Feb. 11, 2009
In the event of a nuclear emergency at Three Mile Island, residents living within 10 miles of the plant would be evacuated to relocations centers 15 to 20 miles away.
But if the event occurred during school hours, some of their children will be bused to pickup centers closer to the evacuation zone, some within a mile.
The watchdog group Three Mile Island Alert, fearing that parents who work outside the evacuation zone would not be able to reach the centers because of fleeing traffic, asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to move the sites for children at least five to 10 miles beyond the evacuation zones. Last week, the NRC agency denied TMIA’s petition saying existing emergency plans were adequate to protect the safety of school children in an accident.
The agency drew a distinction between the pickup centers for children, and centers for the general population:
“Host school pickup centers are intended to serve as temporary locations where school children can be held while they wait for their parents or guardians to pick them up, whereas general population relocation centers offer longer-term assistance to people displaced from their homes,” said Annette L. Vietti-Cook, secretary of the Commission, in a letter announcing the ruling.
Eric Epstein, chairman of TMI-Alert, said the ruling “defies logic.”
“I don’t think people understand that the closer you are to the 10-mile cusp the more likely it is that the roads will be shut down and folks will only be allowed to go out, and not in,” he said.
Harrisburg Mayor Stephen R. Reed, who supported TMI-Alert’s 2007 petition, also was dismayed by the NRC’s decision.
“The NRC’s refusal to consider this means that ... thousands of parents will likely be driving straight into an evacuation zone to pick up their children, increasing the risk of radiation exposure,” said Mathew Coulter, a spokesman for the mayor. “This will certainly lead to massive traffic congestion and will likely result in mass confusion.”
After the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island, federal regulators required communities to develop and test emergency plans that provide for the evacuation of everyone within a 10-mile radius of a nuclear plant.
Middletown Area School District children would be taken to Gov. Mifflin School District in Berks County.
Lower Dauphin children would go to Pine Grove School District in Schuylkill County.
But some West Shore School District kids would be bused to four schools, all less than three miles from the evacuation zone.
- Report by Garry Lenton of the Press And Journal
Garry Lenton can be reached at 944-4628, or firstname.lastname@example.org