The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported yesterday:
Nuclear power plants must provide updated estimates of how long it would take to evacuate nearby communities in an emergency under a new rule approved Tuesday by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Plant operators would have to update their evacuation estimates after every 10-year census, or when changes in population would increase the estimated time by at least 30 minutes.
The requirement was among several changes regulators approved regarding emergency preparedness. The changes came as the commission considered sweeping safety changes for the U.S. nuclear industry in response to the nuclear crisis in Japan.
The changes followed a report by the Associated Press on the adequacy of evacuation plans. According to the Star Tribune:
The Associated Press reported in June that as America’s 104 nuclear reactors have aged, the once-rural areas around them have become far more crowded and difficult to evacuate. By law, evacuations must be prepared for areas within about 10 miles of every nuclear plant, but many plans haven’t kept up with changing populations, according to the AP investigation.
Populations around some nuclear plants have swelled as much as 4 1/2 times since 1980, but some estimates of evacuation times have not been updated in decades. Meanwhile, aging reactors have been operating at higher power, risking larger radioactive releases.
The new rules contains some statutory deadlines:
The commission set an Oct. 3 deadline for staff to recommend action on 11 of 12 task force recommendations. Staffers were given 18 months to consider a broader recommendation to revamp the agency’s overall approach to regulation and safety.