Ed Koch Urges Closure of Indian Point

| July 11, 2012 6:35 PM

For former Mayor Ed Koch, the turning point in his thinking about nuclear power came in March 2011 after the radioactive cataclysm in Japan caused by a crushing tsunami.

“It was incredible how the Japanese government changed its warnings from day to day,” Koch said of the response to the multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant that became the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 explosion at Chernobyl.

Sol Chaikin and Mayor Ed Koch (right) at City Hall, date unknown. Flickr/Kheel Center, Cornell University.

“It was clear to me that the owners of the facility were lying. The Japanese government lied at times as well. I thought to myself, what’s the sense of all of this? When I put all that together I said, the hell with it. I said, why are we tempting fate? Germany will eliminate all nuclear power, and that’s what we should do,” Koch told the Gotham Gazette in a recent interview.

Koch has joined a growing chorus of environmental advocates and politicians calling for Indian Point Energy Center in Westchester County to be shut down, saying the aging nuclear plant poses a danger to the 8 million people who live 24 miles to the south in New York City – especially in the wake of what was learned from the Fukushima disaster.

“We know there is no possibility of evacuating New York City,” he said. “There is no evacuation plan.”

Koch said he had been aware of the problem when he was mayor, but did nothing about it. “I thought, ‘It’s not my problem. It’s the governor’s problem and the federal government’s problem.’ I should have said it was my problem. I did nothing to address it at the time. I should have.”

Koch’s turnabout on nuclear power surprised some people, not the least of whom were officials at Entergy Corp., the owner of the Indian Point nuclear plant.

The company, which has applied to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend its operating license for another 20 years, said it had approached Koch two years ago asking him to be pitchman for its coolant system. Koch confirmed that he had been approached by the company.

“I said if I were to do it, they would have to provide scientific opinions that the alternative method was acceptable scientifically and would do the job, to which they agreed,” Koch told the Gazette in an email.

“At that time, I was in support of the use of nuclear energy. Fukushima had not yet occurred. However, after thinking about the offer, I turned it down because I thought it would have an adverse impact on my pro bono efforts to get support for the campaign to have the legislature accept impartial redistricting,” he continued, referring to his fight for an independent redistricting commission. “When I called to say I wouldn’t do it, I was offered $150,000. I said no, I wouldn’t do it no matter what the pay.”

Entergy, through a spokesman, denied they offered him money, instead saying it was the former mayor who brought up the subject of payment. Both Entergy and Koch confirmed, however, that the former mayor ultimately declined to promote the facility.

In a June 13 column in The Huffington Post, written with Hudson Riverkeeper president Paul Gallay, Koch noted that one of Indian Point’s two reactors faces the highest risk of damage due to an earthquake of any nuclear facility in the U.S.

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