| Article published Thursday, February 13, 2003|
Activist groups criticize plan to evacuate
By TOM HENRY
OAK HARBOR - Ottawa County is being urged to
revamp its evacuation plan for Davis-Besse in light of heightened
concerns about that nuclear plant as well as national terrorism
threats in general.
Ohio Citizen Action, the state’s largest
activist group, and a Cleveland-based group called Environmental
Health Watch yesterday asked Gov. Bob Taft to withdraw his support
of the accident-response plan written by the Ottawa County Emergency
Management Agency. The group said it wants general issues it has
raised to be addressed, as well as having the governor hire an
"We’re not out to scare the public. We
want to make sure the public is prepared for an accident,’’ Amy
Ryder, Citizen Action spokesman, said.
Mr. Taft had no
immediate response. The governor has asked the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission for a briefing about several Davis-Besse issues before
the plant is allowed to restart, spokesman Orest Holubec
"This has been on the governor’s radar screen, and we
have been following the situation closely," he
Emergency-response plans tailored to nuclear plants are
required from all counties that host or are within 10 miles of such
plants. Ten miles is the immediate evacuation zone. Fifty miles is
the radius in which the U.S. Department of Agriculture has
procedures for destroying crops and livestock that could be affected
by a radioactive plume.
About 23,000 people live within 10
miles of Davis-Besse.
Ohio Citizen Action said it believes
Ottawa County’s manual has undergone few improvements since a report
was issued to then-Gov. Richard Celeste on Jan. 7, 1987. It warned
that the response plans for the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants
"may be based on unduly optimistic assumptions about the likelihood
and consequences of nuclear accidents."
Perry, east of
Cleveland, is Ohio’s other nuclear plant. Both are owned by
FirstEnergy Corp. of Akron.
The group said it believes the
Ottawa County plan assumes a relatively slow radiological release.
"In reality, if there were a rupture in the reactor ... or a
successful terrorist attack at Davis-Besse, there would be very
little time to evaluate the radiological release, decide on
appropriate protective action, warn the community, and expect people
to respond accordingly. Instead, there could be chaos," the group’s
Many nuclear-related evacuation plans were
written in the early 1980s in response to the 1979 accident at the
Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania, NRC spokesman Jan
The Federal Emergency Management Agency
requires them to be updated at least once every two years. Ottawa
County’s was last updated in January, 2002.
Jim Greer, Ottawa
County Emergency Management Agency director, said he believes the
local evacuation plan is adequate. The county has shown its merit by
responding appropriately to floods, tornadoes, and other incidents
over the years, he said. He said one key point is that the manual is
merely a blueprint for response: Periodic drills involving numerous
agencies are held to keep responders sharp.
One of the top
officials in FEMA’s Midwest regional office in Chicago said Ottawa
County has "done quite well in the ongoing traditional exercises."