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New Guidelines for US Nuclear Plants

Associated Press Modified: May 16, 2012 at 3:00 am •  Published: May 16, 2012

For the first time in over 30 years the US Government has overhauled its nuclear emergency preparedness program. Critics say the new plan falls short, but the nuclear industry and the US Government think the changes add much needed variety. (May 16)



For the first time since the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island the government has overhauled its nuclear emergency preparedness program for local communities.

Critics say these new guidelines don't address the lessons learned from last year's meltdown in Fukushima, Japan.

[SOT: Phillip Musegaas, Riverkeeper]

"They continue to go forward as if nothing changes."


The new guidelines keep the requirement for communities within 10 miles of a nuclear plant to do a full scale emergency exercise every two years.

But the government is pushing back the 50-mile planning exercise from once every 6 years to once every 8 years.

This change has raised the ire of anti-nuclear activists.

[SOT: Phillip Musegaas, Riverkeeper]

"To move the tabletop exercise from every 6 years to every 8 years makes no sense to us, given the need to do more planning not less."]


While the 50-mile exercise will be done less often, the new plan does require that communities practice for the possibility of terrorist assault on a plant.

The government and the nuclear lobby say the addition of this exercise is one reason why the new guidelines are an improvement.

[SOT: Tony Pietrangelo, Nuclear Energy Institute]

"911 taught us that a terrorist attack on US shores is real and the potential for that is real and we as the rest of the critical infrastructure has to be prepared to deal with that. We did have emergency preparedness plans in place we are enhancing those programs to incorporate hostile action based drills so I think that is an improvement."


None of the changes have raised more questions than the requirement for some exercises be done with the premise that no radiation is released.

Federal officials say this scenario makes the exercises less predictable.

But in his extensive reporting on the new guidelines, Associated Press reporter Jeff Donn found that many state and local officials questioned the utility of such an exercise.

[SOT: Jeff Donn, The Associated Press]

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The new guidelines were proposed long before the Fukushima accident.

Kuniko Tanioka a member of the Japanese parliament said the US should learn from her country's failures.

She said communities need to prepare for the worst-case scenario.

[SOT: Kuniko Tanioka, Member of Japanese Parliament]

"The incident of Fukushima showed we were so unprepared. We didn't have enough rules. we didn't have enough trained people. We didn't have enough medical help. We didn't have enough blankets or food to sustain the health of the people and we were really lacking everything."


The government insists the changes were made to add more variety to the program. To keep responders on their toes.

No U.S. nuclear plant has ever been shut down for deficiencies in the community emergency response plan.

David Martin, Associated Press



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