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February 13, 2003

 



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Regional News | Article published Thursday, February 13, 2003
Activist groups criticize plan to evacuate Davis-Besse

By
BLADE STAFF WRITER


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 outside consultant.

"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 said.

"This has been on the governor’s radar screen, and we have been following the situation closely," he said.

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 report said.

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 Strasma said.

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."




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