IT TAKES A MELTDOWN: Senator Clinton calls for 50-mile nuclear evacuation plan (November 21st, 2001)

From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <>
Subject: IT TAKES A MELTDOWN: Senator Clinton calls for 50-mile nuclear evacuation plan

November 21st, 2001

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton favors a 50-miles evacuation plan and government stockpiling of potassium iodide (KI) as protective measures in the event of an accident at the Indian Point Nuclear Power Reactor Facility, located 35 miles North of NYC (see article, below).  While a 50-mile evacuation plan is certainly more realistic than current plans, which only consider a 10-mile evacuation radius, Senator Clinton is still seriously out of touch with reality on several counts.

If you've ever seen the traffic jams in Florida, South Carolina and so forth when a big storm hits, multiply that by about 1000 to imagine suddenly evacuating NYC.  There are only about a dozen bridges and tunnels out of Manhattan, some of which aim towards the reactors.  One flat tire at these bottlenecks stops traffic during rush hour or on a holiday, and in a nuclear accident-based evacuation, many more vehicles would be clogging the streets at one time, as soon as the word gets out or a general announcement is made.  (Often, plant spokespersons and government officials delay telling the people how bad things are during the early stages of nuclear accidents.  This happened both at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl).

Most serious accident scenarios -- that is, the ones which would require such a broad evacuation -- happen in a matter of minutes, or even seconds.  You can't possibly evacuate 20 million people in time.  And such an accident will be utterly unexpected by an industry which believes meltdowns simply can't happen, and is not ready in any concrete way to handle such an event (that is, even the current 10-mile evacuation plans are unworkable and unrealistic).

The nuclear industry pays only the crudest of lip-service to the idea that anything serious could ever go wrong, and barely even checks up on their own backup systems to see if they are functional.  The failure rate during government-mandated tests of backup generators is about 15%.  The failure rate of plant security systems during tests is about 47%, with a theoretical loss of radioactive material or loss of plant control in at least 7% of the security system tests.  Want still more proof that the industry doesn't believe a serious accident can happen? Here's some: Last summer, the primary containment for the Monticello Nuclear Power Plant was found to be INOPERABLE for 30 years (since the day it was built).  Shipping bolts had been left on eight large bellows, so the primary containment would not have been available in an emergency.  (We'll leave it unsaid that most major backup systems at all nuclear power plants -- the containment dome, the "ice house", the "torus", etc. -- have never really been tested, or even modeled on modern computers.)

Imagine what Indian Point, or any nuclear facility, would look like after a meltdown.  Today, the smouldering WTC ruins are being called "the longest-burning building fire in history".  Foul-smelling, acrid smoke rises constantly from the pile of pulverized steel, concrete, plastic, paper, bodies and asbestos (which was used up to the 64th floors of the WTC, the part which was built before building code changes forced the use of a different substance).  AT LEAST IT'S NOT A NUCLEAR POWER PLANT, which would remain smouldering and dangerous for HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF YEARS after a meltdown.

As for the government stockpiling KI, that doesn't really do a whole lot of good.  The people who live near a nuke plant need to have it available IMMEDIATELY.  While taking KI when you don't need it can be dangerous in itself, taking it late when you do need it might be only 2% effective, perhaps even useless.  Minutes and hours count because the body takes up the radioactive iodine as soon as it appears in the environment UNLESS you have already loaded up the thyroid with non-radioactive iodine, which is what KI does.  (This is all in laymen's terms, and yes, the author has a personal supply of KI, since he lives near a nuclear power plant.  It's readily available and not very expensive.)

In addition, while I favor distribution of KI and detailed instructions explaining when it might be needed, there are many other radioactive elements which would be released in a nuclear accident besides radioactive iodine, and nothing but prevention works against most of those.

A nuclear meltdown is an accident which MUST NOT HAPPEN.  It is not something we can evacuate from, pop a pill for, or patch up later.  It will be a festering, deadly, spreading heap of bubbling-hot carcinogens for thousands and thousands of years.  The so-called evacuation zone is more properly termed a kill-zone.  No one will be going back.  Bring your family mementoes and your back-up CDs when you leave, because it's a one-way trip.

Senator Clinton, like most politicians, is being unrealistic.  The only viable option is to shut the plants down.

-- Russell Hoffman


At 09:49 AM 11/21/01 , a downwinder posted this item:

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Clinton calls for 50-mile nuclear evacuation plan
November 21, 2001

The Associated Press

BUCHANAN, N.Y. -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that New York City
should be included in a new evacuation plan that would be implemented if
there were a serious release of radiation from the Indian Point nuclear power

"I favor a 50-mile evacuation plan," the senator said after a tour of the
plants in Buchanan, 35 miles up the Hudson River from midtown Manhattan.

Current evacuation plans include only a 10-mile evacuation area.

Clinton also said the federal government should keep stockpiles of potassium
iodide, which fights illnesses caused by radiation, for residents near
nuclear plants.

The leveling of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 raised fears that
terrorists could produce a nuclear nightmare in metropolitan New York by
targeting the two Indian Point plants.

Experts say the concrete dome of the plants' containment buildings might not
withstand the impact of a jetliner, which could expose the area to lethal
radiation. The spent fuel stored at the site could also give off radiation
and is even less protected, activists say.

Clinton said including New York City in the plan "would be a way of using
some of New York City's experience. . . . They have the best emergency
response team and plan in the country as we've seen since Sept. 11. So we
need to consult with them."

About 20 million people live within 50 miles of Indian Point.


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First posted November 21st, 2001.

Webwiz: Russell D. Hoffman