Nuclear Power Plants and Emergency Planning: An Intergovernmental Nightmare

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<ul><li><p>Nuclear Power Plants and Emergency Planning: An Intergovernmental NightmareAuthor(s): Richard T. SylvesSource: Public Administration Review, Vol. 44, No. 5 (Sep. - Oct., 1984), pp. 393-401Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Society for Public AdministrationStable URL: .Accessed: 14/06/2014 21:02</p><p>Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms &amp; Conditions of Use, available at .</p><p> .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact</p><p> .</p><p>Wiley and American Society for Public Administration are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve andextend access to Public Administration Review.</p><p> </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 21:02:02 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>PROFITABILITY GUARDIANS AND SERVICE ADVOCATES 393 </p><p>28. Ibid., p. 58. 29. Ibid., p. 59. 30. U.S. General Accounting Office, "Should Amtrak's High- </p><p>ly. . . ," op. cit., p. 18. 31. Musolf, op. cit., p. 60. 32. U.S. General Accounting Office, "Amtrak's Subsidy </p><p>Needs. . . ," op. cit., pp. 31-32. 33. Musolf, op. cit., p. 60. 34. Congressional Budget Office, op. cit., p. 28. 35. U.S. General Accounting Office, "Should Amtrak Develop </p><p>High-Speed....," op. cit., p. 21. 36. U.S. Department of Transportation, "Final Report to Congress </p><p>on the Amtrak Route System" (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Gov- ernment Printing Office, 1979), DOT, p. 3-8. </p><p>37. Idem. 38. Congressional Budget Office, op. cit., p. 45. </p><p>39. Musolf, op. cit., p. 62. A significant example of such judgment and training for services and profit occurred in 1983. Amtrak negotiated new labor agreements that required an eight hour day for eight hours pay. This increased productivity and, according to OMB, set an important precedent for the entire railroad industry. In addition to phasing out the inefficient rules noted previously, Amtrak also took over the train and engineer crews that were supplied by Conrail. </p><p>40. National Railroad Passenger Corporation, Annual Report (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1982), 14. </p><p>41. Musolf, op. cit., p. 62. 42. Interviews. Federal Railroad Administration, U.S. Department </p><p>of Transportation, Congressional Budget Office, Senate Budget Committee, and Amtrak, all in Washington, D.C., 1981, 1983. </p><p>43. Musolf, op. cit., p. 64. </p><p>Nuclear Power Plants and Emergency Planning: An lntergovernmental Nightmare Richard T. Sylves, University of Delaware </p><p>Despite all that was learned from the Three Mile Island unit #2 reactor accident in 1979, U.S. off-site nuclear power emergency response planning remains in a stage of virtual adolescence. The issue itself continues to be either hotly contested in some areas or it smolders beneath the surface in other areas threatening highly volatile re-ignition. While the locations affected by this policy problem may seem limited in geographic area, millions of people, 39 state governments, and hundreds of local jurisdictions are affected.' The problems of nuclear power emergency planning are re-encountered over and over again, albeit under varied conditions, as utilities seek operating licenses for new atomic power plants or as utilities are asked to demonstrate that plans for their already licensed reactor units are satisfactory and operational. </p><p>This study assesses the progress of nuclear power off- site emergency planning in the United States. A central contention is that off-site nuclear accident planning is fundamentally a challenge of intergovernmental rela- tions. In a theoretical sense, the fight is between those interests who would make off-site planning conform to an "inclusive authority" model and those that would have it reflect an "overlapping authority" model. As Deil Wright explains, in the "inclusive authority" model states and localities "would be mere minions of the national government with insignificant or incidental </p><p>SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 1984 </p><p>* Great uncertainty currently prevails in the matter of off-site emergency response planning around U.S. civilian nuclear power plants. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency share in review and approval of off-site emergency plans prepared by state and local governments in the emergency planning zone of nuclear power plants. This study examines why off-site nuclear accident planning has been a low federal priority, why the problem is intergovernmentally com- plex, and why this sub-policy issue remains controversial. The study uses the "inclusive authority" and "overlapping authority" models of Deil S. Wright to explain why off-site planning is ardu- ous and vulnerable to possible federal preemptive action. </p><p>impact on . . . public policy."2 In the "overlapping authority" model, bargaining is necessary because sub- stantial areas of governmental operations involve national, state, and local units simultaneously.3 Areas of autonomy or "single jurisdiction independence are comparatively small, and the power and influence avail- able to any one jurisdiction is substantially limited."4 </p><p>Richard T. Sylves is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Delaware. He has been a staff researcher for the Senate Finance Committee of the New York State Legislature. He holds a doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana, is a member of ASPA's Section on Natural Resources and Environmental Administration, and publishes research in energy and environmental policy. </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 21:02:02 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>394 PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION REVIEW </p><p>Why Nuclear Power Emergency Planning Has Been a Low Priority </p><p>Many histories of U.S. civilian nuclear power reflect government and nuclear industry confidence that the many safeguards and redundancies built into nuclear power plants would make the possibility of an accident with off-site consequences astronomically low.5 As a result of this belief and a relatively long record of reac- tor operation with no accident producing significant off-site damage or lethal radioactivity releases in the United States, national policy makers were not seriously concerned that a need existed to plan for off-site acci- dent contingencies. Like many sub-policy issues, nuclear power emergency response planning was only interesting to national policy makers when it was topical. Unfortunately, it took the reactor accident at Three Mile Island, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to make it topical. </p><p>Until the accident, nuclear regulatory authorities were largely indifferent about the need to develop sound and operational emergency plans for off-site areas.6 Nuclear utility executives seemed to share this indifference. Pre- occupied with the immensely complex problems of sit- ing, building, and safely operating nuclear generating stations, these utility executives had little appreciation of the problems of surrounding communities likely to be put at risk in the event of a catastrophe at the plant. More compelling were such problems as where to store high level nuclear waste or how to finance construction of the facility when the costs of capital were oppres- sively high. Compounding these problems for utility executives were increasingly intransigent or unrespon- sive state utility commissions which blocked rate in- crease requests or imposed, where possible, restrictions on the nuclear facility itself. The burgeoning body of regulations imposed by the Atomic Energy Commission until 1974, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission since 1975, forced almost continuous change in plant operation and management. These regulatory require- ments escalated the cost of nuclear plant operation, as the nuclear utilities were forced to reengineer their atomic power stations. For utility executives, these problems easily eclipsed the significance of off-site emergency response planning. </p><p>Nuclear power emergency planning has few strident advocates. Ironically, many proponents and opponents of nuclear power agree, for different reasons, that off- site evacuation planning is unnecessary. Many nuclear proponents believe that an emergency response plan for a nuclear plant accident will never have to be put into effect because the probability of an accident is so low. They think that such planning needlessly alarms the public, and that the potential for other types of tech- nological disasters is much greater. Correspondingly, many segments of the anti-nuclear power community reason that a full-scale evacuation of the population around most nuclear power plants is totally infeasible. They conclude that the existence of off-site plans means little. A number of these critics argue that in the event of </p><p>a genuine nuclear accident, the public will ignore the specific plan instructions anyway.7 Some allege that nuclear emergency response plans are palliatives in- tended to build public confidence in nuclear power with- out actually furnishing the promised security.8 </p><p>Orphaned by the mainstream of both the pro-nuclear power and anti-nuclear power movements, nuclear power emergency response planning has long been a responsibility reluctantly assumed first, by the Atomic Energy Commission, and since 1975, by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. However, disaster response planning is clearly something which has been alien to AEC and NRC program missions. Civil defense authorities are more accustomed to the problems of emergency planning and preparedness. Consequently, the short history of federal nuclear emergency response planning discussed below portrays an uneasy marriage of nuclear regulators and civil defense planners. </p><p>The Early History of Off-Site Nuclear Accident Planning </p><p>Emergency response planning in U.S. civilian nuclear power was officially recognized as a public problem in 1973 when the Federal Preparedness Agency issued a report entitled, "Peacetime Nuclear Emergency.'"' More than a year later, the Nuclear Regulatory Com- mission (NRC) published guidelines which were in- tended to assist state officials responsible for preparing nuclear power emergency plans. The "review and con- currence" program which evolved from this effort, however, was inadequate in a number of respects. For example, it did little to compel states to take action or assume responsibility in this matter. The program also foundered because NRC officials had little experience in this emergency planning area and only marginal inter- est. Consequently, at the time of the 1979 TMI accident, only 11 of 43 states with nuclear facilities had emer- gency response plans that met NRC specifications.'" </p><p>Even approved plans contained major deficiencies. In some states evacuation planning zones (EPZs) around nuclear power plants mysteriously excluded large pop- ulation centers. In other cases, the radius of the circle encompassing an evacuation planning zone extended only to the boundary of a large town or city. l Such practices apparently facilitated paperwork in plan prep- aration, but did little to address the problem meaning- fully or forthrightly. </p><p>Congressional hearings in May 1979 disclosed that the NRC regulations then in effect, "encouraged" states with nuclear facilities to prepare and submit radio- logical emergency response plans. Submission of these plans for NRC review and concurrence was strictly voluntary for each state. No penalties were imposed upon states that did not submit plans, or upon states that did not have approved plans."2 </p><p>Why were federally approved off-site emergency response plans not an absolute requirement in NRC licensing actions? One answer can be found in the shared suspicions of NRC officials and key members of </p><p>SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 1984 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 21:02:02 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS AND EMERGENCY PLANNING 395 </p><p>Congress. They had serious reservations about what state and local governments would do if given genuine authority to regulate this dimension of nuclear power. They feared that if state and local emergency plans were obligatory in NRC licensing actions, anti-nuclear gov- ernors, anti-nuclear state legislatures, anti-nuclear local government officials, or anti-nuclear administrative units, possibly including some state utility commissions, might use this planning power to block proposed nuclear projects or to force the delicensing of operating nuclear plants by simply refusing to prepare essential emergency plans for these facilities. A constellation of state and local political and administrative actors might be able to delay or completely block nuclear projects or nuclear plant operation by electing not to prepare or maintain emergency plans or preparedness levels.'3 </p><p>Many nuclear proponents believe that an emergency response plan for a nuclear plant accident will never have to be put into effect because the probability of an acci- dent is so low . . . planning needlessly alarms the public, and that the potential for other types of technological disasters is much greater. </p><p>Unwilling to tolerate this overlap of authority be- tween levels of government, officials at NRC drafted a rule which declared that a utility's own off-site emer- gency plan could be considered sufficient to outweigh deficiencies in state or local government plans. ' This loophole led to distortion in the off-site emergency plan- ning process. State officials logically concluded that their emergency plans were both non-essential and superfluous. </p><p>Correspondingly, nuclear utilities had to assume an additional burden for which they were ill-equipped and ill-prepared. The NRC required electric utilities with nuclear plants or projects to formulate off-site, as well as on-site emergency response plans. The utilities had for many years prepared on-site plans. These specified the actions which the utilities would take on the grounds of the nuclear generating station in the event of a reac- tor accident. NRC's rules for off-site planning now meant that the utility would have to prepare elaborate scenarios of action which would be directed to the emer- gency planning zone outside the plant fence. At this writing, the standard emergency plannin...</p></li></ul>


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