U.S. NRC denies 42 of 50 fire-safety exemptions sought by Entergy for its Indian Point nuclear plants near New York City; state attorney general calls rulings 'major victory' for safety of millions of New Yorkers

WHITE PLAINS, New York , February 2, 2012 (press release) – Federal regulators said Wednesday they have denied most of the fire-safety exemptions sought by Entergy Corp. for its Indian Point nuclear plants near New York City.

The state attorney general called the rulings "a major victory for the safety of millions of New Yorkers."

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it turned down 42 of the 50 exemptions requested three years ago by Entergy Nuclear after new NRC standards were imposed.

Where exemptions were granted, they allow Indian Point, which is 35 miles north of Manhattan in Buchanan, to substitute manual actions by operators for automatic fire protection features that are required by NRC regulations.

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said examples would include closing circuit breakers and operating valves.

Where exemptions were denied, Entergy will have to use automatic equipment such as physical barriers and sprinkler systems, the NRC said.

It allowed New Orleans-based Entergy to keep current measures in effect until those automatic systems can be installed.

An Entergy statement pointed out that the NRC said it had no immediate concerns about fire safety at Indian Point.

Entergy said fire safety at the plants is "robust, extensive, and focused on extremely critical areas of the plant."

"With further direction today from the NRC, Indian Point will be doing even more work to install additional fire protection enhancements," it said.

New York state, which is fighting the relicensing of the plants, had opposed all the exemptions. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman commended the NRC.

"Indian Point's attempt to weaken safety precautions at the facility was wrong-headed and dangerous, and it is high time that this nuclear facility complied with long-standing federal fire safety regulations," Schneiderman said.

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