Nuclear evacuation plans may not be adequate, says new GAO report

The Associated Press reported April 10:

Regulators and congressional investigators clashed Wednesday over a new report warning that in the event of an accident at a nuclear plant, panicking residents from outside the official evacuation zone might jam the roads and prevent others from escaping.

The report by the Government Accountability Office, which acts as the investigative arm of Congress, challenges a three-decade-old fundamental of emergency planning around American nuclear power plants: that preparations for evacuation should focus on people who live within 10 miles of the site.

The GAO found that people living beyond the official 10-mile evacuation zone might be so frightened by the prospect of spreading radiation that they would flee of their own accord, clog roads, and delay the escape of others. The investigators said regulators have never properly studied how many people beyond 10 miles would make their own decisions to take flight, prompting what is called a “shadow evacuation.”

As a result, the GAO report says, “evacuation time estimates may not accurately consider the impact of shadow evacuations.”

The report cited Japan’s experience following the Fukushima nuclear disaster:

The disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex in Japan two years ago has heightened worry about how well U.S. communities can protect themselves from a major release of radiation. When a tsunami cut off power and nuclear fuel melted, more than 150,000 people fled the Fukushima area, many from well beyond 12 miles, according to Japan’s Education Ministry.

The Associated Press had previously looked into nuclear evacuation planning:

…in its 2011 series, the AP reported population growth of up to 350 percent within 10 miles of nuclear sites between 1980 and 2010. About 120 million Americans — almost 40 percent — live within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant, according to the AP’s analysis of Census data. The series also reported shortcomings in readiness exercises for simulated accidents, including the failure to deploy emergency personnel around the community, reroute traffic, or practice any real evacuations.

In a less-than-ringing endorsement of current planning, Sean Kice, a radiation protection officer at the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, backed the NRC standard and said his state’s plans are “adequate enough….”

Here’s a link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/panic-fleeing-beyond-official-zone-may-bog-down-nuclear-evacuation-says-report-to-congress/2013/04/10/515adc6e-a1dd-11e2-bd52-614156372695_story.html

 

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About Robert Singleton

By day, I work for a call center. In my spare time, I try to save my hometown (and planet) from a nearly constant onslaught of greedheads, lunatics and land developers. I live in a fictional town called Austin, Texas, where I go to way too many meetings.
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