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Two citizens groups seek review of Ohio nuclear emergency plans

02/13/03

John Mangels and John Funk
Plain Dealer Reporters

With the heightened nationwide risk of terrorist attacks and continuing revelations of safety issues at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant, two citizens groups want the state to rethink nuclear emergency strategies.

Ohio Citizen Action and Environmental Health Watch asked Gov. Bob Taft yesterday to commission an independent review of the adequacy of state and county plans to deal with emergencies at Davis-Besse near Toledo and the Perry plant in Lake County.

A Taft spokesman said the administration would consider the request. But he added that the governor "has full faith and confidence that county, state and federal emergency management agencies and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are doing everything they can to protect Ohio citizens."

The citizens groups' concerns are based in part on the findings of a consultant reporting to New York Gov. George Pataki last month. The study by former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director James Witt identified problems with emergency preparedness at the Indian Point reactor in New York and the Millstone reactor in neighboring Connecticut and the plans of the government agencies that serve the areas' residents.

The confidence of the two Ohio organizations in this state's emergency preparedness also has been shaken by recent events at the Davis-Besse plant, where an unnoticed rust hole in the reactor's lid elevated the risk of a nuclear accident.

"Given everything that has happened . . . it makes sense for the governor to have a similar review" to the Witt report, said Stuart Greenberg, director of Environmental Health Watch and a longtime member of the Cuyahoga County Emergency Planning Committee. "This is not intended to impugn the professional competence, dedication and hard work of emergency responders."

"We need an expert to come in and look," said Amy Ryder of Ohio Citizen Action. The last time the regional and state plans for Perry and Davis-Besse had such an intensive sufficiency review was in 1987, she said.

But the state, counties and nuclear plant owner FirstEnergy Corp. do revise their plans annually, said Jim Greer, director of the Ottawa County Emergency Management Agency. In addition, they hold regular exercises and occasionally put the guidelines into action when tornadoes or floods have struck, Greer said.

The county has extensive plans in the event of a Davis-Besse accident, he said, including a network of 81 alert sirens, an automatic telephone-calling system to warn area residents, and the ability to access FirstEnergy's computer monitoring of radiation levels and reactor conditions.

"Our people are well-trained," Greer said. "We're confident they're going to do what we need them to do, to be there to help."

To reach these Plain Dealer reporters:

jmangels@plaind.com, 216-999-4842

jfunk@plaind.com, 216-999-4138


2003 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.
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