Sen. Casey pushes NRC to plan better for 'shadow evacuations'

By:  Evan Brandt

In the wake of a new federal report suggesting that evacuation planning for an accident at the nation’s nuclear plants is inadequate, Sen. Bob Casey released a letter he wrote to the head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission urging that the agency follow the recommendations made in the report.

The report, titled “NRC needs to better understand likely public response to radiological incidents at nuclear power plants,” was issued by the federal Government Accountability Office and concluded that not enough information is available to determine what actions will be taken by those who live beyond the 10-mile evacuation zone around each nuclear plant should there be an accident.

Exelon Nuclear’s Limerick Generating Station was among the evacuation plans examined by the GAO in compiling the report.

Noting that those outside that zone may flee in the absence of information about how to react, the report said such a “shadow evacuation” could clog roads and slow down the evacuation of those closer to the plant.

Casey was one of four senators who requested the GAO report in 2011 in the wake of the nuclear disaster in Japan and the warning by U.S. officials that all U.S. citizens in Japan at the time should move at least 50 miles away from the failing Fukushima Daichi plant.

“The Federal government must do more to ensure that it fully understands the impact that the ‘shadow evacuation’ of residents outside the 10-mile zone will have on evacuation time estimates and the safety of those people closer to a plant,” Casey wrote in the letter to NRC Chair Allison MacFarlane.

“ More than 10 million Pennsylvanians, which is 80 percent of our population, live within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant. I urge the NRC to focus on expediency and fully gather the information about knowledge of emergency procedures for people living outside of the 10-mile radius and use the findings to update emergency management planning,” Casey wrote.