At a Congressional hearing on October 6, 2005, U.S. Rep. Sue Kelly pressed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reassess emergency evacuation plans related to the Indian Point nuclear power plants in the wake of evacuation problems on the Gulf Coast during Hurricane Katrina.
“The soundness of the emergency preparedness plans for the area surrounding the plant has always been a top-level concern in my district. And I’m sorry to say that confidence in the plans is not nearly as strong as it should be, and with good reason,” Kelly told FEMA Chief Operating Officer Ken Burris.
Kelly went on to cite the Witt Report – the independent review commissioned by Governor Pataki and released in 2003 that identified serious problems related to emergency preparedness around Indian Point. “Due to the inadequacies exposed by Katrina, can we expect FEMA to conduct another review of the evacuation plan for the area surrounding Indian Point?” Kelly asked Burris.
Kelly also questioned why there was a three-week delay last month in notifying local officials and the public about a leak from one of the spent fuel pools at Indian Point 2. After conducting a comprehensive review of Indian Point, officials from the Department of Homeland Security and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) met with county and local officials at Kelly’s request. “They briefed local officials on conditions at the plant, painting a rosy picture of safety and security,” Kelly told Burris. “It was learned the following week that these officials neglected to mention a leak in the spent fuel pool, a fact they knew going into the meeting but neglected to share.”
“Mr. Burris, how can we expect people to have confidence in FEMA’s ability to help evacuate them in the event of an emergency if they can’t even be counted on to share basic information on safety levels at the plant?” Kelly asked.
Kelly also reiterated local concerns about Indian Point’s lack of a backup electricity source independent of the energy grid for its emergency sirens. “FEMA met with county officials on July 6, and in that meeting said they agreed with county officials that there was cause for concern after their evaluation of the siren notification system.
FEMA officials at that meeting agreed to issue a formal written report to the NRC on the findings of that evaluation. They promised that report would be issued by the end of September. It’s now October and counties still haven’t received anything. What is the status of this report?”
Burris was unable to answer Kelly’s questions in-depth at the hearing, so FEMA officials will follow-up with her to address her concerns.
After the hearing, Kelly said: “Our confidence in the evacuation plans for the areas surrounding Indian Point will not improve without a more serious and concerted effort by FEMA,” Kelly said. “We need FEMA to address the concerns raised in the Witt Report. We need to know for certain that FEMA is fully prepared to handle any possible emergency at Indian Point and help every person in our area who would be affected.”