Quantcast

Government Report Exposes Lack of Preparedness for Nuclear Emergency

Energy

Nuclear Information and Resource Service

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) today released a report finding that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) does not adequately understand the “shadow evacuation” phenomenon at nuclear reactors, and that its emergency planning regulations do not adequately account for the strong likelihood that far more people would evacuate, from much further distances than NRC plans, in a real nuclear emergency.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

“The report did not cover another crucial and little-known flaw in current U.S. nuclear emergency plans,” said Michael Mariotte, executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), “which is that they are designed to protect only against very high levels of radiation exposure capable of causing immediate health effects, and would not prevent large-scale exposure to radiation levels that would cause chronic illness, including cancer.”

“It’s past time for the NRC to strengthen its emergency rules—that’s a clear lesson from the Fukushima and Chernobyl nuclear disasters, both of which resulted in evacuations far beyond the NRC’s current 10-mile zone,” said Mariotte.

“In a real radiation release, the American people will expect the government to act to protect them against exposures that could cause damaging health effects. This is especially important since the NRC’s current antiquated rules are based on exposure effects to an average adult man—yet women and children are far more susceptible to radiation than men.

“But to make matters worse, the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] last week proposed radiation 'clean-up' standards that could force Americans to live in highly-contaminated areas and ingest highly-contaminated food and water in the aftermath of a nuclear power accident or radiological attack. These standards would codify cancer and are completely at odds with civilized society. They must not be allowed to take effect.”

The GAO report mirrors one criticism of NRC emergency planning included in a Petition for Rulemaking submitted by NIRS last February, to expand the size of the current 10-mile Emergency Planning Zones around U.S. reactors to 25 miles and to make other planning and training improvements. That petition, backed by some 6,000 organizations and individuals, is still pending at the NRC.

The GAO warned that by failing to account and plan for the actual numbers of people who would evacuate in a nuclear emergency, “NRC may not be providing the best planning guidance to licensees and state and local authorities.”

The “shadow evacuation” phenomenon was demonstrated at the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, where some 5,000 pregnant women and children under five within five miles of the site were advised to evacuate. But well over 100,000 people from 25 and more miles away actually fled.

The GAO conducted the report at the request of four U.S. Senators, Democrats Barbara Boxer of California, Robert P. Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and independent Bernard Sanders of Vermont, in the wake of a 2011 investigative series from Associated Press showing startling population increases near many nuclear reactors and a population outside the immediate 10-mile Emergency Planning Zones largely unaware of what to do in the event of a nuclear accident.

Visit EcoWatch’s NUCLEAR POWER page for more related news on this topic.

——–

Click here to tell Congress to Expedite Renewable Energy.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A new study shows that half of all Arctic warming and corresponding sea-loss during the late 20th century was caused by ozone-depleting substances. Here, icebergs discharged from Greenland's Jakobshavn Glacier. Kevin Krajick / Earth Institute / EurekAlert!

The world awakened to the hole in the ozone layer in 1985, which scientists attributed it to ozone depleting substances. Two years later, in Montreal, the world agreed to ban the halogen compounds causing the massive hole over Antarctica. Research now shows that those chemicals didn't just cut a hole in the ozone layer, they also warmed up the Arctic.

Read More
Diane Wilson holds up a bag full of nurdles she collected from one of Formosa's outfall areas on Jan. 15. Julie Dermansky / DeSmogBlog

By Julie Dermansky

On the afternoon of Jan. 15, activist Diane Wilson kicked off a San Antonio Estuary Waterkeeper meeting on the side of the road across from a Formosa plastics manufacturing plant in Point Comfort, Texas.

After Wilson and the waterkeeper successfully sued Formosa in 2017, the company agreed to no longer release even one of the tiny plastic pellets known as nurdles into the region's waterways. The group of volunteers had assembled that day to check whether the plant was still discharging these raw materials of plastics manufacturing.

Read More
Sponsored

By Simon Coghlan and Kobi Leins

A remarkable combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and biology has produced the world's first "living robots."

Read More
Malaysian Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin (front 2nd L) and officials inspect a container containing plastic waste shipment on Jan. 20, 2020 before sending back to the countries of origin. AFP via Getty Images

The Southeast Asian country Malaysia has sent 150 shipping containers packed with plastic waste back to 13 wealthy countries, putting the world on notice that it will not be the world's garbage dump, as CNN reported. The countries receiving their trash back include the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Canada.

Read More
Trump leaves after delivering a speech at the Congress Centre during the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos on Jan. 21, 2020. JIM WATSON / AFP via Getty Images

U.S. President Donald Trump dismissed the concerns of environmental activists as "pessimism" in a speech to political and business leaders at the start of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Tuesday.

Read More