stop inert gases.

Cesium, Strontium and Iodine are water-soluble. Radioactive forms of these elements are routinely emitted from Indian Point. They end up in crops, milk and drinking water. Almost all of New York City's water flows through the Croton and Kensico reservoirs, which are only four miles and 12 miles downwind of Indian Point.

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Does Indian Point pollute the Hudson River?

Yes, with both radioactive and thermal pollution. 2/3 of the energy produced by Indian Point is waste in the form of heat, not electricity. This heat becomes "thermal pollution" in the Hudson River. Two million gallons of water per minute gets circulated through Indian Point's secondary cooling system, which flows from the Hudson and then back into it. The water going back into the Hudson is "allowed" to be radioactive and much hotter than the river's normal temperature.

The Hudson River Fisherman's Association, angered by the thousands of fish being killed by Indian Point's thermal pollution, filed a case in 1981 that Indian Point should be cooled by cooling towers, not by the Hudson. The case was settled out of court. No cooling towers.

The NRC publishes fish kills information monthly. The public documents room of the NYU library had the information. There was also a monthly "reportable events" file there. NYU got permission to eliminate most of their NRC files. Now, the only place the information is available is in the White Plains Public Library and at the NRC Public Documents room, 1717 H St. NW in Washington, D.C.

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What happens to Indian Point's nuclear waste?

Nuclear waste is stored at Indian Point, without containment, in what amounts to large swimming pools with a tin roof. You can see it from a boat on the Hudson River. It is more radioactive than it was in the form of fuel that ran the reactors.

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What happens if there is an accident?
(Cartoon: Ben Sargent, reprinted from the Philadelphia Inquirer, May 18, 1983)

An Indian Point 2 meltdown would result in 46,000 fatalities within a year, 140,000 injuries, 13,000 cancer deaths and property damage of $274 billion. An Indian Point 3 meltdown would result in 50,000 early fatalities, 167,000 injuries, 14,000 cancer deaths and $314 billion in property damage. A meltdown at one would probably cause the meltdown of the other. This information is from a Department of Energy study conducted by Sandia Laboratory in 1982. The use of such impersonal statistics is one way that the government and utilities desensitize the public to the horrors of a nuclear accident. These numbers actually include our friends, neighbors, and loved ones.

One lesson from Chernobyl is that an accident that melts through the reactor floor (a "China Syndrome") is not necessarily the worse case scenario even though it could instantly kill over 45,000 people and contaminate an area greater than Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Delaware combined. Land contaminated by such a meltdown can be cordoned off - air that is contaminated cannot be.

Chernobyl was designed to prevent a China Syndrome - even with a complete plumbing failure, the cooling water could not be boiled away. U.S. utilities say a China Syndrome can never happen here (despite the more vulnerable reactor design used in the U.S.), so the skills to cope with the situation have not been developed. (Susan Niemczyk, a reactor safety analyst, formerly with Sandia National Laboratory.

The nuclear industry wants to change the mandatory evacuation zone from the current ten miles around a nuclear plant to two miles. Apparently they assume that winds and the laws of physics stop two miles from nuclear plants.

Even though every new study of the NRC "upgrades" or "increases" the likelihood of a nuclear power plant accident, there is no room in all the hospitals of the metropolitan area to handle all the victims of an Indian Point accident.

As if that weren't enough, Indian Point's two reactors are just 1000 yards from an active earthquake fault called the Ramapo. Con Ed tells us that is not a problem. Geologists at Columbia University and the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory disagree. The Ramapo fault has been becoming more active lately and as we learn about intra-plate faults, we're finding that they have more severe quakes than previously assumed. Many of the recent earth tremors felt by New Yorkers were a result of activity in the Ramapo system.

If just a tiny fraction of the things that have gone wrong with Indian Point in the past were to happen at the same time, or if there was a worker error at the same time, Indian Point might have a meltdown, an explosion, a Chernobyl-sized release of radiation or maybe only an accident like Three Mile Island. (Indian Point and TMI have the same design.)

Even the Nuclear Regulation Commission has admitted that any accident at Indian Point is 30 times more dangerous than the same accident at the "average" nuclear reactor. (New York Times Feb 1980)

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How many accidents has Indian Point already had?

The Indian Point reactors have so many problems and accidents that they have only been working 52.10% of the time in the past five years (1981 to Feb, 1986. Nucleonics Week, NUREG 0020). Both of the reactors have among the worst safety records of all nuclear plants in the country. Illogically, the nuclear industry maintains that the plants with the most problems are the safest because they've had the most "tests". A car with more trouble is not safer than a car that runs smoothly, so why think that of an atomic power plant? As Professor Michio Kaku points out, to say that the Three Mile Island accident proves that nuclear plants are safe is like giving another car to a drunk driver who escaped from an accident with only a broken arm.

On October 3, 1980, 120 thousand gallons of salt water spilled into the containment area of Indian Point 2. That water became radioactive and was pumped into the Hudson River. Con Ed did not notice the leak until two weeks after it occurred. It took five more days for Con Ed to tell the NRC or the public.

According to Indian Point regulations, Con Ed workers cannot make repairs until the reactor has cooled down. Any work done before that must be done by specially trained workers from Westinghouse, the company that supplied the reactor. Recently, Con Ed management ordered Con Ed workers to enter the reactor when they should have called Westinghouse experts. The workers refused to co-operate. Con Ed's reaction was to suspend the workers and remove them from Con Ed property. Only after 20 workers threatened to "go public" to federal authorities did Con Ed back down and allow the workers to return. This was far from the first time Con Ed ordered untrained workers into contaminated areas. (Nuclear Witnesses, Norton Press.) Coupled with such a callous and irresponsible attitude, nuclear power becomes even more dangerous. Can we trust Con Ed in the event of an accident?

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Can we trust the nuclear industry in the event of an accident?

The entire world criticized the Soviet Union for not telling its people about the Chernobyl accident for four days. It took five days for Metropolitan Edison in Harrisburg to admit to the seriousness of the accident at Three Mile Island (TMI) (if you can call it an admission).

The number of stillborn babies increased in the area downwind of Three Mile Island after the March 1979 accident. In the first year the number of stillborns doubled; the year after that the number tripled. Within three years it was five times greater. Some studies show that the number was ten times higher in some regions near TMI. In the rest of Pennsylvania, the number of stillborns actually decreased during this period. (Information from Dr. Gordon MacLeod, head of Pennsylvania's Department of Health at the time. Dr. MacLeod was forced to leave his post after making charges that statistics had been falsified.) Pennsylvania epidemiologist Dr. George Tokuhata was charged on April 25, 1982 with withholding and "revising" those infant mortality statistics. Despite that charge, the actual figures still went unreported to the general public.

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What is the difference between U.S. and Ukrainian nuclear reactors?

Contrary to what was immediately claimed by the U.S. media, Ukrainian and Russian reactors DO have containment shields - often stronger than U.S. reactor shields. Dr. Kaku states that the Chernobyl reactor has a containment structure stronger than a third of U.S. reactors that use the boiling water design.

U.S. reactors which, like Chernobyl, are graphite-cooled have no containment structure whatsoever (for instance, the Hanford Reservation in Washington which dates back to the Manhattan Project). This is probably why American experts originally assumed that Chernobyl had no containment shield.

Although Indian Point is not a boiling water reactor, it is potentially more dangerous than Chernobyl because of its even greater proximity to a major urban center and its drinking water.

Uranium dioxide in ceramic form is used as fuel in Ukrainian, Russian and American nuclear reactors, graphite or water cooled.

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Will insurance help me recover from a nuclear accident?

Utilities say nuclear power is safe. The president says nuclear power is safe. Insurance companies disagree. Check your own home or auto policy. They specifically exclude nuclear accidents. If you survive a nuclear accident, you will not get one cent for your contaminated home or car. You won't be able to sue the utility or company that built the facility because congress has limited their liability with the Price-Anderson Act. If Indian Point had a meltdown or major release of radiation, homeowners would receive a few pennies for every thousand dollars their house is worth.

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Do the government agencies really protect us?
(Cartoon: Bill Sanders, Field Newspaper Syndicate, reprinted from Irrevy by John Gofman, Committee for Nuclear Responsibility)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has actually admitted that they would not allow Con Ed to build the reactors so close to New York City if they were built today. Five members of the NRC have even urged that Indian Point be re-examined because the likelihood of a major accident is so high. They have the authority to shut down Indian Point. They have not done so yet. "If you cannot prove that there is no threat, then you have to close the plant." - Governor Mario Cuomo, Westchester Evening Star, July 22, 1982.

The NRC states that 1 person dies every year because of nuclear reactors even if there are no accidents, even slight ones. (There have been 25,00 accidents in the last five years.) That is one person too many, BUT the NRC does not take into account:
1). The radioactive emissions released regularly into the environment are deposited on our food and on food consumed by the animals we eat.
2). The emissions stay in the environment. If we don't eat it this year, we may eat it next year.
3). Radioactive elements are not evenly dispersed throughout the body - they concentrate in and attack certain vital parts of the body such as bone marrow, the glands and genitals.
4). The entire nuclear fuel cycle such as mining, processing, transportation, etc. All parts of the nuclear fuel and waste cycle put radiation into the environment and our food and water.

The NRC's figure of one death per year is unrealistic. Indian Point, due to its location in the New York City area, exposes more people to radiation every year than any other reactor. That is why it must be shut down! Immediately!

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Is Indian Point a target in nuclear war?

According to the Pentagon, all power plants were Soviet targets. Many Russian missiles are still pointed at U.S. nuclear power plants. Scientific American reported that a nuclear bomb dropped on an operating nuclear plant would do a hundred times as much damage as one dropped on another site. A single hit and the entire Metropolitan area would be destroyed.

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Is Indian Point a terrorist target?

The Indian Point plants and the waste stored there are very vulnerable to terrorist attack. Not long after the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center, President George W. Bush claimed that Al Kaida has plans of U.S. nuclear power plants (Several New York Times articles). In late 2003, the Bush administration announced that nuclear power plants were not really on Al Kaida's list of terror targets, but a Feb. 17, 2004 NY Times article reported that Robert Hutchings, chairman of the National Intelligence Council said they are not only targeting nuclear power plants, but the nuclear waste transportation system as well. Bush wants to protect the nuclear industry from American criticism, but not, it seems, from foreign attacks. You can follow the money on that one pretty easily.

The only test made on a plane hitting a nuclear power plant was using a very lightweight fighter plane in free fall, not a heavy fuel-laden commercial airliner flying at full speed. Even the nuclear industry has stopped using that "test" as a claim to safety.

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Is nuclear power really cheaper?

The U.S. government heavily subsidizes Nuclear Power - your tax dollars at work.

The cost per kilowatt-hour of nuclear power has been rising steadily for years, mainly due to breakdowns.

With the new awareness of the dangers of nuclear reactors after the Three Mile Island accident and the 9-11 Terrorist Attacks, the costs of Emergency Planning have increased. These costs are borne by state taxpayers.

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Would we still have electricity if Indian Point were shut down?

By law, 80% of all electric generating capacity must be within the borders of New York City.

Nuclear power plants need outside electricity for their pumping and cooling systems to function.

During the last massive black-outs (August 14, 2002, for example), all the nuclear power plants in the black-out area went off line. It took days for them to come back on line because they first have to cool down completely before they can be restarted. The weather was hot, but the entire area had electricity for that time period.

The electricity demand in Con Ed's area had been going down in the past due to conservation of energy by individuals. (Public Service Commission, Energy Division)

In the summer of 2006, the midwestern U.S. and western Europe had an intense heat wave. All the nuclear power plants shut down because the cooling water wasn't cool enough to keep the reactors under control. With global warming, we can expect more such heat waves.

If Indian Point were shut down, Con Ed would have 40% excess generating capacity at peak demands. On the hottest afternoon, there would be no danger of a blackout or brownout if the Indian Point nuclear plants were permanently closed. The utilities can also buy hydroelectric power from upstate utilities and Canada at a very low rate. (All recent brownouts and blackouts have been due to accidents.)

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WHERE DOES THE NUCLEAR INDUSTRY GET ITS URANIUM?

Con Ed and the New York Power Authority did not disclose where they get their uranium for Indian Point and neither does Entergy, but the odds are that it is either from South Africa or Native American land since that is where most American uranium is from.

A Navajo woman from New Mexico told me that all the uranium miners on the reservation die young (usually in their 40s from lung cancer), but take the jobs anyway because of the extra money mining jobs give in comparison to other job opportunities and because they look around the res and see no reason to be poor for a longer period of time.

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INTERESTING QUOTATIONS ABOUT NUCLEAR POWER

Edward Teller, in Readers Digest: "Radiation is good for you. It speeds up evolution."

President Eisenhower, 1953 memo to the Atomic Energy Commission: "Keep them confused as to fission and fusion." "Them" refers to the public. The memo also discourages the use of the words "thermonuclear", "fusion" and "hydrogen." The Atomic Energy Commission is today the NRC.

Ronald Reagan: "The total radioactivity people were exposed to in the immediate vicinity of Three Miles Island was less than the difference between living in Dallas, TX or Denver, CO." (Radio, May 1979). The internal dose was in reality 100 times more than the difference in background radiation between Dallas and Denver.

Frank Petrone of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), in a debate with Dr. Michio Kaku: "I got you this time, Dr. Kaku. Evacuation of New York City can be done in two weeks in case of a meltdown or nuclear war. Even-odd license plates is the solution."

Robert Pollard was the Project Manager in charge of Indian Point for the NRC. He resigned because "I can't be involved with a commission that's major responsibility is supposed to be safety, but isn't concerned with safety." (Nov 22, 1980 at a conference at Columbia University) When he resigned from the NRC, he called Indian Point "an accident waiting to happen." "It really bothers me to see Con Ed lie and get away with it in press conference after press conference."


Ron Cobb from Cobb Again, Wild and Woolley Press


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Click to see photos of Jeanne Shaw's model of Indian Point.

WHAT CAN I DO?

Write to the Governor:
Executive Chambers,
Albany, NY 12224
and to your local State Senators and Assembly Members.

This information is not available from Con Ed, the New York Power Authority or the major news magazines (such as Time). In order for the New York City Friends of Clearwater to supply this information; we will need your financial support. Please, send $5.00, $10.00, or whatever you can afford to the New York City Friends of Clearwater so we can distribute this to even more people. We can't do it alone. New York City Friends of Clearwater, % Jeanne Stork, 350 E. 91st St., #4, New York, NY 10028, e-mail jeannestork@yahoo.com, or the main office of Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, 112 Market St., Poughkeepsie, NY 12601 (914) 454-7673.

Make copies of this information or ask us for more copies.

Please pass this information on to friends, relatives, co-workers, etc.

And until Indian Point is shut down, let's hope there is no accident that makes all the routine emissions of radioactive particles seem as acceptable as the industry tries to say they really are.

You can look at the draft Witt Report for "emergency preparedness for the area around the Indian Point nuclear reactor by clicking here.

For more news reports on Indian Point, click here, here or here.

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Routine Release information in
Mother Jones Sept/Oct 1978
Critical Mass Energy Journal May 1978
Radiation Data and Reports July 1974 (mentions Indian Point)

The National Bureau of Standards Handbook #69 has information on 200 different routine releases. NRC document 10 CFR 20 Appendix B has figures on 270 isotopes. NRC documents 40 CFR 190 and 40 CFR 141 have EPA routine emissions standards for air and water.

Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition
Riverkeeper's Indian Point web page
NYC Campaign to Close Indian Point
CRAC-2 Report, Consequences of a Nuclear Reactor Accident
Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program
Admiral Rickover cover-up
An August 6, 2012 YouTube video of the Occupy Wall St. rally on the 67th anniversary of the Hiroshima A-bombing. My talk connecting nuclear power and nuclear weapons begins at 04:42.

Check out these photos of Jeanne Shaw's model of Indian Point from the 2012 Clearwater Hudson River Revival.

CHERNOBYL - ON - THE - HUDSON
Written and Researched by Ken Gale
Editing and additional material by Bill Weinberg
Graphics, design, proofed, and keyboarded by Mercy E. Van Vlack
Web design by Erich (Hire Me!) Heinemann
Special thanks to the NYC SHAD ALLIANCE, the New York Greens
and the New York City Friends of Clearwater.

 

 

Page and graphics designed by Erich Heinemann and Mercy Van Vlack.
Contents Maintained and Ken Gale 2013 except as otherwise noted.