Nu­clear plant study should in­clude pop­u­la­tion growth

North Penn Life - - Opinion -

As stud­ies go, a fed­eral re­view of nu­clear plant evac­u­a­tion pro­ce­dures be­ing con­ducted by the Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice is pretty stan­dard.

A GAO team of in­ves­ti­ga­tors last week vis­ited Ex­elon Nu­clear’s Lim­er­ick Gen­er­at­ing Sta­tion as one of four nu­clear plants be­ing pro­filed in an ex­am­i­na­tion of dis­as­ter evac­u­a­tion plans. The study is “part of on­go­ing work look­ing at evac­u­a­tion pro­ce­dures in case of an in­ci­dent at a U.S. nu­clear power plant,” GAO spokesman Ned Grif­fith wrote in an email to The Mer­cury, a sis­ter news or­ga­ni­za­tion of Mont­gomery Me­dia. Grif­fith wrote that the GAO ef­fort has three pri­mary ar­eas of in­quiryW •“:Kat aUe tKe UoOes anG UesSon­sLELOLtLes oI tKe 1uFOeaU 5eJuOa­toUy CoPmis­sion, the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, and state and lo­cal en­ti­ties in evac­u­a­tion plan­ning for U.S. nu­clear power plants?”

•“How Go 15C anG FE0A SeUIoUP tKeLU evaFu­atLon SOan­nLnJ UoOes anG re­spon­si­bil­i­ties?

•“How Go 15C anG FE0A KeOS FoPPunLFate evaFu­atLon SOans anG tKe risks as­so­ci­ated with a po­ten­tial nu­clear power plant ac­ci­dent to the pub­lic?”

But there is one glar­ing omis­sion in the fo­cus of this study, as out­lined Ey GULIILtK. 7Ke TuestLon not EeLnJ asNeG Ls, “Have evaFu­atLon SOans Eeen updated to keep up with growth, and what is the pro­ce­dure and risk in­volved in do­ing so?”

Ac­cord­ing to data as­sem­bled by The As­so­ci­ated Press last year, the pop­u­la­tion in a 10-mile ra­dius around the Lim­er­ick nu­clear plant has in­creased by 45 per­cent since 1VV0 — from 178,047 to 257,625. That’s an in­crease of nearly 80,000 peo­ple. And in a 50-mile ra­dius — the re­gion evac­u­ated dur­ing the Fukushima dis­as­ter in Ja­pan — the pop­u­la­tion around Lim­er­ick has in­creased by more than 855,000 since 1VV0, or 12 per­cent.

AIteU tKe A3 seULes, 8.6. 6en. 5oEeUt Casey, D-3a., asNeG IoU a GA2 in­ves­ti­ga­tion of “whether evac­u­a­tion plan­ning has kept pace with pop­u­la­tion growth and in­creased power lev­els around nu­clear plants,” ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­ated Press.

“I called on the GAO to con­duct this study be­cause Penn­syl­va­ni­ans liv­ing near nu­clear plants have a right to know that safety pro­ce­dures and evaFu­atLon SOan­nLnJ aUe Ln SOaFe Ln Fase oI ePeUJenFy,” Casey saLG Ln a Ue­cent state­ment.

Ex­elon of­fi­cials in­sist the in­creases in pop­u­la­tion are taken into ac­count in reg­u­lar evac­u­a­tion plan re­views.

How­eveU, Oast yeaU, 5utK 0LOOeU, GeSuty SUess seFUe­taUy IoU tKe 3ennsyO­va­nia Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, said while the evac­u­a­tion plan for Lim­er­ick was last updated in 2008, “there have been no se­ri­ous changes to evac­u­a­tion routes since they were first de­vised.”

,PSUovePents to evaFu­atLon SUoFeGuUes, as out­OLneG Ey Dana 0eOLa, com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor for the Lim­er­ick sta­tion, have in­cor­po­rated “tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances and lessons learned from re­cent events.

All 165 of Lim­er­ick’s emer­gency sirens were re­cently re­placed with sta­teof-the-art tech­nol­ogy that in­cludes bat­tery back ups,” Melia said. The bat­tery back­ups were de­signed to keep sirens op­er­a­ble dur­ing a power out­age, a likely oc­cur­rence in the event of a nu­clear plant ac­ci­dent.

Out of 63 nu­clear power sta­tions across the coun­try, only 17 have sirens that can be heard dur­ing a power fail­ure.

Nei­ther Melia nor Grif­fith ad­dressed the ques­tion most on res­i­dents’ PLnGs: :Kat Ls tKe SOan IoU evaFu­atLnJ 855,000 PoUe SeoSOe tKan OLveG KeUe when the plant was built?

Casey Ls SOeaseG tKe GA2 stuGy Ls unGeU way, anG we aOso weOFoPe an anal­y­sis with the ben­e­fit of lessons learned af­ter the Fukushima dis­as­ter in Ja­pan.

:e uUJe tKose FonGuFtLnJ tKe stuGy to Fon­sLGeU wKat Kas FKanJeG Ln tKe re­gion and whether evac­u­a­tion plans and pro­ce­dures have kept up with those changes. Oth­er­wise the study is an ex­er­cise in show-and-tell, and a waste of time and money.

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