Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Emergency Planning

It might surprise you to find out that the last time we had an update to the NRC evacuation plan was in 1979 when Three Mile Island nuclear event occurred. We don't talk about it a lot but our nuclear power facilities could very well be a target of a terrorist attack.

My plan has never been to use fear as a weapon against nuclear energy, rather instead to use logic. So doesn't it make sense that since it is now 2014 we should probably have a current, updated plan in effect should an accident happen at one of our nuclear power facilities?

I know it is asking a lot, perhaps too much, to have you get involved. But just on the chance one or two of you out there would like to do something I share the following information for your consideration.

If so inclined you can send an email, make a phone call or do nothing at all. It really is up to you. But I will rest a little easier tonight knowing that I have at least passed on this information.

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Help bring NRC emergency planning regs into 21st century

Ask your local officials to support expanded emergency planning zones and better first responder training

January 15, 2014

Dear Friends,

It's time to turn up the heat on the NRC's resistance to bringing its emergency planning and evacuation regulations into the 21st century.

Those regulations were implemented following the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 and established 10-mile Emergency Planning Zones around each reactor site in the U.S. Annual exercises (later changed to once every two years) are required to practice emergency procedures, including steps necessary to effectively evacuate the entire zone if necessary.

Since then, as we all unfortunately know, real-life has intervened to show the woeful inadequacy of these regulations. First Chernobyl, then Fukushima demonstrated clearly that in real life, evacuations beyond--sometimes far beyond--10 miles can be necessary to protect public health and safety from real nuclear disasters. The botched evacuation of New Orleans (when, unlike most nuclear accident scenarios there was plenty of advance warning) before Hurricane Katrina in 2005 demonstrated the need for better training for both First Responders and public officials

And can you believe that even in the wake of Fukushima--a disaster initiated by an earthquake and tsunami--the NRC requires no exercises at all that include a scenario of a natural disaster initiated nuclear accident?

It's time to change that; to bring emergency planning into the 21st century and to reflect real-life situations rather than someone's computer models--which is what NRC regulations currently are based on.

You can start by contacting your local officials and asking them to support NIRS' initiative to expand emergency planning zones and improve emergency training and exercises. We have prepared a sample letter for you to send to your officials, although we encourage you to edit it to reflect your own communities and situation.

Nearly two years ago, NIRS submitted a formal Petition for Rulemaking to the NRC that would expand emergency planning zones and would require emergency planning exercises that include complicating or initiating natural disasters as a component. This petition calls for expanding the basic Emergency Planning Zone from 10 to 25 miles; creating a new zone with more limited, but still significant planning requirements for jurisdictions within 25-50 miles; increasing the "ingestion pathway" zone (which enables identification and interdiction of contaminated food and water supplies) from 50-100 miles, and requires the new and more relevant training and exercises. You can read and download the petition here.

The NRC Commissioners accepted the Petition for consideration and then proceeded to sit on it. Every few months they contact us to tell us it's still being considered. It's time to move this process along, and you can help.

NIRS' Salsa platform has a new database of city, town, and county elected officials across the country. Your e-mails will go directly to these people--the ones who are most responsible for public safety in your communities. These officials also are usually more responsive to citizen involvement than your federal elected officials, who represent far greater numbers of people. Encourage your local officials to pass resolutions in support of this petition, or at least its concept. You can read and download a sample resolution here.

Let's all encourage cities, towns and counties, especially those that lie from 10-50 miles from nuclear reactors and thus receive no training or emergency support whatsoever, to join cities like Pittsburgh, PA, which in August became the largest jurisdiction to pass such a resolution, and South Miami Beach (near the Turkey Point reactors) to enact a resolution in support of these goals. As more jurisdictions take such actions, the pressure will grow on the NRC to act. But it all begins with you asking them to.

Once we obtain enough local jurisdiction support for improving emergency planning around nuclear reactors, we can then move to the state level for additional support. We are committed to forcing the NRC to move on this issue.

Improving emergency planning is a necessity as long as nuclear reactors continue to operate and pose the threat of a nuclear meltdown. It is obviously not a substitute for closing reactors and we are continuing to press with nuclear shutdown campaigns this year--that's our highest priority for 2014. But current NRC emergency planning regulations are irresponsible and negligent, and must be changed until we can close every nuclear reactor.
In addition, as more jurisdictions join this effort, and as the utter impossibility of successfully evacuating larger areas around most U.S. nuclear reactors becomes self-evident to local officials, the pressure for reactor shutdowns will grow--not just from anti-nuclear activists but from towns, cities and counties across the country. The nuclear industry wants to keep emergency zones as small as possible, so it seems like the repercussions of nuclear accidents would also be small. But reality is that nuclear accidents will almost always affect people much farther away than 10 miles. That must be planned for, and where successful evacuations cannot be accomplished, reactors must close.

To learn more about nuclear emergency planning issues, please visit NIRS' Nuclear 911 page here.

Note: there are thousands and thousands of cities, towns and counties across the country and thus tens of thousands of local elected officials. This is the first time we have used this new local officials database. We cannot guarantee every single jurisdiction, especially  small ones, will be included. Please let us know if you encounter any glitches or if your officials do not appear as recipients. Send an e-mail to with any problems you encounter and we will pass them on to the tech support people at Salsa, which compiled the database.

As always, thank you for your activism and support. Change does not happen without you. Your financial support is also important for us to be able to mount campaigns like this one. If you have anything left over after your holiday bills, we hope you'll consider making a tax-deductible contribution to NIRS online here, or by sending a check to NIRS, 6930 Carroll Avenue, #340, Takoma Park, MD 20912. And thank you to all of you who supported us during the holiday season. We are very grateful. This Alert is a direct result of your support. Acquiring the local officials database cost money. Your contributions paid for it. That's how we use your funds: to further build our movement and our outreach, organizing and empowerment capabilities.

Thanks for everything you do,

Michael Mariotte
Nuclear Information and Resource Service

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