Revisions Recommended for Current Nuclear Evacuation Zones

In a report requested by the Senate, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has put forth recommendations to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to increase the current 10-mile radius evacuation zone in place around America’s nuclear power plants. The report also shed doubt on the NRC ability to provide guidance due to a lack of information on the NRC’s part. This information is in regards to the public’s awareness of the dangers of a nuclear meltdown and the potential response in areas outside of the current 10-mile zone.

All of this is in light of what happened at the Fukushima nuclear facility in Japan in March 2011, the post-meltdown review of what happened there, and how that information could be used to strengthen the nuclear infrastructure in the U.S. After the meltdown at the Fukushima facility, Japanese authorities evacuated roughly 200,000 residents in a 20-mile radius. The U.S. government at the time recommended a 50-mile radius evacuation, over five times what they require of citizens in the U.S. This presents a problem at the 65 operating nuclear power plants in this country, many with sizable populations in their immediate vicinity.

The problem lies in the NRC’s refusal to change the evacuation radius, citing current measures as adequate. Though a recent NRC task force said zone size should be re-evaluated in light of any findings with the Fukushima Daiichi incident. The way things are currently set up, the NRC works in conjunction with FEMA and nuclear power plant licensees to manage compliance and preparedness on the state and local level, as well as on-site at the various nuclear power plants around our country.

A popular petition, a Petition for Rulemaking, has been up for review before the Commission by the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) since February 2013 and is still pending. In that petition, the NIRS has asked the NRC to expand the current 10-mile emergency evacuation zone to 25 miles, as well as making other improvements to planning and training.

For more information about the proposed revisions to current nuclear evacuation zones, visit: