by John Grooms
If youve watched any of the nuclear disaster being played out in Japan partial meltdowns, exposed spent fuel rods, high radiation counts, massive evacuations perhaps, just maybe, youre wondering about the nukes surrounding Charlotte. What would happen, say, if the McGuire nuclear station on Lake Norman suffered a nuclear accident. Granted, were not in likely earthquake territory, and as far as I know, no tsunamis have ever reached this far inland; but then, those conditions werent around at Three Mile Island, either.
So what would happen, in terms of getting people out of the way of escaping radiation? Why, thats when Mecklenburg County would unleash its fantabulous, utterly realistic evacuation plans! If you detect just a hint of sarcasm, its because the short version of the answer to the What would happen? is this: We. Are. Screwed. This isnt just media exaggeration or sensationalism, in case youre wondering. CL has investigated and written about this issue before, most notably in an award-winning story by Tara Servatius, Traffic Jam From Hell. Here are a few quotes from that story that will give a picture of the citys predicament:
[The] county's [evacuation] plan proposes to do the unlikely, if not the impossible: evacuate up to 195,000 people [now, closer to a quarter-million] from the 10-mile emergency planning zones (EPZ) around McGuire Nuclear Station in under eight hours. During a full-scale nuclear event, if the evacuation doesn't go exactly as planned, tens of thousands of people would likely end up trapped in traffic in the middle of a radioactive plume.
Because news of a disaster would carry further than the 10-mile zone by radio, television and cell phone . . .a nuclear emergency would trigger mass evacuations well beyond the 10-mile radius that governments prepare for, causing bottlenecks and preventing those closest to the plant from escaping.
Mecklenburg County's plan for the evacuation of up to 195,000 people from the EPZ around McGuire in under eight hours may meet federal guidelines, but by the federal government's own standards, that's not nearly fast enough to keep fleeing people out of the path of radiation. According to a FEMA report called "Dynamic Evacuation Analysis" . . . it would take only half an hour to two hours for a radiation release to travel five miles from the plant, and from one to four hours for it to spread 10 miles.
The reason that more realistic, two-hour evacuation plans aren't required by law is that they would be nearly impossible to carry out. And if they were nearly impossible to carry out, nuclear energy plants would never be approved anywhere
You can read the story here. Its lengthy and goes into much more detail than we can go into in this space, and is worth reading if youre at all interested in what evacuation plans have been set up for when the unthinkable happens here.