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"Give Delawareans some say before emergency"
by Freida Berryhill, Green Delaware Steering Committee 

Delaware Voice Column, News Journal 8/28/2000

 I recently spoke before the New Jersey Emergency Management Agency concerning an evacuation plan in case of a nuclear power plant accident at Salem. I had that privilege because the New Jersey legislature has made provisions for an annual hearing to allow the public to voice
concerns and make suggestions. Even though more people live in the shadow of these plants on the Delaware side of the river; no such opportunity is granted by this state.

The Delaware Emergency Management Agency is responsible for a 10-mile radius, called the Emergency Planning Zone.  DEMA has plans for three options, depending on the severity of the
accident: access control, sheltering, evacuation.
        == All access to the emergency zone would be closed. With enough police, that could be accomplished.
        == People would be ordered to stay in their homes with doors and windows closed. How that is to be accomplished is not clear, particularly since most people I have talked to are not familiar with the possibility of such an order and its grave importance. Whether this order even could be enforced and how many police it would take are open questions.
        == Evacuation. Here is where the plan seems to fall apart. A recent study reveals serious flaws. 

Mass exodus 

Spontaneous evacuation is not taken into account. Should DEMA order the evacuation of the emergency zone, mass exodus also will have taken place outside the zone by the time emergency personnel arrives. That will prevent those who have been exposed to nuclear effects from getting to designated shelters.

That occurred during the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 in Pennsylvania. A recent study shows that the evacuation of pregnant women and preschool children in a five-mile zone would have involved 3,400 evacuees. But 200,000 people evacuated, about 39 percent of the
population within 15 miles of the reactor.

Also not taken into consideration is role conflict. For example, emergency personnel assigned to evacuate students, the elderly, hospitals and prisons might give priority to their families.

Researchers studying the now closed Shoreham nuclear power station questioned bus drivers and volunteer firefighters as to what they would do if evacuation of a 10-mile zone was ordered; 68 percent of 291 firefighters and 73 percent of 264 bus drivers indicated family obligations would take precedence over emergency duties. 

During the Three Mile Island accident, conflict extended to nurse, physicians, and technicians. At one local hospital, only six of the 70 doctors scheduled for weekend emergency duty reported for work. A nuclear power plant accident is considerably different from a natural disaster, such as a hurricane. People often have to be prodded to leave scenes of natural disasters. The stakes are much higher after a nuclear accident, and the passage of time does not make the estimates of danger more palatable.

A study recently completed by the Sandia National Laboratory concluded that a worst-case accident at Salem I and II in New Jersey might kill more than 100,000 people.

The officials for the New Jersey Radiological Response Plan were courteous, attentive and met with us privately before the official hearing. There is no provision in Delaware for public participation when those in charge have their meeting. I would hope that someone in the legislature would come forward to introduce a bill that would give us the same opportunity.

Frieda Berryhill, of Heritage park, was chairwoman of the 
Coalition for Nuclear Power Postponement for 20 years. 

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GreenDel@dca.net

or contact
Alan J.Muller, Exec. Director
P.O. Box 69
Port Penn, DE 19731
302-834-3466 Voice
302-836-3005 FAX

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All work is done by volunteers and members including this website. 

This page was last updated on January 28, 2001.
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