What, US Worry? NRC, FEMA Relax Practice Drills And Evacuation Standards Near Nuke Plants

Via the Associated Press. Even though we have 23 nuclear power plants with the same flawed design as Fukushima, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and FEMA thinks it's more important to practice for terrorist assaults than the very real danger

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Via the Associated Press. Even though we have 23 nuclear power plants with the same flawed design as Fukushima, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and FEMA thinks it's more important to practice for terrorist assaults than the very real danger presented by these aging plants:

Without fanfare, the nation's nuclear power regulators have overhauled community emergency planning for the first time in more than three decades, requiring fewer exercises for major accidents and recommending that fewer people be evacuated right away.

Nuclear watchdogs voiced surprise and dismay over the quietly adopted revamp - the first since the program began after Three Mile Island in 1979. Several said they were unaware of the changes until now, though they took effect in December.

At least four years in the works, the changes appear to clash with more recent lessons of last year's reactor crisis in Japan. A mandate that local responders always run practice exercises for a radiation release has been eliminated - a move viewed as downright bizarre by some emergency planners.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which run the program together, have added one new exercise: More than a decade after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, state and community police will now take part in exercises that prepare for a possible assault on their local plant.

Still, some emergency officials say this new exercise doesn't go far enough.

[...] An AP investigative series in June exposed weaknesses in the U.S. emergency planning program. The stories detailed how many nuclear reactors are now operating beyond their design life under rules that have been relaxed to account for deteriorating safety margins. The series also documented dramatic population growth around nuclear power plants and limitations in the scope of emergency exercises. For example, local authorities assemble at command centers where they test communications, but they do not deploy around the community, reroute traffic or evacuate anyone as in a real emergency.

The latest changes, especially relaxed exercise plans for 50-mile emergency zones, are being flayed by some local planners and activists who say the widespread contamination in Japan from last year's Fukushima nuclear accident screams out for stronger planning in the United States, not weaker rules.

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