Petition To Expand Emergency Zones Near Nuclear Reactors

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6930 Carroll Avenue, #340, Takoma Park, MD 20912; 301-270-6477;



May 16, 2012

Dear Friends,

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has published the Petition for Rulemaking to expand Emergency Planning Zones around nuclear reactors written by NIRS and submitted with 37 Co-Petitioners on February 15, 2012. About 4500 people have since signed on as Co-Petitioners.

The deadline for public comments is July 16, 2012. You can submit your comments here.
The nuclear disasters at Fukushima and Chernobyl provide real-world and plain evidence that the current 10-mile emergency evacuation zones in the U.S. are simply too small, and cannot adequately protect the public from the possibility of acute radiation exposures. Moreover, as we have learned in recent months and years, women and children are more susceptible to radiation than men: regulations must protect the most vulnerable in society.
At both Fukushima and Chernobyl, actual evacuations took place far beyond 10 miles. And at Fukushima (as at Three Mile Island in 1979) far more people than those who were told to evacuate actually did evacuate–the Associated Press in an article today says that about one-third of the Fukushima evacuees left areas that were not part of the evacuation zones.
And yet, as the AP article today notes, the Federal Emergency Management Agency actually quietly weakened its emergency evacuation rules late last year (on December 23, to be exact).
For its part, the NRC says it does indeed intend to review its emergency planning rules, although not as part of its post-Fukushima safety changes. We believe that means it intends to review them through this Petition for Rulemaking–making your comments all the more important.
Improving emergency planning rules is obviously not a substitute for closing nuclear reactors. We all would prefer that such rules not be needed at all–because all reactors are closed. But that’s not the world we live in; with 104 operating reactors in the U.S., it is essential that emergency evacuation rules reflect the real dangers each of these reactors presents. We do note, however, that some reactor sites would not be able to meet our proposed new regulations: those reactors would have to be closed simply by virtue of this petition–and that’s progress!
Our petition calls for a three-tiered Emergency Planning Zone: the current 10-mile zone would expand to 25 miles, with all current requirements intact. A new zone from 25-50 miles would be established; utilities would be required to notify residents of these zones of evacuation routes if needed, but would not conduct biannual exercises. The Ingestion Pathway Zone, designed for interdiction of contaminated food, milk, and water, would be expanded from the current 50 miles to 100 miles. And a new rule would be established that would require emergency exercises to include scenarios of initiating or concurrent regionally-appropriate natural disasters.
We have prepared some sample comments for you to submit–you can do so here. However, we encourage you to edit these comments to reflect your own concerns, and to discuss emergency evacuation issues in your own communities. What happens if there is an earthquake in your area, or a hurricane? Has population growth in your area outstripped road networks? What about public transportation–how would people without cars be evacuated? The more you can address real-world problems, the better!
We encourage organizations to submit more detailed comments. And we encourage everyone to ask their state and local elected officials to submit comments (we soon will have a separate action aimed at Congressmembers).
You can submit your comments by e-mail through our website here. However, there are a number of other ways to submit comments if you’d prefer (or if you are contacting elected officials), you can find those, and a summary of the petition and issues raised, at the Federal Register website here.
And the original petition, along with sample resolutions for local officials and other background information, can be found on our Nuclear 911 website here.
Please contact Dominique French at NIRS if you have any questions about commenting. With a deadline of July 16, we have a lot of time to spread the word about this vital issue and get as many comments in as possible. The nuclear industry will certainly be putting in its own comments; we need to counteract their self-serving comments with the voices of the vast majority of the American people. Your help with outreach is essential. Note: this letter, with share buttons, can be found at the top of this page (as can all NIRS Alerts).
Thanks for all you do,
Michael Mariotte
Executive Director
Nuclear Information and Resource Service
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