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Indian Point nuclear plant a fire risk: New York


The Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, New York, is seen from across the Hudson River, April 6, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Segar
The Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, New York, is seen from across the Hudson River, April 6, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Segar

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Indian Point nuclear power plant has sought more than 100 exemptions from the fire code that could make it difficult to shut down the nearly 40-year facility in an emergency, New York's attorney general said on Monday.

The plant, which supplies as much as 30 percent of New York City's electricity, has been a constant target of the state, which is seeking to block its owner, Entergy Corp, from extending it operating license.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the owner of the plant, located about 40 miles north of the city, sought waivers from federal regulators because it was in violation of the fire safety rules.

"In the wake of Japan's crisis, our country's nuclear facilities should be bolstering their safety measures, yet Indian Point is looking to weaken its precautionary measures," Schneiderman said in a statement.

A spokesman for Entergy said the number of exemptions was about one-third the number cited by the state.

The company had also put in place extra safety protocols while it worked through the issue, including regular fire watch patrols conducted by employees.

"I don't believe there's ever been a fire that affected safety systems," plant spokesman Jerry Nappi said.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has long been a critic of the plant and the state has filed a petition with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission urging it to take enforcement action.

Among the safety code violations were the lack of fire detectors or suppression systems in various locations, the inability of electrical cables to withstand fire damage for one to three hours and the plant's reliance on complex measures by employees rather than on automatic systems to respond to fires.

The NRC said it gives every request for exemptions from fire codes a thorough review and the U.S. courts upheld its process.

"Indian Point is currently complying with all appropriate NRC fire protection regulations," NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said in an email.

Recent NRC data has also showed Indian Point was the nation's most vulnerable to an earthquake since it sits near a fault line and the state has argued that New York City lies in the potential evacuation zone if there was an accident.

The region typically does not experience strong earthquakes and Entergy has said the plant is safe.

The state power grid operator has said the city could face power outages if the plant is shut down without new supplies being built.

Entergy and the state are currently negotiating water permits regarding the plant's discharge of cooling water.

Entergy shares were slightly higher at $66.62 on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Matt Daily; editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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