Nuke group eyes shielding kids
Eric Epstein, of Three Mile Island Alert, is petitioning the NRC for a 15-mile radius in event of meltdown.
By Rory Sweeney email@example.com
If a reactor at the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station ever melted down, a citizensâ€™ group fears some of the most vulnerable potential victims might not have a way to escape.
Eric Epstein, who heads Harrisburg-based Three Mile Island Alert, is petitioning the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to demand that all evacuation centers for children be at least 15 miles from an emergency site and that all institutions charged with supervising children, like schools and day-care centers, create dedicated evacuation route and transportation plans.
The current regulations include â€œfatal vulnerabilities,â€ Epstein said, that could keep parents from retrieving their children in such an emergency.
First, preschool children are expected to be taken to general-population evacuation centers 15 miles from meltdown sites, but no dedicated routes or transportation are mandated. Both are mandated for school-aged children, but evacuation sites are only required to be beyond 10-mile â€œemergency planning zones,â€ which means â€œparents might not be able to get to them because their routes might be closed down,â€ Epstein said.
â€œThereâ€™s no invisible lead curtain 10 miles from a nuclear plant. The NRC and the industry believe they donâ€™t need to plan beyond a 10-mile radius from an accident,â€ he said. â€œThe NRCâ€™s regulations contradict (the Federal Emergency Management Agencyâ€™s) recommendations. â€¦ All weâ€™re asking is for the NRC to be true to what they put on paper.â€
PPL Corp., which operates the nuclear plant near Berwick, opposes creating such regulations because the company works with child-care providers to create and practice evacuation plans regularly, according to PPL Susquehanna spokesman Lou Ramos.
â€œI think that the plan that we have in place has been studied very carefully. â€¦ We feel very, very confident that itâ€™s a good process,â€ he said. â€œWe will not support Epsteinâ€™s recommendation.â€
Besides, he added, â€œwe have never, ever had to evacuate school children at Susquehanna. â€¦ That surely shows the safety record that weâ€™ve been able to prove to the community. â€¦ Weâ€™re talking about a very, very remote issue. â€
But PPLâ€™s â€œmore proactiveâ€ policies mean nothing if the plant is ever sold, Epstein warned. â€œThatâ€™s why you need to enforce regulations. Pennsylvania politics has to be more than a handshake.â€
Epstein has previously tried to petition the NRC on evacuation issues regarding pre-school children, who are more vulnerable to radiation than others. â€œThey canâ€™t take care of themselves, so we wanted an additional layer of protection,â€ he said.
To back the petition
Contact the Nuclear Regulatory Commission before Sept. 24 via the following methods. Include Docket No. PRM-50-85 in the subject line. Comments will not be edited to remove any identifying or contact information, so donâ€™t include any information not fit for public disclosure.
Mail comments to: Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, ATTN: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff.
E-mail comments to: SECY@nrc.gov. If you do not receive a reply e-mail confirming that comments have been received, contact the NRC at 301-415-1966. Comments can also be submitted via the NRCâ€™s rulemaking Web site at http://ruleforum.llnl.gov.
Rory Sweeney, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7418.
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