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Should county be evacuated if nuke plants hit?
Saturday, September 21
All Lancaster County
residents would be evacuated in case of an accident or successful
terrorist attack at the Three Mile Island or Peach Bottom nuclear
plant, under a new homeland security proposal by a state lawmaker.
Rep. Mike Veon, a Democrat from Beaver County, and House minority
whip, said the current 10-mile evacuation zone is inadequate.
"If you live outside that 10-mile radius, then you are on your own,"
Veon said. "We have to revisit emergency plans and expand the radius
of protection because we are not simply talking about a leak or other
accident at a nuclear reactor.
"We are now talking about an attack that would seriously impact our
time to react."
He said thousands of people live outside the 10-mile zone but in the
pathway of any evacuation or response from an attack or accident.
Veon also wants radiation-protecting potassium iodide pills --
recently handed out to residents near Pennsylvania's five nuclear
plants given to people who live within 50 miles of a plant.
State emergency planners and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
have long maintained 10 miles is an adequate distance to protect
people who could be affected by radiation from an accident.
Veon said he would soon be introducing legislation to expand the
evacuation zone and make other security changes.
Veon's homeland security package also calls for tighter security at
nuclear and chemical plants in Pennsylvania, which, he said, remain
He cited a report last week from the Project on Government Oversight,
a private watchdog group, that said interviews with guards at U.S.
nuclear plants showed security forces at only one in four plants were
confident their plant could beat back a terrorist attack.
Veon proposes creating a 1.000-member Homeland Security Force within
the National Guard so all five of the state's nuclear power plants
could have at least 10 soldiers on patrol 24 hours a day,
Half the force would be at nuclear plants and half would be on call,
ready to be deployed at any time. The estimated cost of the program
would be $24 million.
Veon's proposals would also mandate that National Guardsmen at
nuclear plants carry live ammunition. There was a public outcry
several months ago when it was revealed guardsmen at TMI didn't have
live ammunition in their guns. It is not known whether they do now.
Veon said that "dozens of active-duty soldiers" have told him that
they do not have live ammunition in their guns.
The legislator also called for tougher training standards for private
security forces hired by nuclear operators and strong "whistleblower"
protections for employees who disclose workplace safety and health
hazards to an employer or government agency.
"There is no reason for us to believe the threats against us will
diminish anytime soon," Veon said. "Although things have improved
somewhat since Sept. 11, more responsibilities are falling to the
states. Pennsylvania needs to meet the challenge."