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Congress of the United States
House of Representatibes
October 27, 1986
The Honorable Michael S. Dukakis
We are writing to express our support for your recent decision concerning the submission of evacuation plans for the Massachusetts portion of the emergency planning zone surrounding the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station.
The lessons of Three Mile Island led Congress to create a more comprehensive system for emergency planning which recognized that there was an integral role for state governments to play in developing workable emergency plans. The need for that involvement was demonstrated again by the recent tragedy in Chernobyl where a massive evacuation was necessary.
The most appropriate authorities to make decisions about the efficiency of evacuation plans are those who have direct respons1bility for public safety. We know that your administration conducted exhaustive research and talked to many experts before deciding that the operation of Seabrook, in what is one of the most densely populated regions of the country, could pose grave public safety problems. Because the governor of each state is given the statutory responsibility for submitting evacuation plans, we believe your determination that evacuation of the population within the emergency planning zone would be impossible, should be accepted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
As Members of Congress who represent Massachusetts and are also sworn to look after the interests and safety of all Americans, we will work together to support your efforts to protect the public.
Mr. MARKEY. Governor, Public Service of New Hampshire may seek an exemption from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission whereby emergency planning would be required in an area only 2 miles around the Seabrook plant as opposed to the 10 miles now defined as the emergency planning zone.
Would you share your views with the subcommittee on that type of plan if it was, in fact, submitted for approval?
Governor DUKAKIS. Mr. Chairman, I can't conceive of that proposal being made or being approved by the NRC. Given what we know about this area, given what we know about the conditions which I described in my statement; given what we know about what happened at Chernobyl where an area of some 18 miles around that plant was evacuated, I cannot conceive of anybody proposing that the area be shrunk; and, in fact, as I think you know, while we have concentrated our efforts for obvious reasons under the Federal guidelines on a 10-mile evacuation zone, clearly any planning that we do, or any planning that we considered also takes into account that there will be people outside of that immediate zone which would be affected.
But, in the light of what we know from Chernobyl and in the light of what we know about conditions in and around that plant, particularly those affecting these six communities, I would strongly oppose that, and I see no basis at all for shrinking that zone.
Mr. MARKEY. Governor, could you give us your view on the role that State and local communities should play in establishing the size of the emergency planning zone?
Governor DUKAKIS. Well, obviously we are governed, at least, under current laws and regulations, by Federal laws and Federal guidelines; and I would hope that in the course of this process, we would have the kind of partnership around these issues where State and local communities could make suggestions and recommendations which would be considered very seriously by the NRC and we are assuming that, in fact, the NRC will do that.
But it seems to me that it is people at the State and local level who have the best sense of how one deals with these kinds of issues. We, as you know, are engaged on an ongoing basis under Secretary Barry's leadership, in planning for disasters, or attempting to plan for disasters, so I would hope, Mr. Chairman, that our view of this, while it should not be the only view to be considered, would be one that would be considered very seriously if only be cause in the event of an accident, it would be largely the responsibility of State and local governments to respond.
Mr. MARKEY. Governor, as you know, under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, and historically, regulation of nuclear power, safety, health regulations, has come under the aegis of the Federal Government, but there has begun a chorus from several Governors in this country led by yourself that would indicate that they are not happy with the way in which the Federal Government perhaps is acting preemptively to affect negatively the health and safety of citizens of the States.
There is legislation which is pending which could be considered, which would potentially give back to the States, to the governors some power to ensure that they retain a veto over the operation of
a nuclear power plant if they believe the safety of their citizens is being compromised.
Could you give us your view on that and whether you believe that is a battle legislatively that ought to be fought in this country?
Governor DUKAKIS. Mr. Chairman, I am kind of puzzled at this point about how we deal with these plants and why we deal with them in the way we do, and let me tell you why, and it has less to do with who I think supports or opposes this particular point of view.
There was no doubt, it seems to me, and I do not imagine any Members of Congress had any doubt that, if this particular plant were coal-fired, gas-fired, oil-fired -research recovery or whatever, that certainly the State of New Hampshire--and I would hope the State of Massachusetts—if a particular plant was within our boundaries, would have full authority in the event of suspected safety problems to step in, investigate, examine, and take whatever action was appropriate.
In fact, we would be derelict in our duty if we did not do that. Assuming, for example, it was fired by gas, is there any doubt that there was a suspected gas leak, or a fault in the plant which would somehow conceivably lead to an explosion that we would not be expected by the people who elect us to get in there to investigate, to examine, and to take whatever action is appropriate, and that is true whether you are talking about a gas-fired generating plant, or a gas line from a street to an individual residence.
For reasons that I suppose that we can understand historically, but it seems to me no longer pertain-and it has to do with the military application of nuclear energy during World War II and the passage of the Atomic Energy Act-we have been precluded from exercising this same kind of general responsibility over these plants for reasons which escape me. I mean the safety factors are there; the dangers are there; the necessity for responding is there.
And why we say, as a matter of national policy, to the states. Look, you are going to have full authority to oversee, to investigate, to examine, to police, and, if necessary, to take action, in the case of kinds of generating plants, it may create public health or safety problems except for this particular form of generation is beyond me. I have never understood it; I don't understand it today.
And what it means is, as Governor, I have the full range of powers through our Department of Public Health, and Department of Public Safety-all of our environmental agencies that the good citizens of this State and our Legislature have enacted into law, over every conceivable form of electrical generation with the exception of nuclear energy.
And that just doesn't make any sense to me. And, for that reason, I and a number of Governors support Congressional action which would give us the same responsibility over these plants that we have over every other kind of generating plant.
Now, there may be a reason out there that I do not understand for exempting this particular form of electric generation, but its beyond my comprehension. At least now, after many, many years and what it seems to me is a lot of history.
Mr. MARKEY. The Chair's time has expired. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Mavroules.
Mr. MAVROULES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Governor, I am going to just ask you one question, along with Sharon and Mr. Barry who are with you.
During your study of this situation-I am quite sure it is quite extensive, and I am aware of Mr. Carnesale, by the way, and his background in this area-did you take into consideration the worst of conditions during the summer months, not only the additional people in the area but also the horrendous traffic conditions on Route 95 leading to and from New Hampshire, at any given holiday weekend.
As you well know, there are certain weekends when they are bumper to bumper coming down, all the way from New Hampshire, coming this way, on a Sunday or Monday evening, and going toward New Hampshire on a Thursday and Friday evening. Did you take into consideration the worst of those conditions in your decision?
Governor DUKAKIS. Yes, we did, which is why those time estimates, Congressman, for evacuation ranged from 3 hours and 40 minutes up to 8 hours and beyond.
On the other hand, as I think we all know, and as I think Congressman Smith knows, we happen to be in a part of this country, which is experiencing some of the most vibrant and fastest-growing economic conditions of any part of the United States of America, both on our side of the line and on the New Hampshire side. So, the tourism season, if anything, is getting longer and longer. It no longer is July and August. It starts in April and ends in October/ November
If, as I hope we can all assume, the kind of economic growth in New England, and, in particular, our two States are experiencing, continues—and we are all working very hard to make sure it does—if that tourism season gets longer and longer, and I can assure you we are not spending $9 million a year in tourism promotion solely for the purpose of inviting people to come to one of the most attractive parts of the country in July and August only, then the conditions which you and I are very familiar with, since I think we have both walked that beach campaigning at least once or maybe more than once during a hot July afternoon, are going to be more and more a part of the kind of year-round activity and congestion that we have.
And I can assure you at this point in time, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has no intention of widening 495 or adding to the capacity of 95 or building any significant additional highways in and around and over this part of Massachusetts. We do have a tunnel and an artery that you are all familiar with, but that's not a part of any plan for these six communities.
So, what I think we have here, Nick, is not only a serious problem-a very serious problem during the summer months-but a problem which with continued healthy economic growth and a longer and longer tourism season, if anything now becomes a yearround problem, and therefore to simply say, well, for two months, we've got to do something, but before the Fourth of July and after
Labor Day, it is a different story. I think it really would be a great mistake.
Mr. MAVROULES. I have no other questions.
Mr. MARKEY. The gentleman's time has expired. The Chair recog. nizes the gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Atkins, for a line of questions.
TESTIMONY OF HON. CHESTER G. ATKINS, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS Mr. ATKINS. Governor, were there any of the public safety professionals who were involved in the review-and I understand it involved several dozen people—was there any single one who suggested that evacuation plans were adequate?
Governor DUKAKIS. Well, Secretary Barry might want to respond to that, Congressman, in greater detail. I think there has been a wide range of opinion as to levels of adequacy and what might or might not work, and there was a point early in the year, as you will recall, when Attorney General Bellotti and I were concentrating, and this goes back to the question that Congressman Mavroules asked on whether in some way we could deal with the twomonth problem as opposed to the year-round problem.
Once Chernobyl hit and once we began to look at the lessons of Chernobyl, I think it's fair to say that there were no public safety officials, at least, that I was working with who didn't believe that it was virtually impossible to protect the public, and once that accident took place, we were out of the realm of hypothetical models, and we were really dealing with a real-life situation, and I think at that point whatever difference of opinion, at least, on the part of Massachusetts public safety officials about the relative adequacy or lack of other plans, really disappeared.
Mr. ATKINS. So of the several dozen public safety professionals, and these are people who are career public safety people who do this as part of their profession, there was not a single one after Chernobyl who felt that the plans were anywhere near adequate?
Governor DUKAKIS. Not to my knowledge.
Mr. ATKINS. Let me ask you: is there any other instance, circumstance, other than one involving the military and national defense where you as Governor and the Secretary of Public Safety is precluded from protecting or providing for the public safety of the citizens in the case of an accident other than in the question of licensing a nuclear power plant?
Governor DUKAKIS. Except in the case of military activity, none that I know of.
Mr. ATKINS. So, other than the case of military activity, this is the only case where the Federal Government can come in and dictate a course of action to the States that precludes a Governor providing for the public safety of the citizenry.
Governor DUKAKIS. Let me check with Secretary Barry, but I think that is right.
Mr. ATKINS. So, and as I understand it, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission now is embarking on a course wherein they will allow low-power testing at Seabrook?
Governor DUKAKIS. That is right.