Emergency preparedness at nuclear plants: Let’s discuss

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will hold two public meetings tomorrow in Irving, Texas, on a proposed new rule that would change the emergency preparedness requirements for existing and proposed nuclear power plants. Since 9/11, there has been growing concern that the country’s 104 existing reactors are potential terrorist targets and are more vulnerable to major disasters if attacked. There is additional concern that the nuclear reactors being proposed across the country, six of which are in Texas, would not be able to sufficiently mitigate a terrorist attack such as by aircraft.

In their 2007 report, Nuclear Power in a Warming World, the Union of Concerned Scientists issued a set of recommendations that address shortcomings of current NRC regulations including a recommendation that the NRC treat the risks of sabotage and attacks on par with risks of nuclear accididents, and require all environmental reviews during licensing to consider such threats. This issue is particularly relevant to Texas because the NRC is currently hearing oral arguments by the SEED Coalition, Public Citizen, Rep. Lon Burnam, and the local citizen’s group True Cost of Nukes, who seek to intervene in the application by Luminant to expand the Comanche Peak nuclear plant near Glen Rose, Texas.

A contention regarding the lack of safeguards and emergency preparedness for the crash of an airliner into nuclear reactors is among the issues being raised by the groups, who point out that concerned citizens and groups have not had access to the full information needed in this regard.

Public Citizen intends to file comments on the proposed rule, which are due no later than August 3.

The meeting is an opportunity for the public to learn about the proposed rule and ask questions. It will take place at the Westin Dallas Fort Worth Airport; 4545 W. John Carpenter Freeway; Irving, Texas. The meeting will have two sessions, from 2:00 to 4:30 and from 7:00 to 9:30 PM.

The NRC press release for the meeting is available at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/news/2009/09-019.iv.html.

For those who cannot attend in person, the meeting will be webcast. To participate, register ASAP at https://www.livemeeting.com/lrs/8001607981/Registration.aspx?PageName=bg8044041h843dp2 and call in to 1-800-779-8609 (PIN 21726). For more information, contact Annette Stang with the NRC at 1-800-368-5642.

The proposed rule is published in the Federal Register at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/pdf/E9-10947.pdf

The UCS report is available at http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/nuclear_power/nuclear-power-in-a-warming-world.pdf.