(Nuclear) Power Ranger

As Indian Point’s Security Manager, Daniel Gagnon gets a “charge” out of safeguarding the county’s most Controversial landmark. Just don’t crack any lame glow-in-the-dark jokes.

How long have you been working at Indian Point?
I’ve been here since January 3, 1989. I started as a nuclear security officer, and came up through the ranks.

Why did you choose nuclear security?
Nuclear security is like no other type of work in the security arena. But now, the rest of the security industry is finally evolving, too. It’s not just your night watchman or mall guard anymore. Security is on everyone’s top agenda.

How did you come upon Indian Point in particular?
I’m a local kid, from Montrose—I went to Hendrick Hudson High School—so I was definitely familiar with the site.

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Did you have any pre-conceived notions about Indian Point when you started?
No. You come into it not fully understanding exactly what it is. But once you’re here, you understand it. It’s a great environment. I’ve met some phenomenally intelligent people. I like to learn something new every day. And here, I probably learn about ten new things a day.

What was the public sentiment toward Indian Point like when you started working there?
Most people didn’t even know we were here, really, before 9/11. Afterwards, people started to wonder, “Okay, what’s in my backyard that I need to be concerned about?” And, let’s face it, most people don’t understand “nuclear.” They hear the word and it frightens them, because what you don’t know or don’t understand tends to make you nervous.

The public’s fears certainly were heightened by Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.
If you look at what happened at Three Mile Island, essentially if you were standing at the perimeter of the site, your exposure was like almost standing in front of your microwave waiting for your popcorn to get done. As for Chernobyl, they treated their commercial plants as test reactors. They were trying to hold the reactor at an [unstable] level to do a test, they turned off certain safety systems, and they had no backup systems. You cannot compare the two.

September 11 raised new concerns since one of the hijacked planes flew over Indian Point on its way to the World Trade Center.
There’s been a lot of changes post-9/11 that I can’t get into. But, today, they would not be able to change the flight path the way they did without authorization—or an immediate, prompt response.

Were there a lot of security upgrades post-9/11?
Yes, the majority of the changes were post-9/11, but that was largely a matter of timing. A lot of those upgrades were already in motion by September 11. The unfortunate part for me is that I can’t bring Joe Public in here to show him what we do, what we have, how we do it, why we do it.

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How many people are under your direction?
We have the largest department onsite—more than two hundred people.

Would you live next to Indian Point?
My children live less than two miles away. I’ve always said this is the safest place you’d ever want to be. We joke that, if something ever happened in the outside world, we’d all want to be right here inside the containment—it’s just that safe and secure.

Enjoy this article? The conversation with Brian Conybeare continues at WestchesterMagazine.com.

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