To The Editor, Today's Sunbeam:
Recent press reports indicate that the State of New Jersey plans to stockpile Potassium Iodide (KI) pills near the Oyster Creek, Salem and Hope Creek nuclear power plants to be used in the event of a radiation release to protect local residents from contracting thyroid cancer. This new policy, while a step in the right direction, does not go far enough because this policy does not allow for the distribution of KI to local residents so that they would have the medicine on hand in case of a serious radiation release at one of New Jersey's four aging and dangerous nuclear power plants.
The UNPLUG Salem Campaign understands that for the Oyster Creek nuclear plant, stockpiling pills for summer residents might make sense. But the 10-mile area around the Salem and Hope Creek nuclear plants is not a prime tourist area. The population remains fairly stable year-round. Thus stockpiling KI makes no sense. All residents within a 10-mile radius of Artificial Island should have KI in their homes. It is bad enough that, according to researcher Joseph Mangano, Salem County residents have cancer and infant mortality rates that are high above state and national averages due in part to the synergistic effects of continued doses of low-level radiation produced by Salem and Hope Creek.
Another serious concern about stockpiling KI is the distribution problem. The whole point of KI is to have it readily available to use if evacuation plans fail, or if a radioactive plume is moving too fast for evacuation to work. The longer one puts off taking KI, the less effective it is. If KI were stockpiled in some warehouse, how would rescue workers get the medicine to the affected people in time. What if, God forbid, a major nuclear accident occurred at 3:00 AM in the morning? How long would citizens have to wait for emergency workers to unlock the warehouse storing the KI?
Every year the UNPLUG Salem Campaign testifies at the annual public hearings on the New Jersey Evacuation Plan for Artificial Island. These hearings are held in the Salem County Freeholders Meeting room, and the Sunbeam has covered these hearing every year.
Both our experts and our activists have made it clear that the Evacuation Plan, as written, just won't work. There are too many two-lane roads in Salem County. There would be widespread panic if there was a nuclear accident. For example, parents' first thought would be to rush to school to find their children. Would all the bus drivers, including those from New Jersey Transit, really report to work, or would they protect their families?
So if the people can't get out in the case of nuclear power tragedy, how in the world do New Jersey health and emergency management officials plan to get the KI from the warehouse to the local population?
All four of our NJ nuclear plants not able to withstand a terrorist attack, as conceded by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Salem Units 1 and 2 can not withstand much more than a flying telephone pole. A 911-type attack would be catastrophic for everyone within 50 miles of Salem.
The NRC is currently reviewing a "2.206 petition" from UNPLUG Salem that points out serious security flaws and asks for major security upgrades at Artificial Island. Hope Creek, being a Boiling Water Reactor, has a vulnerable spent fuel pool. And Salem Unit 2 is operating with what we consider dangerously weakened steam generators. So we therefore strongly urge Governor McGreevy to overturn the decision to stockpile KI and ask him to require that all local residents within a 10 mile radius of all four of New Jersey's nuclear plants be provided with KI to be kept in their homes.
This is such a small step to take to give the public some protection in the case of a radiation release. Of course, PSE&G could eliminate the need for KI by agreeing to close down Salem 1 and 2 and Hope Creek, and invest in alternative forms of energy instead.
(Norm Cohen is Coordinator of the UNPLUG Salem Campaign)