US had 14 ``near-miss`` nuke mishaps last year

A watchdog group claims reactor owners tolerated known safety problems.

Updated: Mar 18, 2011, 16:08 PM IST

New York: Federal inspectors found "near-miss" accidents at Indian Point on the Hudson and 13 other US nuclear power plants last year, a watchdog group charged on Thursday.

A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, based on Nuclear Regulatory Commission data, claimed that "many of these significant events occurred because reactor owners, and often the NRC, tolerated known safety problems”.

According to the New York Daily News, in the inspection of Indian Point about 25 miles from New York City, NRC auditors found that "the liner of a refuelling cavity at Unit 2 has been leaking since at least 1993”.

The USC report charged that "by allowing this reactor to continue operating with equipment that cannot perform its only safety function, the NRC is putting people living around Indian Point at elevated and undue risk."

David Lochbaum, director of UCS`s Nuclear Safety Program, said: “The chances of a disaster at a nuclear plant are low" but "the more owners sweep safety problems under the rug and the longer safety problems remain uncorrected, the higher the risk climbs."

Edwin Lyman, a physicist in the UCS Global Security Program, also questioned the US action in advising Americans to clear out for a 50-mile radius around the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.

Lyman said that the standard in the US set by the NRC and the Environmental Protection Agency only called for a 10-mile evacuation radius around a stricken plant.