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Residents Angry After Nuke Release

February 17, 2000

BUCHANAN, N.Y. (AP) _ While many people might choose to live somewhere other than near a nuclear power plant, George Kiljarian said he’s grown used to it.

``I’m a fatalist,″ said the retired attorney, who lives in Ossining, near the Indian Point 2 nuclear reactor. ``I made it through World War II. ... If they’ve never had a problem in 26 years I guess that’s all right.″

But other neighbors are concerned about being so close to Indian Point 2 because they weren’t notified Tuesday night when the plant leaked a small amount of radioactive steam _ the most serious accident since it opened in 1974.

``I’m definitely afraid,″ said Regina Erben, just four doors from the plant entrance. ``I’m afraid to brush my teeth. I’m afraid to make the coffee.″

Consolidated Edison, which owns the plant, declared an alert after the leak was detected Tuesday at the Hudson River plant, about 35 miles north of New York City.

An alert is the second-lowest of four emergency classifications for nuclear plants identified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The least serious is an unusual event, followed by alert, site area emergency and general emergency. The only general emergency at a U.S. nuclear plant was the March 1979 accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania.

Tuesday’s alert was lifted just before 7 p.m. Wednesday, when water temperatures cooled to below 200 degrees. A cause of the leak has not been determined.

A slight increase in the generator’s normal leakage _ about a half-gallon a day more than the normal 2 gallons a day in comparable generators _ was detected several weeks ago, The New York Times reported today.

However, NRC inspectors permanently stationed at the plant never indicated that the increase was serious enough to warrant shutting the plant down, James Baumstark, Con Ed’s vice president for nuclear engineering, told the newspaper.

Plant officials said steam released Tuesday was barely radioactive, describing its escape from the nuclear reactor as ``momentary and minuscule.″ They added there was no health danger, no need to warn nearby residents, no reason to keep the kids home from school.

But some of the 15.5 million people within a 50-mile radius of the plant remained upset that a hazardous response effort was undertaken without any notice being given to neighbors.

``Where were the sirens?″ asked David Coviello, 55, who lives two doors from the plant gate. ``I have a 7-year-old son, an 18-year-old daughter.″

A group of local activists plans to rally this afternoon at Indian Point’s front gate in opposition of the plant reopening ever again.

Guidelines from the NRC ``call for the sounding of sirens only when some protective action is needed,″ such as evacuations or stay-inside orders, said Westchester’s deputy county executive, Jay Hashmall.

Con Edison Vice President Steve Quinn said the leak was in a tube carrying hot, slightly radioactive water through a pool of cooler water, which is thereby turned into steam. The steam is used to turn a turbine, generating electricity. The plant produces about a seventh of the power Con Ed supplies to its 3 million customers.

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