ith a state consultant standing by his conclusion
that evacuation plans for the Indian Point nuclear power plant
are inadequate, opponents of the plant said yesterday that
they planned to turn up pressure on Gov. George E. Pataki to
take a position.
It was Mr. Pataki, facing mounting criticism of the plant
during a re-election campaign last summer, who hired the
consultant, James Lee Witt, a former director of the Federal
Emergency Management Agency. At that time, Mr. Pataki said he
would not wait for the federal government to act, and would
hire Mr. Witt to help improve emergency planning.
But yesterday, with the release of the final version of Mr.
Witt's report, calls to Mr. Pataki were transferred to the
state's Office of Emergency Management, where a spokesman
would not comment, saying the report was under review.
The report faults the emergency plan for failing to
consider factors including: roads clogged by panicked
residents; uncertainties about how emergency workers would
react in a terrorist attack; and difficulties predicting the
direction and intensity of radiation plumes and conveying that
information to the public.
Although it is the federal government — specifically, the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission — that has the authority to
close the plant, opponents said they believed a plea from the
governor would hardly be ignored.
"In my mind and the public's mind, Governor Pataki has run
out of excuses to continue ducking the Indian Point issue,"
said Alex Matthiessen, executive director of Riverkeeper, an
environmental group opposed to the plant that soon plans to
begin an advertising campaign against it. "He promised New
Yorkers he would stand by the Witt report's findings and
conclusions. Witt's findings are clear. The evacuation plans
are inadequate and the plan is unfixable given the new threats
Mr. Matthiessen declined to elaborate on the planned
advertising campaign. Mr. Pataki announced the hiring of Mr.
Witt after a Riverkeeper advertising campaign against the
plant last summer, and after a Democratic opponent began
making Indian Point a campaign issue.
At that Aug. 1 news conference, when he was asked if he
would consider calling for the plant's closing if Mr. Witt's
review found the plans seriously lacking, the governor
answered, "We rule out no option."
When deciding what course to take, he said, "We will base
our decision on that report."
The governor added: "It is clear that we must move forward
on our own to ensure our residents are protected. Safety must
be our top priority, and we cannot wait for the federal
government to act."
After Mr. Witt released his first draft in January, raising
concerns about the evacuation plan, Mr. Pataki reiterated his
belief that the federal government should review emergency
planning standards, though he did not comment directly on his
Even some community members and commentators who want to
see the plant remain open are growing impatient with the
governor. The normally friendly editorial page of The New York
Post, which has ridiculed opponents of Indian Point,
criticized the governor yesterday for not supporting the
plant. "It's time for Governor Pataki to get off the fence and
stand up for the Indian Point nuclear plant in Westchester,"
the editorial said, going on to accuse the governor of a
Members of Congress, meanwhile, including Senator Hillary
Rodham Clinton and Representative Eliot Engel, reacted to the
final report by renewing calls for the federal government to
shut the plant.
But spokesmen for FEMA and the N.R.C. declined to comment
on the report, saying officials had not yet read it.
which owns the plant, said Mr. Witt had raised important
concerns, but the company seized on his assertion that the
emergency plan, for all its faults, does meet current federal
requirements. And a spokesman said it was time to move past
"He came in," James Steets, a spokesman for Entergy, said
of Mr. Witt, "and he is gone now."