AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
Byline: Bob Ivry and Alex Nussbaum
Apr. 8--Roaring south along the Hudson River on Sept. 11, American Airlines Flight 11 passed over the twin domes of the Indian Point nuclear power plant. Forty-six miles and seven minutes later, the hijacked plane slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.
Within hours, all 103 U.S. nuclear plants were on high alert. And when American troops in Afghanistan found diagrams of U.S. nuclear facilities abandoned in enemy hide-outs, the perceived threat became real.
With almost 17 million people, 6 percent of the U.S. population, living within 50 miles of Indian Point, the plant suddenly seemed a prime target for terrorists -- especially since the planes that brought down the trade center were big enough and traveling fast enough to crack open the plant's concrete containment domes, if past research is a guide.
Since Sept. 11, New Yorkers up and down the Hudson Valley have intensified the clamor for the Westchester County plant's closure. The terrorist threat, coupled with the plant's spotty safety record and its location just north of the nation's largest city, critics say, make it too dangerous to operate.
In New Jersey, however, which has no evacuation plan and few measures in place to deal with a major release, public officials and private citizens behave as if the state border were an invisible shield against a threat just 15 miles away.
"I think because we live in a different state, we're not getting involved," says Karen Ranzi, a Ramsey resident who, at the urging of friends, attended Westchester County forums on Indian Point. "I used to listen to people talk about what might happen and think, 'How terrible.' But then I realized that we could be affected, and that scared me."
If the worst happened, people living closest to Indian Point would suffer the most. Thousands would be doomed to severe burns and radiation sickness. But if enough radiation escaped, and if the winds were blowing strong from the north, New Jersey, too, could face disaster.
An odorless, invisible cloud of irradiated particles could drift south. A heavy rain could wash this "hot" dust out of the air and onto homes in Montvale, gardens in Ringwood, or playgrounds in Paramus. For most, the health effects might be undetectable at first, but they could show up years later in spikes of thyroid cancer or leukemia.
Many scientists insist the plant is safe from attack. Yet consider reactions in the two states:
Thirteen municipalities in Westchester County, seven in Rockland County, and seven members of New York's congressional delegation have demanded a shutdown.
In New Jersey, which receives no power from Indian Point, Edgewater is the only municipality to call for a shutdown. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, alone among his colleagues, has suggested a temporary closure until Indian Point's security can be reviewed
New York Gov. George Pataki has questioned evacuation plans around Indian Point, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton wants the 10-mile-radius evacuation zone expanded to 50 miles. That would cover Bergen and Passaic counties and increase the number of potential evacuees from 247,000 to 16.8 million.
New Jersey, with 3.8 million people living 50 miles or less from Indian Point, has no emergency evacuation plans, except to shelter fleeing Rockland County residents. No coordinated response plans in case of a radiation release. No regular contact with New York.
Tim Keenan, assistant superintendent of the state's Radiological Emergency Response Technical Unit, insists, however, that "more than adequate" contacts are in place between New York and New Jersey "on the local level."
That would come as a surprise to Joseph Forbes, Passaic County's emergency management coordinator. He says his office would look to the state for guidance in the event of an Indian Point …