Letter to Shumlin: Don’t sign evacuation plan
The following letter was sent to Gov. Peter Shumlin and signed by 83 residents of the Brattleboro region on behalf of the Safe and Green Campaign. It was provided to the Herald by Leslie Sullivan Sachs of Brattleboro:
Dear Gov. Shumlin:
Thank you for your efforts to protect Vermonters from the hazards created by the operation of Vermont Yankee and the unscrupulous business practices of Entergy Corporation.
In 2010, we delivered into your hands a petition signed by 1,656 residents living within 20 miles of Vermont Yankee. Our petition said, in part: “We are tired of being asked to believe that evacuation plans will actually work. We ask that you imagine hearing the evacuation sirens go off and knowing that you will be separated from your children, that roads will be clogged, that there will be panic.”
It has been brought to our attention that, as governor, you are required to sign a letter approving the state evacuation plan for Vermont Yankee by Jan. 31. We write to ask you not to sign off on the current Radiological Emergency Response Plan.
1) The American Red Cross studied the plan and in testimony to the Vermont State Nuclear Advisory Panel in September “concluded that, at present, there is a significant gap between what the Plan calls for and what the Red Cross can reasonably provide in the way of material equipment and shelter staffing.” The Red Cross is also concerned that it cannot handle the number of evacuees anticipated at shelters.
2) As the Fukushima disaster has proven, shelter for long-term displaced populations must be taken into account. The plan does not address the impacts on outlying areas for housing refugees.
3) Plans for evacuating our most vulnerable populations, including after-school, family day-care, and elder day-care programs, are non-existent.
4) Tropical Storm Irene has shown us that our roads, bridges and power lines can be completely incapacitated by a disaster. If Vermont Yankee were to suffer a loss of power or damage to its spent fuel pool during a natural disaster — a not unlikely scenario — getting to the reactor, as well as driving out of the evacuation zone, could prove to be impossible. This is true even when there is no disaster and simple routine bridge maintenance is being done, as has been the case in Windham County during the past two years; traffic is often dramatically slowed miles south of Brattleboro.
5) Fukushima has also shown us the danger of the spent fuel pool. According to the Rutland Herald (Jan. 4, 2013), “Currently, there are 2,507 fuel assemblies stored on site at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon in its five-story spent fuel pool, with another 884 fuel assemblies in 13 concrete and steel casks outside the reactor building.” Please advocate for the immediate removal of fuel rods in the spent fuel pool into dry casks.
Prior to 1987, if a governor refused to sign off on an evacuation plan, then the nuclear reactor’s license would be jeopardized. In 1983, Gov. Mario Cuomo refused to sign an evacuation plan for Shoreham nuclear power plant, another G.E. boiling-water reactor like Vermont Yankee; it was later decommissioned.
In 1987, Gov. Dukakis refused to sign off on Seabrook’s evacuation plan, and Ohio Gov. Richard F. Celeste withdrew approval for evacuation plans for the Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear power facilities. Then the NRC changed the rules: Reactor owners now draft evacuation plans, which the NRC approves. In an attempt to save Seabrook and Shoreham, President Ronald Reagan signed an executive order that “authorizes federal officials to prepare, coordinate and contribute federal resources to evacuation plans for nuclear plants where local and state governments have refused to cooperate with utility efforts.”
U.S. Congressman Edward Markey has studied the role of the federal government in a nuclear accident. None of the federal agencies wants responsibility for oversight. According to Rep. Markey’s website: “DHS is responsible for coordinating federal operations within the United States to prepare for, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies. Yet the plan also indicates that, depending on the type of nuclear or radiological incident, the coordinating agency may instead be the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), or the U.S. Coast Guard.”
We cannot depend on the federal government to know what to do. As former Gov. Madeline Kunin said a year ago, “Governors have the responsibility to protect the safety of their citizens. If the plant accidentally releases radiation, the governor takes immediate action, ordering an evacuation, issuing iodine pills.”
The safety of Windham County is in your hands, Gov. Shumlin. We call on you to refuse to sign a letter approving a plan that is doomed to fail.