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Thursday April 18 03:00 AM EDT



A TV newsman spent 20 minutes flying over the Indian Point nuclear plant in Westchester to throw cold water on industry claims that power plants are not vulnerable to terrorist air attacks.

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Fox News Channel reporter Douglas Kennedy rented a four-seat Cessna and headed up the Hudson River to Buchanan - 33 miles north of Times Square.

He had the pilot make three long passes over the Indian Point plant - going directly over its reactor domes at 2,000 feet.

"So how difficult would it be just to steer this plane right down and smash into that plant?" Kennedy asked the pilot in a report aired last night.

"It wouldn't be too hard at all. You're not that high and they probably wouldn't be expecting it. It would probably be easy," the pilot replied.

Asked if at any point the plane was ordered to leave the area, Kennedy told The Post, "No attempt was made to stop us, and there was no inquiry at all."

The Federal Aviation Administration (news - web sites) recently lifted a ban on flying over nuclear plants in the United States that had been put into effect after Sept. 11, but requires planes to maintain altitudes of at least 2,000 feet when passing directly over a plant.

Informed of the flyover, Steve Floyd, of the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry trade group, told Kennedy that a small plane - even one packed with explosives - couldn't cause significant damage to the plant because it couldn't penetrate the 12- to 15-feet of concrete and steel that protects the radioactive fuel in the reactor.

But anti-nuke activist Edwin Lyman of the Nuclear Control Institute claimed terrorists could easily target the plant's spent fuel pool, releasing massive amounts of radioactivity that would threaten the metropolitan area.

Industry critics contend that a pool fire, if not stopped in time, could be more devastating than the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl that killed an estimated 8,000 people.

Kennedy's report is part of a three-part expose on Indian Point. Parts II and III will be aired tonight and tomorrow at 5 p.m.

Part II looks at the evacuation chaos that's likely to result if there's an accident or attack on the plant.

Part III examines just who's guarding Indian Point.

Fox News Channel is owned by News Corp., which also owns The Post.

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