Seabrook Evacuation Plans Tentatively Approved
Federal officials gave conditional approval Tuesday to evacuation plans for Massachusetts communities near the Seabrook, N.H., nuclear power plant despite Gov. Michael S. Dukakis’ contention that residents could not get away safely in an emergency.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which sends its findings to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to help the commissioners determine whether to issue a commercial operating license, also approved plans submitted by New Hampshire for its 17 municipalities that fall within the reactor’s 10-mile emergency zone.
The conclusions could help Seabrook eventually receive a full-power license, although plant officials still have not secured a 5% power permit to test Seabrook’s 1,150-megawatt reactor.
The evacuation planning process for Seabrook has taken an extraordinary course since Massachusetts, which has six towns within the 10-mile zone, refused to submit emergency plans.
Dukakis argued that it would be impossible to evacuate the seacoast area safely, especially in the summer months when the region’s narrow roads are congested with beach traffic.
Seabrook’s chief owner, Public Service Co. of New Hampshire, submitted plans on behalf of the Massachusetts municipalities last year after the NRC voted to change its rule to allow the utility-drafted plans in cases in which state and local officials refuse to participate.
The rules change, which was opposed by lawmakers, Massachusetts officials, residents and anti-nuclear advocates, was upheld in September by a federal appeals court in Boston.
FEMA officials reviewed the utility-drafted Massachusetts plans under the NRC’s guidelines, which include the “realism doctrine.” That agency policy assumes that state and local public safety officials would follow the utility-drafted evacuation blueprints.
Grant C. Peterson, associate director of FEMA’s state and local programs division, said in a letter accompanying the reports that the Massachusetts plan “will be adequate to protect the health and safety” of residents after the company installs its emergency alert system. That system consists of 16 siren-equipped vans, plus backup vans and a siren-equipped helicopter.