By William McCabe

As Americans, our deep concern goes to the people of Japan as they cope with the triple-disaster of the earthquake, the tsunami, and the subsequent radiation leaks from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. We admire the dignity and calm which the Japanese people have shown in their response to these tragic events. Our sympathy goes out to all the Japanese who have lost family members, their homes, and their way of life. The effects, especially from the contamination of radiation, will last for generations.

As Americans, we also have to re-evaluate our national policies on the use of nuclear power plants, even as we look for safe, efficient, renewable sources of energy in order to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Step one is to support Governor Cuomo’s commitment to phase out and close down the nuclear plant at Indian Point along the Hudson River in Westchester County.

The Indian Point nuclear facility, just 24 miles from New York City, is proximate to one of the world’s greatest population centers. A nuclear event at Indian Point would mean the immediate evacuation of 450,000 people who live within a 10 mile radius of the site. In view of what happened recently in Japan, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission may now recommend a 50 mile evacuation radius, directly affecting nearly 20 million — including the residents of in New York City, northern New Jersey, and most of Dutchess County. The logistical impossibility of such an evacuation in itself demands the closing of Indian Point.

The two reactors at the Indian Point facility, similar in design to the devastated facility in Japan, were built in the late 1950’s less than one mile away from where the Ramapo fault intersects with another fault line. Scientists estimate a 1 in 1,000 chance of an earthquake disaster at Indian Point. No matter what degree of safety is built into the reactors, the Indian Point nuclear plant is simply in the worst location and has to be removed.

If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. If we do not learn from Nine Mile Island, Chernobyl, and now Japan just how devastating the threat of nuclear accidents can be to human existence, we almost ensure something worse to come. According to the NRC, there is serious concern for 3 existing U.S nuclear power plants that are near or on geological fault lines, 2 in California and our very own Indian Point plant. It should be closed down as soon as possible.

Currently the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing an application to extend Indian Point’s license to operate. In a rather bizarre preliminary decision, the NRC has refused to consider the key issue of how Entergy Corporation, the operators of Indian Point, plan to handle/store/dispose of spent nuclear rods. Right now the storage units for spent nuclear rods are full at Indian Point, and nobody has a viable solution as to how to dispose of them. Until the disposal issue is safely resolved, all nuclear plants should be closed, and Indian Point should be the first – despite Congresswoman Nan Hayworth’s support for its continued operation.

Nuclear power is not safe enough, is not clean enough, and is not efficient enough. It costs billions of dollars to build a plant, and it takes 10 years before one watt is delivered to the grid by any new nuclear facility. What a waste of money and time. Say no to any new nuclear power plants, especially to the one being considered (and supported by Congressman Gibson) for a location north of Albany.

For over 90 years, our country has given billions of dollars annually to the oil and gas private industries in the form of tax incentives, tax credits, grants, exploration licenses, and other types of favoritism – including the exclusion of the oil and gas companies from having to comply with the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. The corporate welfare that these private industries have enjoyed has created some of the most profitable corporations and some of the richest corporate executives that the world has ever known. It is time to end this favoritism for industries that certainly do not now need it, if they ever did.

What is needed now is to transfer the government’s financial benefits away from the oil and gas industries and invest them with the development of wind power, solar power, and hydro-power including wave and tidal power turbines. Fossil fuels are limited, create pollution, and cause environmental harm; nuclear power plants and the waste they produce are fraught with potential cataclysmic dangers, especially the one at Indian Point. Close it ASAP.