Tuesday, June 28, 2011

populations around U.S. nuclear plants soar



AP | As America's nuclear power plants have aged, the once-rural areas around them have become far more crowded and much more difficult to evacuate. Yet government and industry have paid little heed, even as plants are running at higher power and posing more danger in the event of an accident, an Associated Press investigation has found.

Populations around the facilities have swelled as much as 4 times since 1980, a computer-assisted population analysis shows.
But some estimates of evacuation times have not been updated in decades, even as the population has increased more than ever imagined. Emergency plans would direct residents to flee on antiquated, two-lane roads that clog hopelessly at rush hour.
And evacuation zones have remained frozen at a 10-mile radius from each plant since they were set in 1978 — despite all that has happened since, including the accidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima Dai-ichi in Japan.

More than 90 of the nation's 104 operating reactors have been allowed to run at higher power levels for many years, raising the radiation risk in a major accident. In an ongoing investigative series, the AP has reported that aging plants, their lives extended by industry and regulators, are prone to breakdowns that could lead to accidents.

And because the federal government has failed to find a location for permanent storage of spent fuel, thousands of tons of highly radioactive used reactor rods are kept in pools onsite — and more is stored there all the time.
These mounting risks, though, have not resulted in more vigilant preparations for possible accidents.

The AP found serious weaknesses in plans for evacuations around the plants, including emergency drills that do not move people and fail to test different scenarios involving the weather or the time of day.

Some plans are merely on checklists, and never have been tested. In drills, responders typically go to command centers and not to their emergency posts. There is no federal requirement for how fast an evacuation must be carried out.

And disaster planners from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have made dubious assumptions about the public response to a major accident. They insist, for example, that people who are not called upon to evacuate will stay put; they're now saying that they might under some circumstances tell people to hunker down at home even in the 10-mile evacuation zone, and they believe people will do it.

That advice flies in the face of decades of science and policy, millions of dollars in planning and preparations — and common sense.

3 comments:

nanakwame said...

One who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived
Niccolo Machiavelli

In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other Mark Twain

umbrarchist said...

Are you implying that our politicians are too dumb to handle technology?
.

CNu said...

Who limited the scope of consideration to politicians?

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