SEABROOK — The most recent report from the Federal Emergency Management Agency states that evacuation plans for the Seabrook nuclear power plant are adequate, a finding at odds with a longtime critic of the plant.
In The Daily News on July 11, Stephen B. Comley Sr., founder of the whistleblower organization We the People, stated in a guest opinion column that more than "200 Massachusetts and New Hampshire first responders have stated to WTP 'there is no way to evacuate residents safely and timely in the event of a Seabrook nuclear disaster.'"
Comley has long expressed concerns about evacuation plans for the towns within a 10-mile radius of the Seabrook plant and he has convinced several nearby community leaders in recent months to petition the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to hold a public hearing on the plans' safety.
In response to Comley's column, Neil Sheehan, public affairs officer for the NRC, noted in an email to The Daily News that "as (the NRC) have said previously," the responsibility for oversight of the evacuation plans legally rests with FEMA rather than the NRC.
The NRC, he said, "relies on FEMA’s determination that there is 'reasonable assurance' the plans used in the event of a severe emergency at the plant will protect the public."
The NRC is responsible for oversight of on-site emergency plans for the Seabrook plant, which is owned by NextEra Energy.
Sheehan said that every two years, state and county emergency responders hold graded exercises to evaluate the plans.
If evidence were to surface that evacuations could not be done successfully, or that other key elements of the off-site emergency plans were significantly lacking, FEMA would notify the NRC, at which time the NRC would set in motion a process that requires the plant’s owner to fix any problems or face possible shutdown.
In FEMA's most recent report, based on exercises conducted April 4, the agency concluded that state and local organizations involved "all demonstrated knowledge of their emergency response plans and procedures and adequately implemented them."
The report states that during the exercises, there were "no level 1 or level 2 findings and no planning issues identified for the state of New Hampshire and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts."
The NRC report for on-site emergency preparedness states that "inspectors did not identify any finding or violation of more than minor significance."
Staff writer Jack Shea can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.
ONLINE EXTRA: To read a PDF of FEMA's report on the April 4 exercises, go to www.newburyportnews.com.