updated 10/30/2007 4:01:52 PM ET 2007-10-30T20:01:52

The Environmental Protection Agency, in a break from the federal nuclear authority, says the potential impact of terrorism should be considered in deciding whether to relicense the Indian Point nuclear power plants.

In a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued Oct. 10 and made public Monday, the EPA requested that eight issues, including terrorism, "be discussed in the environmental impact statement for these license renewals."

The plants' owner, Entergy Nuclear, has applied for new licenses that would keep the two plants running until 2033 and 2035.

Opponents of the plants, which have drawn increased public scrutiny since the terrorist attacks of 2001, have focused on the relicensing as a chance to shut the plants down in the next decade.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has just begun the lengthy relicensing process, has turned away demands from the public and politicians that terrorism be considered, saying that is beyond the scope of relicensing.

"The security of the plant needs to be dealt with on an ongoing basis" rather than as part of the relicensing process, NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said Monday.

Under current regulations, the relicensing process would focus mostly on how Entergy plans to deal with the aging of the plant structure and on how the environment would be affected by 20 more years of Indian Point operation.

The EPA's requests include "an analysis of the impacts of intentional destructive acts (e.g. terrorism)." It also asks that the relicensing debate include an evaluation of radioactive leaks from the spent-fuel pools at the plants, which the NRC says is also outside the relicensing parameters.

Various groups have filed lawsuits demanding hearings on the scope of the relicensing. New York City, just 30 miles south of the reactors in Buchanan, has formally requested — without taking a position — that it be allowed a voice in the decision.

The nuclear plants have faced problems in recent years including radioactive leaks, a failing emergency siren system and a guard caught sleeping.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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