Emergency Planning and Evacuation
In June 2015, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved elimination of off-site emergency planning for San Onofre, even though they know the waste is extremely dangerous. This means fewer emergency planning staff, reduced funding and less radiation monitoring. The NRC claims risk is low. However, they based that on old information (NUREG-1864) that didn’t address stress corrosion cracking that may occur as soon as 2020 at San Onofre. See Federal Register Notice and Docket. Learn more about this and other nuclear waste storage and transport issues on the Nuclear Waste page.
The San Onofre fire staff has been reduced. The nuclear plant’s fire and rescue vehicles will be donated to new homes soon, according to Patrick Baughman, San Onofre fire marshal. San Onofre now has an agreement that makes the Camp Pendleton Fire Department the primary firefighting force for the nuclear plant. No details were provided about how this may affect ratepayers and local emergency services in this Southern California Edison July 9, 2015 news story.
Evacuation zones described below are no longer in place for communities impacted by a radiation release from San Onofre. However, the rest of the information on this webpage is still relevant.
The NRC only requires a 10 mile evacuation from operating nuclear reactors, even though they recommended a 50 mile evacuation from the on-going March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
The NRC assumes the radiation plume will be diluted, so won’t impact people beyond 10 miles. However, they assume a 50-mile radiation contamination zone (e.g., ground and food contamination).
The emergency plan is to shelter in place or evacuate to a reception center. Freeway on-ramps will be blocked. Only those within the 10 mile evacuation zone will be able to enter the freeways, according to Jen Tucker, San Clemente’s Emergency Planning Officer.
- A reception center is a meeting place for evacuees to check in and register, get assistance from the American Red Cross, and reunite with family members. At the Reception Center, evacuees will be provided with a place to sleep, meals and medical attention, if needed. Government health and fire department personnel will be available to monitor evacuees for exposure to radiological contamination. No pets allowed.
- Orange County Nuclear Emergency Preparedness
- Evacuees within 10 miles north of San Onofre will be directed to the Orange County Reception and Decontamination Center at the Orange County Fairgrounds, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa.
- San Clemente Nuclear Emergency Information
- San Diego County Nuclear Emergency Preparedness
- Evacuees from San Onofre State Beach will be directed south to the Reception and Decontamination Center at Carlsbad High School, 3550 Monroe Street, Carlsbad. [The closest incorporated city in San Diego is the City of Oceanside which is approximately 17 miles south of the plant. Since they are outside the 10 mile zone, there is no evacuation plan for this city or any other city South or East of the plant.]
- 2012-2013 Brochure: Emergency Preparedness Information for San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Prepared by Southern California Edison for residents in the highest risk emergency zones.
- Orange County Nuclear Emergency Preparedness
- If you are outside when the [nuclear] alert is given, get inside a stable building as soon as you can.
- Remove clothing, shoes, and accessories before entering your shelter area. During severe weather, such as extreme cold, remove at least the outer layer of clothes before entering the home to avoid bringing radioactive material into your shelter. Leave clothing and shoes outside. Shower and wash your body with soap and water. Removing clothing can eliminate up to 90% of radioactive contamination.
- Before entering the shelter, turn off fans, air conditioners, and forced-air heating units that bring air in from the outside. Close and lock all windows and doors, and close fireplace dampers.
- Use duct tape and plastic sheeting to seal any doors, windows, or vents for a short period of time in case a radiation plume is passing over (listen to your radio for instructions).
- Suffocation could occur if you keep the shelter tightly sealed for more than a few hours. You should remove the plastic and duct tape and ventilate the room within a few hours. [If the radiation leak lasts more than a few hours, there is no viable safe plan. If the radiation plume passes, the ground will probably still be contaminated].
- Keep your radio tuned to an emergency response network at all times for updates on the situation. The announcers will provide information about when you may leave your shelter and whether you need to take other emergency measures.
- [Cell and land line phones may be out, electricity may be out. Radio should be battery, hand crank or solar. Phone should not be dependent on electricity].
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
FEMA has consistently certified to the NRC that there are “adequate” emergency plans in case of a San Onofre radiation disaster. Anyone traveling on Southern California highways knows otherwise.
The following documents include FEMA’s signed certification that we have adequate emergency plans. This NRC website contains reports from 1999 to present: FEMA After Action Reports and Communication Related to Specific Emergency Exercises. Here are some of the more recent reports.
- Final After Action Report for the Ingestion Phase Exercise held in Orange County on April 14, 2011, May 18,2011, and December 14, 2011
- Final After Action Report for the Medical Services Drill held in Orange County on July 13,2011
- Final Report for the biennial Plume Phase Exercise held in the County of San Diego and Orange on April 12, 2011
Roles and Responsibilities
These documents defines the federal, state and local roles and responsibilities in case of a nuclear power plant disaster as well as an overview of the nuclear emergency response program.
EPA Protective Action Decision Guides
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Protective Action Guides (PAGs) help state and local authorities make radiation protection decisions during emergencies. EPA developed the PAG Manual to provide guidance on actions to protect the public.
Decontamination of land and property is not feasible after a major nuclear disaster.
FEMA’s CERT training is provided to emergency responders. The CERT Training Manual section on Nuclear Power Plant Emergencies contains misleading information [in red].It states exposure can be minimized by:
- Time. Limit your time exposed to radioactive material. Most radioactivity loses its strength fairly quickly. In a nuclear power plant accident, local authorities will monitor any release of radiation and determine when the threat has passed.
- Distance. The more distance between you and the source of the radiation, the better. In a serious nuclear power plant accident, local authorities will call for an evacuation to increase the distance between you and the radiation. (Evacuation also reduces the period of time of exposure.)
- Shielding. The more heavy and dense material between you and the source of the radiation, the better. This is why local authorities could advise you to remain indoors if an accident occurs. In some cases, the walls in your home would be sufficient shielding to protect you.
Other Emergency Planning Resources
- Health Risks from Ionizing Radiation
- Potassium Iodide (KI) Fact Sheet
- Prussian Blue capsules (Radiogardase). Approved by the FDA for treating known or suspected internal contamination with Cesium-137, radioactive Thallium-201, and non-radioactive Thallium to increase rate of elimination from the body.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Radiation Emergencies
- CalEMA Nuclear Power in California – Main Page
- CalEMA Regional Operations
- CalOES Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Nuclear)
- NPP Program: Jennifer Chappelle, 916-845-8472, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Orange County Emergency Management Bureau – Nuclear Incident Threats
- Earthquake Country Information
- School Evacuation and Planning
- PrepareSoCal: American Red Cross Campaign to Prepare Southern California for a Catastrophic Disaster
- Ventura County Nuclear Preparedness
There is no safe plan for a nuclear disaster
As you can see from the above information, there is no safe plan if there is a nuclear disaster. The federal government has a history of providing inadequate solutions for nuclear disasters, as seen in this 1951 Civil Defense film, Duck And Cover – Bert The Turtle.