Indian Point As Backdrop

THE small hamlet of Buchanan has become a popular news conference locale in recent months. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, there has been broad public debate about whether the Indian Point nuclear power plant there is a target for terrorism.

Showing at the plant has promised plenty of news coverage, and many politicians have taken the plant's officials to task over various issues, including shutting the plant down. But more and more plant supporters are now accusing politicians of jumping on the Indian Point bandwagon and exploiting the issue for their own political gain.

Central in this backlash is Gavin J. Donohue, executive director of the Independent Power Producers of New York. Mr. Donohue has accused politicians of using the plant as a news conference backdrop and ''inducing hysteria and fear in residents.''

Mr. Donohue, whose trade association represents electric generators and marketers, contended that ''these politicians know very little about a complex issue'' but have simply seized upon it to get themselves some camera time. He called their calls to shut down Indian Point permanently ''a self-serving attempt to take advantage of Sept. 11 by manipulating the fears of Westchester residents.''

''It's political opportunism by politicians who don't know the impact of such a decision,'' said Mr. Donohue. Closing the plant, he contended, would increase electric rates for residents by 40 percent and cost more than 1,500 jobs. It would also delete a tax base of $45 million and $356 million in payroll and expenditures that the plant adds to the local economy, he said, and overtax the state's electric system.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator Charles E. Schumer have appeared in front of Indian Point. So have Representatives Nita M. Lowey and Eliot L. Engel, both of whom have advocated closing or decommissioning the plant.


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