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Some Notes On Frontline, Indian Point and Emergency Preparedness

Tonight, PBS will be airing a new episode of Frontline entitled, "Nuclear Aftershocks," a look at the world's reaction to the incident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility. Here on the East Coast, the program will begin at 10:00 p.m. EST.

As we noted at NEI Nuclear Notes last week, the nuclear industry cooperated extensively with Frontline on the broadcast, and over the past few days, we've been getting a better idea on the direction of the program.

A good portion of the program deals with Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC) and the question of whether or not the sort of incident that occurred in Japan could happen there.

Chief among the questions posed by reporter Miles O'Brien is whether or not the area around IPEC could be evacuated in time in case of an accident. As it turns out, that's a question that's been recently addressed by NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko. As Bloomberg reported in Decmember:
The New York City area may be safely evacuated in the event of a Fukushima-like disaster at the Indian Point nuclear plant because a crisis would unfold slowly, the top U.S. nuclear regulator said.

“Nuclear accidents do develop slowly, they do develop over time, and we saw that at Fukushima,” U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko, 41, said in an interview today at Bloomberg's headquarters in New York. It's unlikely a nuclear accident would require prompt action beyond “more than a few miles,” where the highest radiation levels would be, he said.
That's a point that O'Brien ought to include in tonight's broadcast, because after all, he's already been told just that. Back on December 1, 2011, O'Brien interviewed Joe Pollock, then Vice President of Operations at IPEC. A representative of Entergy recorded that interview and we made a transcript:
MR. O’BRIEN: But because of all those people, it – the problem of evacuation, if something goes wrong, is a bigger challenge, isn’t it?

MR. POLLOCK: The evacuation is handled through the state and the counties, but the – at Indian Point we do a traffic study – emergency traffic study – every year. It’s required once every 10 years, but here we do that analysis, and we provide that to the state as well as the counties to implement evacuation. It considers ongoing weather; it considers a football game at West Point; so how would you handle the crowds on that day. So we continue to update that.

The key thing to remember – and it actually showed in Japan – these are not fast-moving events, you know, where you have to evacuate in two hours. In fact, there are days – a long time before they would be to a level that, should something happen, you would have to have that evacuation.

MR. O’BRIEN: So there’s – the notion of an instant event that would require everybody in a 50-mile radius to get out is hard to imagine?

MR. POLLOCK: It’s hard to imagine. Matter of fact, if you look at all the studies, all the analysis done by both the NRC, independent labs and the manufacturers, that there is not a scenario that’s an instant scenario.
We'll be posting that transcript on our Web site later today.

Here are some other points to keep in mind when considering IPEC and a potential evacuation:
  • Indian Point Energy Center —like other nuclear facilities—is designed with wide margins to withstand the toughest natural phenomena predicted for its area.
  • It has a very robust safety record, including during severe events. In 2011 alone, American nuclear facilities were able to withstand hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and even an earthquake. Click here to view the interactive graphic that recounts those events.
  • The EPZ standard for evacuation—created and approved by the NRC—is 10-miles. Indian Point is 24 miles from NYC.
  • The 2nd EPZ of 50 miles is for monitoring of radiation levels—not evacuation.
We have a number of resources available on this topic for readers who would like to know more:

NEI Web site: Emergency Preparedness;
NEI Fact Sheet: Nuclear Power Plant Emergency Preparedness: Protecting Our Neighbors in the Event of an Emergency

We'll have other updates throughout the day. Please stay tuned.

Comments

jimwg said…
What’s good for the goose is long overdue for the gander; where’s the outcry for evacuation zones with medical and bio labs experimenting with and storing potentially pernicious pathogens and plague microbes — even inside our densest cities? (It wasn’t a coincidence that the Center of Disease Control is the only major uniformed gov’t agency headquartered far outside Washington!) Ditto evacuation zones and sirens and drills around gas and chemical plants to mitigate another Bhopal right? (the worst chemical mishap vs nuclear energy’s worst mishap “hurt” how many more people??) Yea, the public safety hypocrisy of anti-nukers is so thick it’d clog any toilet.

James Greenidge
Queens NY
Anonymous said…
So, it's somehow hypocritical to argue one type of hazard should be addressed if all hazards are not also addressed? That doesn't make sense on its face.
jimwg said…
Yea, it's hypocritical when you're barking up a tree at a power plant source whose overblown worst days hasn't killed more people worldwide for its 50 year history than a single plane crash (wow, what a doomsday hazard!) while turning a shrug and blind eye to the tens-thousands workers and public killed by other industrial and power plants in the same period and way beyond and onwards into the future. Hell yea, that's blind-eye hypocritical!

James Greenidge (not hiding behind any anon mask!)
Queens NY

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