Nuclear industry spends $80 million on two emergency response centers to deal with “unthinkable disasters”‏

A team gathers in the new nuclear response center in Tolleson. From left to right are Deanna McCombs, Southern Company project manager; Scott Bauer, NEI senior project manager; Randall Edington, APS chief nuclear officer and executive vice president; Michael Powell, APS, Fukushima Initiative director; and Dan Brush, Exelon Nuclear senior project manager.

Three years after the Fukushima disaster, the nuclear industry still says that nothing comparable could happen in the United States. But an article in yesterday’s Arizona Republic seems to indicate that they may be planning for The Big One:

The nuclear-power industry opens a $40 million response center near Phoenix today that aims to back up reactors around the country in the event of a major disaster.

The response center in Tolleson — and one just like it taking shape near Memphis, Tenn., — was built in response to the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster in Japan.

The nuclear industry still maintains that U.S. reactors are safe, but:

…disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and Fukushima prompted further reviews of emergency preparedness, and the flexible-response centers are among the results. They were built to ensure backup equipment would be available even in unthinkable disasters that disable one or more nuclear-power plants at once.

Apparently, we have nothing to fear, except a meltdown that occurs during an Arizona dust storm:

Arizona was selected as the site of the response center because of the low probability of a natural disaster that would prevent emergency workers from accessing the equipment. The centers in Tolleson and Memphis are both designed to get equipment to any plant within 24 hours.

“We don’t have any big natural events,” (Randy) Edington (executive vice president and chief nuclear officer for Arizona Public Service Co.) said of Arizona. “Nothing stops us from getting the equipment out. Maybe a dust storm, which would only delay you a few hours.”

The total cost of the two facilities seems to argue that the industry considers the risk of a disaster to be fairly high:

The centers cost $40 million each to develop and stock with equipment. They will cost about $400 million to maintain over their 40-year operating life, or about $4 million per U.S. nuclear reactor.

The Republic’s piece on the emergency response centers also puts another story in context, this one on the website:

With an award of more than $100,000, the township will now be able to complete a second phase of repaving to Alloways Creek Neck Road, officials said.

The heavily-traveled road will be resurfaced thanks to New Jersey Department of Transportation grant funding totaling $153,000, according to township public works Superintendent Jack Lynch.

Alloways Creek Neck Road is used by Salem Nuclear Power Plant workers at Artificial Island since it is the only access road to the island.

I had originally planned to post this because it might be difficult to evacuate Salem workers in the event of a disaster, but after the Arizona Republic article, I’m worried about the ability to ship in equipment to deal with an emergency.

And there was one other story about evacuation during a nuclear disaster. BBC News reported Tuesday:

About 90% of workers at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant fled at the height of the meltdown crisis in 2011, a Japanese newspaper has reported.

The Asahi Shimbun said the report was based on transcripts of interviews – stored in the prime minister’s office until now – with the plant director.

Here’s a link to the Arizona Republic article:

And here’s one for the story:

And here’s a link to the BBC report:



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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