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May 1, 2013
Suffolk Closeup: Evacuating L.I. — a nuclear dead end
Among the many obvious lessons of the ongoing nuclear power disaster at the Fukushima nuclear complex in Japan is that the 10-mile evacuation zone the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has insisted upon for nuclear plants here is a product of the pro-nuclear NRC’s wishful thinking.
The U.S. government has been directing Americans within 50 miles of Fukushima to evacuate. That’s a somewhat more realistic distance than a 10-mile evacuation zone.
This acknowledgement, long in coming, has special meaning to us here on Long Island. The Millstone nuclear complex in Connecticut is slightly more than 10 miles from the North Fork. As to the 50-mile distance, that would encompass all of the East End — including all of Shelter Island — and extend well into Brookhaven Town.
To our west, not too incidentally, is the Indian Point nuclear plant complex, just 28 miles north of New York City. A 50-mile zone for it would encompass all of Manhattan and much of the rest of the city.
A workable evacuation plan is an NRC condition for a nuclear plant operating.
How could a million people living on Long Island within 50 miles of the long-troubled two-reactor Millstone complex evacuate?
As was documented in the successful battle to stop the Shoreham nuclear plant, there could be no feasible evacuation on Long Island in the event of a catastrophic accident at Shoreham because of the island’s dead-end nature.
Many of us are from or have relatives in the city. How could more than 15 million people living in a 50-mile zone around the also long-troubled two-reactor Indian Point complex be able to flee? The situation would be particularly intense if the winds were blowing from the north down the Hudson River Valley enveloping
Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman has written to eastern Suffolk’s Congressional delegation urging that it press for expansion of the current 10-mile evacuation zone.
“If one lesson can be clearly learned from the nuclear incident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, it is that the current U.S. requirement of evacuation planning within 10 miles of a nuclear facility is woefully inadequate,” wrote Mr. Schneiderman. “Our own president urged that any U.S. citizens within 50 miles of the Fukushima Daiichi plant be evacuated. The Japanese government required evacuations within 25 miles.”
Mr. Schneiderman cited how much of eastern Suffolk falls within the more realistic zone of where lethal discharges from an accident at Millstone could fall. And “currently, no evacuation plans exist for these areas in the event of a nuclear disaster, be it accidental, through a natural disaster, or from any act of terrorism.”
Meanwhile, Priscilla Star of Montauk is organizing a Standing for Truth About Radiation Coalition to get citizens and environmental and safe-energy groups here to campaign for an extension of the 10-mile evacuation zone to 50 miles.
She said the coalition would “stand for truth about radiation by demanding that evacuation plans increase to 50 miles from 10.” Ms. Star said: “If the U.S. government is now on record of having demanded a 50-mile evacuation zone for U.S. citizens in Japan, it’s the least our elected officials can do for U.S. citizens here.” She asks that people and organizations seeking to “solidify a broad-scale coalition” contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In fact, U.S. government officials have known for many years that a 10-mile evacuation zone is unrealistic. Its research has projected death and damage miles beyond that.
Tom Twomey of East Hampton, a leader in fighting plans for nuclear power plants on Long Island, declared last week that the Millstone plants “should be shut down.” The NRC in recent times, he notes, extended the operating licenses of both plants to 60 years — inviting disaster. Nuclear plants were never expected to operate beyond 40 years because “with age, the metal piping in a nuclear plant becomes brittle.” He says nuclear power “is just not worth the risk.”
Indeed, that’s another clear lesson of the nuclear disaster of Japan — nuclear power is not worth the gargantuan risk. Instead we must fully implement the safe, clean renewable energy technologies here today including solar, wind and geothermal — energy we can live with.