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Official: Consequences Would Remain Even If Indian Point Nuclear Plant Closed

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- While there has been much debate about the Indian Point nuclear plant in recent weeks, industry experts say even if the facility was forced to close, the fuel will end up staying for a long time.

Lawmakers and residents in the radius of the power plant began questioning whether Indian Point should be shut down following the nuclear aftermath of Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

However, the argument may not be so simple or clear cut.

The Vice President of Entergy Corporation, which owns and operates Indian Point, told CBS 2's Lou Young the radioactive fuel would still remain at the site even if the plants were to be shut down at the end of their licenses in 2013 and 2016.

"You would have fuel for up to 60 years at this site," Joseph Pollock said.

On Friday, Young got a first-hand look at workers rearranging spent fuel rods to even out the heat load. The security precautions to even get near the plant's interior require passing through a gauntlet of security barriers and wearing a pair of dosimeters that monitor possible radiation exposure.

The plant is kept under tight control and even the back-up pumps have back-up pumps.

"It's hard to see a scenario where water would leave there and it would actually melt. We can get water on there very quickly," Indian Point Spokesman Jerry Nappi said.

For opponents of the plant, however, the reassurances are not convincing enough.

"Whatever man makes, man can break. The problem is that the spent fuel is the Achilles heel. There's 10 percent more radioactive material in the spent fuel pool than there is in the reactor itself," Westchester County Legislator Mike Kaplowitz said.

The pools would be needed for another decade even after a potential plant shutdown. By that time, all the fuel would be cool enough to put into expensive dry storage -- giant containers that have already started to fill a $100 million storage site at Indian Point. There is no other place to put the fuel.

"There is no current program that will take the fuel from the sites in the U.S.," Pollock said. "You'll have nuclear fuel on this site indefinitely until there is some action made."

The federal government has set aside $24 billion for a national nuclear waste facility, but it has been stalled for years over conflicts about where to put it.

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