NRC Reverses Course On "Exemptions" To Fire Safety Rules At Indian Point

Release Date: 
February 2, 2012

NEW YORK - Richard Brodsky, plaintiff and lead attorney in the major litigation on nuclear fire safety Brodsky v. NRC today released the following statement concerning the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's denial of "exemptions" to fire safety requirements at Indian Point.  Brodsky v. NRC is the leading legal challenge to the illegal NRC practice of "exempting" nuclear plants from binding safety requirements. It is currently awaiting oral argument before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.  The Sierra Club-Atlantic Chapter is a co-plantiff in Brodsky v. NRC. 

Richard Brodsky is a Senior Fellow at public policy organization Demos and former 14-term NYS Assemblyman. Brodsky v. NRC challenges a secret NRC decision permitting sub-standard insulation intended to protect the electrical cables that control the shutdown in a fire emergency at Indian Point. The NRC initially determined that the insulation, which is supposed to last 60 minutes, actually disintegrated in 27 minutes.  Rather than require Entergy to upgrade the insulation to meet its own requirements, the NRC in complete secrecy with no public announcement, no public participation, and no public hearing, granted Entergy an "exemption" allowing it to ignore the 60 minute rule.
 
"Yesterday's Nuclear Regulatory Commission action focus attention on two ongoing crises," Brodsky stated.  "First, it illuminates the extent of Indian Points non-compliance with crucial fire safety regulations.  Second, and even more importantly, it shows how the NRC use of illegal 'exemptions' has undermined public safety, the rule of law and the NRC's reliability as the protector of public health and safety.
Today's decision is the beginning of the end for the dangerous practice by Entergy and the NRC of using illegal 'exemption' to allow Indian Point and other reactors across the nation to operate in violation of crucial fire safety requirements of their license.


"Today's decision is the beginning of the end for the dangerous practice by Entergy and the NRC of using illegal 'exemption' to allow Indian Point and other reactors across the nation to operate in violation of crucial fire safety requirements of their license.  For years, and in literally thousands of occasions, operators of nuclear reactors, including Indian Point, have been granted secret 'exemptions' from fire safety rules intended to prevent a reactor meltdown.  The laws governing the NRC do not allow for 'exemptions' to fire safety rules.  This practice is illegal and dangerous.


 
"By yesterday's rejection of these new 'exemption' requests the NRC is opening the door to an end to these illegal and dangerous activities.  What the NRC has not done is to allow for public notice and participation in these decisions, and it has not admitted that it has been acting illegally.  We will pursue the case before the 2nd Circuit, but it increasingly clear that the mechanism used by the nuclear industry and the NRC to gut public health and safety provisions will not survive.


 
"The NRC is to the nuclear industry today what the SEC was to Wall Street four years ago.  We must reform the NRC by assuring that specific fire safety requirements are met, and by ending the Soviet-style practice of secret and dangerous 'exemptions' being continually given to the nuclear industry."
 
Ulrich Witte, a nuclear safety consultant with thirty years of experience within the nuclear industry said,  "The NRC's illegal use of 'exemptions' to punch holes in the fire safety system is the most dangerous of the many regulatory failures of the NRC.  It must not continue, even as the extent of the danger to the public from the continued operation of Indian Point becomes clear."