Call him Cool Hand Nuke. Actor and salad dressing salesman Paul Newman weighed in Wednesday on the Indian Point nuclear power facility in the New York suburbs, pronouncing it safer than military bases he had visited.
Newman, the star of such films as "Cool Hand Luke," "Slap Shot" and "Nobody's Fool," visited the Buchanan, N.Y., facility on Monday, according to Jim Steets, a spokesman for Entergy Nuclear, the company that owns Indian Point.
The veteran actor, restaurateur and organic-food producer praised the nuclear power facility as an important part of the region's energy future because it doesn't produce greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming.
Through a statement issued by an industry group, Newman said he was impressed with the safety measures in place at Indian Point — a key worry point for local residents, some of whom want the plant, 35 miles north of midtown Manhattan, shut down as a potential target of terrorism.
In stark contrast to his "Cool Hand Luke" character, who was always trying to break out of prison, Newman was apparently given a security card to enter the highly sensitive area.
"What I saw exceeded my expectations," Newman said in the statement. "No Army or Navy base I've ever visited has been more armored, and I couldn't walk 30 feet inside the plant without swiping my key card to go through another security checkpoint."
Newman, who has electrified audiences for decades with his 100-watt smile and raffish charm, called the plant an important source of electricity for millions of New Yorkers.
He also sounded confident that the spent fuel rods are safely stored "in a pool that, in my younger days, I could jump across."
Steets, the Entergy spokesman, called Newman's visit "a terrific tour."
"We had a good time showing him around the plant," Steets said. "He was very engaging, very interested in the issues."