New federal rules for evacuating residents near nuclear power plants will have minimal impact on Plant Vogtle, according to company officials.
Last week, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission imposed several upgrades to emergency plans, including a requirement that evacuation procedures be upgraded whenever population change would increase the estimated time by at least 30 minutes.
The change, inspired by Japan’s nuclear crisis, will have the most impact on power plants in areas with rapid population growth.
Plant Vogtle, however, lies in one of Georgia’s least populous counties, where census data show an increase of just 1,073 residents since the reactors went online in 1987 and 1989. That growth rate of 4.8 percent includes relatively few residents inside the 10-mile radius that would be evacuated in an emergency.
“From what we see so far, there will not be an immediate impact on Plant Vogtle,” Southern Nuclear spokeswoman Amoi Geter said. “We have an emergency plan in place, and we are well-positioned to implement any changes in the evacuation schedules if they are needed.”
The company, she said, has participated in the NRC’s efforts to revise evacuation and emergency response rules and will be represented at upcoming workshops to discuss their impact on the nation’s 104 commercial nuclear reactors.
Vogtle’s current emergency plan identifies about 1,800 residents living in the zone that would be evacuated.
More people live within 10 miles of Southern Nuclear’s other two plants. Estimates indicate there are about 3,800 residents near Plant Hatch in Baxley, Ga., and about 4,500 residents near Plant Farley in Dothan, Ala.
Southern Nuclear opened a $2 million joint information center in January next to Georgia Power Co.’s headquarters in Waynesboro, about 20 miles from Plant Vogtle. The building would serve as an emergency headquarters if needed.