[ RadSafe ] Paid Press Release by Physicians for Social Responsibility
rwhelbig at gmail.com
Thu Mar 8 10:21:20 CST 2012
This was posted to Christina MacPherson's anti-nuclear Nuclear News
blog/e-mail list today - the PSR is very active all over the country.
March 6, 2012, 1:30 p.m. EST
PSR Report: U.S. First Responders, Medical Infrastructure not Prepared
for Fukushima-Level Reactor Crisis in the United States
WASHINGTON, March 6, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- One Year After
Japanese Disaster, Little or No Movement Seen in U.S. to Improve
Response Capability; Complicating Factors: Growing Population Near
Nuclear Sites, Aging Reactors & Lack of Gov't Coordination.
One year after the Fukushima reactor crisis in Japan, no meaningful
progress has been achieved in improving the ability of first
responders and medical professionals to react to a disaster on a
similar scale in the United States, according to a major new report
from Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR).
To underscore their point, PSR representatives participated in a news
conference with a Japanese first responder from Fukushima and a second
Japanese expert on the nuclear power industry in that nation.
Titled "Nuclear Power And Public Health: Lessons From Fukushima, Still
Dangerously Unprepared," the PSR report notes: "Existing U.S.
emergency preparedness drills do not consider prolonged station black
out, severe regional natural disasters, or multi reactor events ...
The U.S. has not developed the capability to inform and direct
emergency personnel and the public in real time during an unfolding
severe event, regarding actual radiation levels, plume directions,
food and water safety, timely distribution of stable potassium iodide,
or the rationale of sheltering-in-place advisories to the public."
Dr. Ira Helfand, North American vice president, International
Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and past president of
Physicians for Social Responsibility, said: "While there is an urgent
need to improve our preparedness for a major nuclear accident we also
need to understand that there is no planning possible for some of the
worst consequences of a nuclear disaster."
Helfand added: "Recent press reports indicate that the Japanese
government feared during the first chaotic days of the accident that
it would need to evacuate Tokyo. No one has ever evacuated tens of
millions of people, and it probably cannot be done in the time frame
that would be required. But that is exactly what we would have to do
here in the U.S. in the event of a major accident at Indian Point. The
evacuation of a 50 mile zone around Indian Point would involve 17
million people. The evacuation zones around several other plants in
the U.S. contain more than five million people. In the event of a
large scale disaster, most of these people will not, in fact, be
evacuated and they will be exposed to dangerous levels of radiation
which will, in fact, kill many of them."
Erik Larsen, M.D., associate director, Emergency Department, White
Plains Hospital and member of the National Disaster Medical System,
the Disaster Medical Assistance Teams, and the New York City MEDICS
Disaster Team, said: "Our abilities to respond to this type of
incident has improved over the years, but any response to a large
scale incident involving large number of injured and radiologically
contaminated patients, let us say hundreds not thousands, has to be
seriously questioned. There has not been a lot of funding for this
type of training and facility preparation, some from the Department of
Homeland Security, but very little from the nuclear power industry.
Money for disaster preparation in general has been fading away -- it
has no immediate benefit to the public until a disaster happens. Here
is a potential disaster that could be prevented with funding from the
How serious is the potential emergency response problem? The PSR
report points out that:
Over the past 40 years populations have grown markedly in the 10- and
50-mile established evacuation zones surrounding operating U.S.
commercial nuclear reactors. Since 1980, populations around nuclear
reactor stations have grown considerably, by an average of 17 percent
within 10 miles of reactor stations in the U.S; however in some
vicinities, populations have doubled. In a worst case scenario at the
Indian Point nuclear station near New York City, the logistics of
evacuation of the 17.3 million people living within 50 miles of the
station would be impossible.
Nearly all spent nuclear fuel ever created by U.S. commercial
reactors, approximately 72,000 tons, has accumulated and is still
stored at U.S. reactor stations. In the U.S., 75 percent of all spent
fuel is still in wet cooling pools that are poorly protected,
remaining highly vulnerable to loss of cooling events, terrorist
attack, and to severe natural disasters.
Severe weather/natural disaster events approaching those of Fukushima
are no longer uncommon in the U.S. The Fort Calhoun Station, on the
Missouri River just north of Omaha, NE, had serious flooding in the
summer of 2010 and the NRC subsequently found that the station's flood
plans were inadequate. A year later, in April 2011, the Fort Calhoun
Station was put into cold shutdown voluntarily in anticipation of
flooding due to unprecedented huge snow pack in the Montana Rockies.
The station was flooded as anticipated with peak inundation in June
and lasting through August. Fort Calhoun is still off line 11 months
later. On August 23, 2011, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered in
Virginia rattled the Washington, DC area triggering shutdown of two
regional nuclear stations. A week later, monster Hurricane Irene moved
up the eastern U.S. seaboard and into New England. The near confluence
of two natural disasters in the U.S. similar to, but less severe, that
the Fukushima event is remarkable. The argument "but it hasn't
happened here yet" is growing steadily weaker.
Plume pathways from a severe reactor accident would never behave
according the simple 10-mile radius paradigm central to the basis of
current U.S. emergency planning for reactor emergencies. Neither would
a 50-mile or greater radius, used by the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA), for radiation contaminated food and water interdiction
as numerous radiation hot spots have been identified in Japan more
than 100 miles from Fukushima.
The U.S. has not developed the programs to educate the public on
radioactivity and radiologic hazards before possible accidents happen.
Radiation is silent and invisible and the potential for long-term
serious health effects are concepts that are difficult to grasp by the
lay person. The need to educate the public could undermine the, until
now, strongly projected assurance by both nuclear operators and
government agencies, that nuclear power is safe.
Also appearing at the PSR news event today were: Kyoko Kitajima,
organizer, Precariat Union, Tokyo, and provider of aid and support
activities in response to the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami;
Yuki Tanaka, research professor, History, Hiroshima Peace Institute,
Hiroshima City University and author of several books.
According to the new PSR report: "The past experience with
catastrophic nuclear accidents and their frequency indicates that no
country is prepared physically or financially to deal with the short
and long term effects. As opposed to natural disasters, experience has
shown us that nuclear catastrophes do not remain isolated but tend to
become global problems affecting us all. Such preparations in the U.S.
will likely be useless if a similar accident happens in countries such
as North Korea, Pakistan, or other countries that have nuclear power
reactors but no emergency plans. In reality, there is no cure once
these events have happened; the only options are mitigation and
palliation. In the absence of a cure, prevention is the only option."
The PSR report conclusion continues: "Short of prevention, PSR makes
the following recommendations. Each recommendation would ease at least
some of the attendant problems associated with such emergencies.
Education of the public and 1st Responders regarding radiation
exposure and health;
Implementation and education of the public and 1st Responders on
emergency plans which may include sheltering in place, early
distribution of stable potassium iodide, and evacuation;
Enhancement of the NRC's ability to monitor the distressed site in
real time with communication and transparency to the public about such
Enhanced fuel pool security;
A moratorium on building further nuclear power plants until the
attendant problems of safety and dealing with waste are openly dealt
with and solved in some fashion;
The phasing out of nuclear power as a source of energy, beginning now."
ABOUT PHYSICIANS FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITYPhysicians for Social
Responsibility is the largest physician-led organization in the U.S.
working to prevent nuclear war and proliferation and to slow, stop and
reverse global warming without using expensive, unsafe nuclear power
and toxic degradation of the environment. PSR's 50,000 health
professionals and concerned citizen members and e-activists, 30 PSR
chapters, and 41 student PSR chapters at medical and public health
schools, along with national and chapter staff, form a unique
nationwide network committed to a safer and healthy world. For more
information, go to http://www.psr.org/ .
EDITOR'S NOTE: A streaming audio replay of the news event will be
available on the Web at http://www.nuclearbailout.org as of 5 p.m.
EST/10 p.m. GMT on March 6, 2012.
SOURCE Physicians for Social Responsibility
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