NEW YORK – New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a significant federal ruling in ongoing efforts to improve Indian Point’s accident preparedness, and ensure the protection of public health and the environment of the surrounding region.

The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board issued a decision, agreeing with New York that Indian Point cannot be relicensed without completing the legally-required analyses of its severe accident mitigation measures. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) must require Indian Point’s owner, Entergy to either adopt cost-effective upgrades that would improve responses and control the impact of a severe accident, or provide a compelling reason why it will not do so.

“Severe accidents cannot be treated as impossibilities, and this critical ruling confirms that Indian Point must follow regulations to protect the public and control the effects of a potentially severe nuclear accident,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “We will not permit the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Entergy to procrastinate or limit the relicensing review with the hope that full responsibility for protective measures can be avoided. My office will continue to take the action necessary to ensure Indian Point complies with all applicable laws and regulations, and that the surrounding communities are protected.”

As part of the relicensing proceeding, nuclear power plants are required to identify the environmental impacts that could be caused by a severe accident and provide analyses of upgrades that facilities could make to protect the public if one were to occur. The measures include plant upgrades -- such as improvements in equipment, training or procedures that could help limit or contain the impacts that could result from a severe accident. In its environmental review, Entergy identified 20 such measures at Indian Point Units 2 and 3, including flood protection and auxiliary power improvements.

Despite its responsibility, the NRC did not require Entergy to complete analyses of those measures, or to require that the measures be adopted - thereby violating NRC’s own regulations, as well as those of the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Administration Procedure Act. Despite an obligation to conduct a full review, both Entergy and the NRC sought to limit the severe accident analyses to a narrow set of components.

The Board rejected this logic as uninformed, and wrote:

“The NRC is bound to take a hard look, consistent with [applicable law] at all [severe accident mitigation alternatives] … before deciding whether to grant a license renewal application.” The full decision is available here, and the Attorney General’s original motion is available here.

The ruling marks the first successful motion of its kind filed by an intervenor in such a proceeding and confirms the Attorney General’s argument that the NRC’s environmental review violated the law. It is the Attorney General’s latest success raising such issues. Earlier this week, the NRC accepted New York’s petition for fire safety enforcement at Indian Point.

Attorney General Schneiderman has taken several actions that would improve regulations and safety at Indian Point, and that could impact plants nationwide. In February, he sued the NRC for authorizing the storage of radioactive waste at nuclear power facilities for at least 60 years after they close – without first conducting the necessary environmental, public health and safety studies. The lawsuit was filed just one month before spent fuel threatened emergency response efforts at the Fukushima nuclear facility in Japan.

Recently, Schneiderman joined a petition urging the NRC to reexamine operating limitations at the aging Indian Point reactors and lower the reactors’ operating temperatures to increase safety and reduce the risk of meltdown in the event of an accident. The Attorney General has also called upon the NRC to undertake a comprehensive, transparent and fair review of seismic risk before completing the Indian Point relicensing proceeding.

The initiative is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General John Sipos, Janice Dean, Lisa Feiner and Adam Dobson of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau under the supervision of Bureau Chief for Environmental Protection Lemuel M. Srolovic and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Janet Sabel.