Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Government Report Exposes Lack of Preparedness for Nuclear Emergency

Energy
Government Report Exposes Lack of Preparedness for Nuclear Emergency

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.

 

People Have the Power - VOTE 2020

Climate-action nonprofit Pathway to Paris first launched in 2014 with an "intimate evening" of music and conversation after the People's Climate March in New York City.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Heo Suwat Waterfall in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand. sarote pruksachat / Moment / Getty Images

A national park in Thailand has come up with an innovative way to make sure guests clean up their own trash: mail it back to them.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The 2020 presidential election poses a critical test of climate conservatives' willingness to put their environmental concerns before party politics. filo / Getty Images

By Ilana Cohen

Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.

But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.

Read More Show Less
Headquarters of the World Health Organization in Geneva amid the COVID-19 outbreak on Aug. 17, 2020. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Monday that 64 high-income nations have joined an effort to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine fairly, prioritizing the most vulnerable citizens, as Science reported. The program is called the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or Covax, and it is a joint effort led by the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Read More Show Less
Exterior of Cold Tube demonstration pavilion. Lea Ruefenacht

By Gloria Oladipo

In the face of dangerous heat waves this summer, Americans have taken shelter in air conditioned cooling centers. Normally, that would be a wise choice, but during a pandemic, indoor shelters present new risks. The same air conditioning systems that keep us cool recirculate air around us, potentially spreading the coronavirus.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch