Cape Lacks Evacuation Plan In Event Of Pilgrim Disaster

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By: Michael J. Rausch
Published: 06/29/12

How are people on Cape Cod expected to reach safety in the event of a nuclear disaster at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth?

That is precisely what members of Cape Downwinders want to know.

Cape Downwinders is a public advocacy group, whose mission is to “take action to protect the lives and welfare of the residents of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket against the threat of death or injury resulting from the use of nuclear energy.”

They met yesterday afternoon at the Massachusetts Military Academy with representatives of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, or MEMA, to discuss the traffic plan for people looking to get off the Cape in the event of a catastrophe at the Pilgrim station. Attending the meeting were two representatives from MEMA; six members of Cape Downwinders; Mashpee Fire Chief George W. Baker Jr., chairman of the Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Commission; and Seth Rolbien, senior advisor to state Senator Daniel A. Wolf (D-Harwich).

The group is angry that, while there are all sorts of emergency plans for the Cape, including hurricane evacuation plans, no such plan exists for what to do if there were a nuclear accident at the Plymouth plant.

While there is no detailed evacuation protocol, the group learned yesterday that MEMA does have a traffic plan in place that would divert drivers off Route 6 at Exit 2 in Sandwich and onto Route 130. From there, drivers would then make their way through town toward the Bourne Bridge to points off the Cape.

Asked if that meant the Sagamore Bridge would be closed, MEMA told the group, “No.”

“They said that the bridge would still be open, and traffic would flow freely over it,” said Diane C. Turco of Harwich, a member of Cape Downwinders. She said the MEMA representatives told her traffic would be “discouraged” from heading toward the bridge. “None of this makes any sense.”

David C. Agnew of Harwich, the founder of Cape Downwinders, said he found the MEMA representatives to be polite but disingenuous.

“They cling to this idea that the bridges will be open when it’s obvious that traffic will be diverted,” Mr. Agnew said. “They say that the Bourne Bridge will be open and no problem getting off, but there will be gridlock,” he said.

Cape Downwinders have been outspoken opponents to the continued operations of the power plant, which last month won a renewal of its operations license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. State Attorney General Martha Coakley has since filed an appeal of that license, saying that the NRC acted “arbitrarily” and “abused its discretion” in its relicensing of the power plant for another 20 years before considering the similarities between the Pilgrim station and the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan.

Ms. Turco said that Cape Downwinders has now asked for an independent review of the state’s traffic plans in the event of an emergency at the plant. She said that the plans were commissioned and paid for by Entergy, owner of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, as a requirement for the plant’s licensing by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“We also asked how we can influence the planning process, so that Cape Cod is included,” she said.

The representatives from MEMA who attended the session were not available to be interviewed after the meeting. The director of MEMA, Kurt Schwartz made a statement over the phone. “I am not able to comment on the substance of the meeting, but I am very glad that we opened up a dialogue in which any concerns about any gaps in current plans can be aired, and we are hopeful that we can begin to address the concerns through an ongoing process.”

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