UPDATE 11 PM:
Since there are three nuclear plants just miles from Christine Goodwin's home, she is keeping a close watch on the nuclear crisis in Japan. She says the tragedy overseas has prompted her to take a fresh look at her family's emergency plans. "We need to update everything, especially for an evacuation. A gathering for meeting people so we all know where to go. And if you can't get to that place, have a second destination also," she said.
"It really scares me, and it makes me feel like I should have some sort of plan in case something happens to our plant here," said Carolyn Dedyck.
Emergency officials say you should have a plan in place, just in case, like where to go and how to get there.
"In a case where a serious situation like that does occur, it's something to be cautious about. Having a good plan to get out," said Ken Ackerman.
If there is a serious problem at one of the plants, Oswego would sound the sirens and alerts would go out to television stations, like us here at CNY Central, so we could get the word out to you.
"The plans exist, they are updated annually, revised annually, tested annually," said Terry Bennett from the Oswego County Emergency Management Office.
Scroll down for our previous coverage of this story and helpful links.
Oswego County has 42,000 residents living within ten miles of the three nuclear plants at Nine Mile Point, just east of Oswego.
Terry Bennett, the Oswego County Emergency Services Program Coordinator, says there's a major effort to keep all of them informed and ready if there is a nuclear event.
Every year, all the residents get a wall calendar with emergency information and the schedule for quarterly siren testing. In partnership with the plant owners, there are also drills every year to ensure that information gets out, as needed.
Bennett says it's up to the individual plants to notify the Emergency Management office if an incident arises. They then implement one of several emergency stages, including opening the emergency centers, notifying media to put out alerts, or sounding the evacuation sirens. The State Fairgrounds in Syracuse is also part of the plan---it's the evacuation destination for residents, should that become necessary.Besides evacuation plans, Oswego County residents in the ten mile radius around the plants can also get KI (potassium iodide) pills, which provide some protection to the thyroid in case of a radioactive leak.
This year there will be a federal review of the emergency action system (it happens every other year) and it's expected to be a more rigorous review, in light of the Japan incident.
For more on the nuclear safety plans, or to ask questions, check the Oswego County website.Some additional facts about Central New York's nuclear plants: ~Nine Mile One is of the same design as the plants in crisis in Japan.~Nine Mile Two is on a geological fault, discovered during excavation for construction in 1976, though contractors and owners have always maintained it is not a safety issue (see statement below)~Nine Mile One and Two are owned by Constellation, the Fitzpatrick Plant is owned by Entergy.~While we look to concerns at the three plants in Oswego County, there is another plant on Lake Ontario. Ginna is closer to Rochester, however when an incident there in January 1982 released radioactive steam, there were concerns downwind in Central New York.
And, here's the statement from Constellation Nuclear which owns Nine Mile One, Nine Mile Two, and the R.E. Ginna Nuclear Plant:
Constellation Energy Nuclear Group TMs (CENG) highest passion and value is safety; nuclear safety, public safety, worker safety and environmental safety. As operators of nuclear power plants, Constellation Energy Nuclear Group TMs top priority is to ensure the health and safety of the public and our employees.
- CENG leadership is continually monitoring the situation in Japan closely. We are in discussions with industry leaders including U.S. Nuclear utilities, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) and World Association of Nuclear Power Operations (WANO).
- Our hallmark as a global industry is to incorporate operating experience and lessons learned. When we fully understand the facts surrounding the event in Japan, we will use those insights to make our nuclear power plants even safer.
- It is premature at this time to try to draw conclusions from events in Japan with regard to the U.S. nuclear program.
- CENG employees are focusing on the safe, reliable and efficient operation of CENG TMs five nuclear reactors in Maryland and New York.
- CENG uses redundant safety systems in a defense-in-depth approach to ensure safe plant shutdown capabilities are maintained during such events.
- CENG plants are designed to withstand significant seismic events based on the seismic history in our geographic area. Nuclear plants are designed and constructed in accordance with national codes and NRC requirements. Each plant TMs foundations, structures and equipment are designed to withstand ground motion.
- All of CENGs nuclear power plants are outside of known "high hazard" earthquake zones, each plant has been specially designed to withstand a variety of natural events such as earthquakes, storm surges and flooding associated with hurricanes, tornadoes and high winds without losing capability to perform their safety functions.
- Our plants would be shut down if certain seismic thresholds are reached. In the event of a shut down, operators would perform a complete and comprehensive plant inspection. If an earthquake exceeds the maximum level for which a plant is designed, it is not permitted to restart without NRC approval.
- The NRC has regulations in place that require licensees to design their plants to withstand the effects of tsunamis. (10CFR 50, Appendix A, Criterion 2, Design bases for protection against natural phenomenon requires licensees to designs structures, systems, and components important to safety to withstand the effects of natural phenomenon, including tsunamis.)
- We also have emergency response plans in place which are approved at the federal, state and local government agencies. The plans have detailed procedures which are routinely reviewed and used in training of our personnel. We have routine training exercises to test our ability to effectively implement our plan and are formally evaluated by the NRC. Plant operators undergo regular training for a variety of unusual events.
- CENG TMs three sites and four of the five nuclear power reactors in Maryland and New York continue to operate safely, reliably and efficiently. Calvert Cliffs Unit 2 is currently in a planned refueling and maintenance outage. The CENG stations are Calvert Cliffs in Lusby, MD, R.E. Ginna near Lake Ontario, N.Y., and Nine Mile Point in Scriba, N.Y.
Additional Details & Background Information:
All of CENGs nuclear power plants are outside of known "high hazard" earthquake zones, each plant has been specially designed to withstand a variety of natural events such as earthquakes, storm surges and flooding associated with hurricanes, tornadoes and high winds without losing capability to perform their safety functions.
In fact, our designs and ongoing maintenance programs are specifically based on a number of factors including the likely worst-case seismic scenario for the location of the plant. Even though an event of this nature is unlikely given our plants' locations, all CENG plants have had additional safety margin added to the "worst case" scenario to ensure we fully meet our commitment to protect public health and safety.
In order for our plants to keep their operating licenses, we are required by the federal government to maintain our safety-significant structures, systems, and components to withstand the effects of earthquakes in a manner that ensures they have the capability to perform their intended safety functions. The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission ensures that we have met and continue to meet these requirements through the licensing, reactor oversight, and enforcement processes. In addition, all plant operators undergo regular training for a variety of unusual events.
All of our nuclear plants have extremely sensitive seismic monitoring equipment specifically designed to detect even the smallest ground movement; we are well aware of the natural conditions around the plant at all times. Even for an earthquake below the levels that the plant can tolerate, our procedures require plant operators to shut down the plant. Operators are then required to perform extensive inspections prior to restart.
In fact, in November, 2010, after studying this issue, the NRC determined that that currently operating plants remain safe and that [NRC staff] had determined that seismic designs of operating plants in the Central and Eastern United States provided an adequate level of protection. ====================
In light of the nuclear plant troubles in Japan, are you concerned that something could happen here in Central New York? Leave a comment below and tell us how you feel.