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Nuclear Disaster Evacuation Plan Contested

Editor's Note: This is the second of a series of reports examining the safety of the nation's nuclear facilities.

NEW YORK—A terrorist attack on a nuclear power plant and the panic that would ensue is a nightmare that has kept many Americans up at night since Sept. 11.

Particularly concerned are those who live near the plants, fearing they would be trapped in close proximity of a radioactive leak because of traffic jams.

"It's beyond enormous," said Elise Cooper of Chappaqua, N.Y. "It's just unthinkable."

Cooper lives less than 10 miles from the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant and within the danger zone should an accident, or attack, occur. Weekday traffic in the area is bad enough, she said, even without a catastrophe causing the streets to jam with fleeing residents. 

At a nearby day care center, there are fears of being able to successfully pull off an evacuation plan that requires getting 100 kids on buses. 

Similar post-Sept. 11 concerns are now being echoed in communities across the country. There are currently 161 million Americans living within 75 miles of a nuclear power plant.

"There's nothing to worry about and only a very limited amount of people will actually have to evacuate," said Jim Steets, spokesman for Entergy Corporation, a global energy company. 

Indian Point is located exactly 33 miles north of Times Square. A recent poll showed 60 percent of New Yorkers, including commuters, would attempt to flee in the event of a problem at the power plant — a fact government officials say exposes a major flaw in federal evacuation plans.

"The plan specifically says no one will move outside of 10 miles if they try to move people within 10 miles of the plant," said Richard Brodsky, a New York State assemblyman. "That's a joke."

Brodsky represents the people who live around Indian Point and says the plan cannot work.

"You're going to see gridlock like you've never imagined,"  he said. "People are going to be dead, injured or killed."

This is assuming people will leave en masse, and to the owners of Indian Point, that's a mistaken assumption.

"People from New York won’t have to evacuate," Steets said. 

But Cooper isn't buying it. She says there is only one safe evacuation plan. "They should close it down," she said. "They should have closed it down a long time ago."

Especially, she said, after Sept. 11. 

Fox News' Amy C. Sims contributed to this report.

Douglas Kennedy currently serves as a correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 1996 and is based in New York.