Former Commissioner Takes NRC to Task on Nuclear Safety

Victor Gilinsky may not be a household name, but considering the importance of his work, more people should know who he is. The former member of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), who served during the Three Mile Island partial core meltdown in 1979, recently published an op-ed in The New York Times in which he takes the NRC to task for failing to consider the consequences of land contamination in the event of a large radioactive release at the Indian Point nuclear power plant – the increasingly contentious facility which is currently looming large on the radars of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

To be fair, Victor Gilinsky doesn’t have warm, fuzzy feelings for the NRC. Last year he referred to the agency as “a wholly owned subsidiary of the nuclear power industry.”

But his primary point couldn’t be any more on target given the plant’s potential implications for the nation’s most densely populated region. In a published letter to the editor of the Times, I concurred with Gilinsky’s recommendation that the consequences of land contamination must be considered in any decision to re-license Indian Point’s two operating units for the additional 20 years Entergy would like to run them. As I wrote in my letter:

Mr. Gilinsky’s recommendation is particularly relevant given the lasting impact that contamination can have on New York City’s water supply. Long-term contamination is also an issue for a state that ranks among the nation’s biggest producers of dairy goods, wine, apples, corn and cabbage.

The same local food economy that is becoming increasingly important to New Yorkers could be adversely affected by a sizable release of radioactive material.

Of course, Gilinsky’s recommendation has application beyond the Indian Point plant. As he says in his op-ed:

The lack of attention to possible land contamination is a major gap in the American system of nuclear safety regulation. After Fukushima, it should be the main safety concern — and one that is not addressed by evacuation, no matter how efficient.

We're fortunate that Victor Gilinsky is weighing in on this issue of relevance for tens of millions of Americans. Thank you, Victor Gilinsky, for saying what needed to be said.