Nukewatch Quarterly Summer 2014
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on April 9 formally denied a petition to make modest improvements in emergency planning for nuclear reactor accidents, saying the current zones are sufficient.
The petition called for increasing the size of the existing Emergency Planning Zone around commercial nuclear reactors from 10 to 25 miles, to create a new, 50-mile “Emergency Response Zone, and to expand the “Ingestion Pathway Zone” — where drinking water and food could become contaminated — from 50 to 100 miles.
The petition, filed Feb. 15, 2012 by the Nuclear Information Resource Service (NIRS) — 11 months after the start of the triple melt-through and massive radiation releases in Fukushima, Japan — was supported by 37 US environmental groups including Nukewatch. Over 3,200 people signed on as co-petitioners, and out of 5,993 comments sent to the NRC on the petition, 5,953 supported the proposal. The NRC denied the petition in its entirety.
“The NRC has failed the American people,” said Michael Mariotte of NIRS. “Rather than learn from Fukushima and act appropriately to protect the public, the agency has chosen to protect the nuclear power industry yet again.”
NIRS explained in the petition that the Ingestion Pathway Zone is meant to protect against the distribution of contaminated water, milk and other food. At Fukushima and Chernobyl, these basic necessities were intercepted from well over 100 miles away — in Chernboyl’s case, more than 1,000 miles. Yet the NRC insisted that its 50-mile zone is adequate.
As the Pottstown, Pennsylvania daily Mercury pointed out at the time of the Fukushima disaster, US officials told US citizens in Japan to evacuate a 50 miles radius around the triple reactor radiation catastrophe.
In addition, as NIRS reported in its petition, Japan was spared a far worse radiation disaster since 80 percent of the airborne radiation released at Fukushima — nearly 100 percent the first critical days — never passed over land. It was sent by the wind out over the Pacific Ocean.
Mariotte said, “The United States should not have to rely on favorable wind patterns as an emergency response measure.”
Tim Judson, NIRS’s Acting Executive Director, said in a press release, “Over the last 35 years, five nuclear reactors have had catastrophic accidents, all requiring evacuations, and four involving massive releases of radiation that have left large areas of land unsafe for human habitation. The Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents required much larger evacuations and emergency response measures than nuclear power stations and state and local governments in the US are currently prepared for.”
— NIRS press release, April 9; Cape Cod Times online, May 2 & Apr. 10; & (Pottstown, PA) Mercury, May 2, 2014