Emergency Response

Because reactors are so dangerous, an emergency response and evacuation plan are essential. Yet many reactor sites are not easily accessible making such evacuation plans unrealistic and the demands placed on emergency response teams unachievable.



Vermont Yankee donates emergency alert radios to residents of Brattleboro

Entergy Nuclear, whose Vermont Yankee atomic reactor in Vernon is just six miles away, has donated over 500 emergency alert radios to the residents of Brattleboro, the town's newspaper has reported. The article focuses on weather and traffic related emergencies, but does not report if the systems would also work to alert residents to a radiological emergency involving the Vermont Yankee atomic reactor or its over 600 tons of stored high-level radioactive waste.


Can multiple disasters at the same time be prepared for?

NHK public broadcasting in Japan has reported that the International Atomic Energy Agency has found, to no one's surprise, that the March 11th earthquake and tsunami greatly complicated emergency response at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Examples included blocked roads, destroyed communications systems, and government officials distracted by the competing demands of the natural disaster. Of course, it is fair to say that the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe diverted vitally needed resources from rescue and recovery efforts in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami as well -- as true on March 11th as it still is now, three months later. Not mentioned in the news report, but very significant: the possibility of multiple, simultaneous nuclear disasters at the same plant site, and the complications created by radioactivity releases from one reactor unit or high-level radioactive waste storage pool for efforts to maintain adequate cooling on other reactors and pools, to prevent yet more radioactivity releases. 


Inside EPA: "Agencies Struggle to Craft Offsite Cleanup Plan for Nuclear Power Accidents"

On Nov. 10th, Inside EPA's Douglas Guarino broke the story "Agencies Struggle to Craft Offsite Cleanup Plan for Nuclear Power Accidents." It revealed that NRC, EPA, and FEMA disagree about which agency would be responsible for long term cleanup after a major radiation release, and where the funding to do so would come from. Due to the heightened interest surrounding this story, Inside EPA has made the article, including embedded links to the corresponding FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) response documents, available to non-subscribers via the above link.


House hearing's grilling of oil executives about Gulf catastrophe should serve as warning on reactor risks

The grilling of BP and other oil company executives at a June 15, 2010 U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Environment Subcommittee hearing on the BP Gulf of Mexico oil catastrophe should serve as a warning that very similar risks exist in the nuclear power industry, albeit radiological rather than petrol. An earlier version of the New York Times article linked above reported "Representative Henry A. Waxman, chairman of the House committee, focused on the spill response plans of the five companies. They were prepared by an outside contractor and are virtually identical, Mr. Waxman said." The article continued "Mr. Markey [chairman of the subcommittee] added: 'In preparation for this hearing, the committee reviewed the oil spill safety response plans for all of the companies here today. What we found was that these five companies have response plans that are virtually identical. The plans cite identical response capabilities and tout identical ineffective equipment. In some cases, they use the exact same words. We found that all of these companies, not just BP, made the exact same assurances.' " Similarly, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Office of Inspector General reported in 2006 that NRC staff "safety reviews" of atomic reactor 20 year license extension applications were regularly "cut and pasted" directly from nuclear utility analyses, sometimes verbatim. NRC has thus far rubberstamped approval for every single one of the over 50 license extension requests it has recieved, with many more awaiting approval. Waxman was also quoted as saying that the oil companies'  disaster response "plans are 'just paper exercises,' " and that "BP failed miserably when confronted with a real leak...and Exxon Mobil and the other companies would do no better." This is a frightful parallel of nuclear utilities' self-congratulatory assurance that their radiological emergency planning is adequate, despite widespread evidence to the contrary. As but one example, the Chesapeake Safe Energy Coalition, of which Beyond Nuclear is a member, challenged the adequacy of the emergency preparedness and evacuation plans at the two reactor Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant in Maryland; this pressure successfully forced the Federal Emergency Management Agency to hold a public meeting on the matter, at which was revealed that even FEMA did not know where potassium iodine tablets for protecting human thyroids in the event of radiological iodine-131 releases during a disaster. Act now to prevent an atomic catastrophe -- contact the House Energy and Commerce Committee at (202) 225-2927 and urge that hearings be held on widespread, risky NRC regulatory shortfalls. Call your own U.S. Representative via the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to contact their colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee about the importance of such hearings.

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