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Report reveals poor emergency planning in area surrounding Fermi Plant

The Disaster Accountability Project (DAP) released a report today revealing what they allege are inadequate emergency and evacuation plans related to radiological incidents at the EnricoFermi Nuclear Generating Station, or Fermi Plant, in the Frenchtown Charter Township of southeastern Michigan.

Today also marks the fifth anniversary of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. The 2011 incident caused over 150,000 Japanese citizens to be evacuated within 19 miles of the stricken plant. 

DAP’s investigation examined the radiological preparedness in 22 jurisdictions within a 50-mile radius of the Fermi Plant. Only 19 of the 22 contacted jurisdictions provided responses. 

The key findings of the report revealed the following information: 

  • One jurisdiction within the 10-mile radius from the Fermi Plant reported providing educational materials or plans to residents regarding how to respond to a radiological incident at the plant. 
  • One out of the 21 jurisdictions within the 10-50 mile radius from the Fermi Plant reported providing similar educational materials and plans to residents. 
  • Only 8 out of the 22 jurisdictions provided all-hazard emergency plans and/or evacuation plans. 
  • Only one out of the 22 jurisdictions provided emergency plans specific to radiological incidents at the Fermi Plant. 
  • No jurisdiction furnished a shadow evacuation plan or study.

Ben Smilowitz, the Executive Director at DAP, spoke with Michigan Radio about the report and its findings. 
“The local jurisdictions within 50 miles of the Fermi plant are essentially planning on the bare bones regulations of what they have to do. And we are saying that that isn’t enough," explained Smilowitz. “What our report reveals is that most of the jurisdictions within 50 miles of that plant do not have a plan and are not planning. Local residents should call their county officials and their city officials and say, ‘Hey, we don’t care about what Washington is telling you to do, we’re telling you to plan.’” 

Monroe County, located in southeastern Michigan, is one of two counties within a 10-mile radius from the nuclear plant.

The director of Emergency Management in Monroe County, Mark Hammond, spoke with Michigan Radio about the already in-place precautions taken by the county. 

"In Monroe County we have seven evacuation zones, sirens, and a system of shelters in place, and a practiced evacuation plan for the entire county," explained Hammond. 

In counties that are not within the 10-mile radius of Fermi, Hammond says there is a different kind of actual hazard following an explosion. 

"Because Monroe County is within the 10-mile radius, there is the need to worry about inhalation," Hammond said. "The people within a 10-mile radius of an explosion need to be very worried about inhalation while those at the 10-50 mile radius are more concerned with an ingestion hazard. While still concerning, an ingestion hazard isn't as worrying as the fear of inhalation following a plume. So the citizens of Monroe have more of a need to be very aware of the precautionary steps. The concern in other, farther away counties lies more in the state government or individual jurisdiction." 

DAP reported that a further study is necessary to determine the level of public knowledge and the likely public reaction to a nuclear plant emergency. 

“I don't think that we should wait for Washington to act,” Smilowitz continued. “This is something that our local counties, cities, and even the state could do on its own. They don’t need a mandate from Washington to protect their residents, they can do that anyway.”