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Beyond Nuclear calls out flaws in nuclear emergency plans during hurricanes

Prior to the onset of Hurrincane Irma, Beyond Nuclear issued a press release pointing out that nuclear emergency plans would not work in the reality of chaos and destruction already caused by a massive hurricane such as Irma. Read the full press release here.

An excerpt:

Two Florida nuclear power plants potentially in the path of Hurricane Irma could exacerbate what is already predicted to become a major disaster for the state because nuclear emergency evacuation plans are unrealistic and likely unworkable in real life conditions, warned Beyond Nuclear, a national anti-nuclear watchdog organization.

The nuclear emergency plans, the group said, do not account for the destruction already caused by mega-storm conditions that could see emergency workers unable to cope with an added radiological disaster. 

“Hurricanes like Irma and Harvey serve as an ominous reminder that the continued existence of nuclear power plants means the risk of an accident that could lead to widespread exposure to radiation and to radioactive contamination that could last decades or longer,” said Paul Gunter, Director of the Reactor Oversight Project at Beyond Nuclear. 

“This would come on top of the terrible devastation already caused by the storm itself,” he added. “Much of the radiological emergency plans presently on paper would never work in reality.” 

Emergency workers could already be evacuated and unavailable for a potential nuclear emergency, as happened around the South Texas Project twin-reactor nuclear plant during Hurricane Harvey. Evacuation routes around the plant were also flooded. If a nuclear emergency had occurred there, nuclear plant workers would have been left to fend for themselves. 

Beyond Nuclear had called for the precautionary “cold shutdown” of STP during Hurricane Harvey which brought unprecedented flooding to the Texas region, a warning the owners chose to ignore, gambling public safety by keeping the reactors running at 100%.

The two Florida nuclear plants, both owned by Florida Power and Light (FPL) are Turkey Point 3 & 4 located 25 miles south of Miami in Homestead, and St. Lucie 1 and 2, perched on low-lying Hutchinson Island south of Vero Beach. To its credit, FPL has said it will close both nuclear plants well in advance of hurricane force winds and storm surge.

But even should the hurricane by-pass the nuclear plants this time, such mega-storms are likely to become more frequent as climate change worsens. A nuclear plant cannot be abandoned by its workforce during a mandatory evacuation, forcing workers to potentially sacrifice their safety and even their lives to prevent a meltdown. More