Nuclear plant study should include population growth
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.