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CNN's Report on Vermont Yankee Alarmist, Misleading
For a number of weeks, we've been waiting for CNN to air an extended piece concerning the fight to keep Entergy's Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant operating -- a battle that's been thoroughly chronicled at the excellent blog, Yes Vermont Yankee. CNN has just posted a 4:40 teaser on their Web site, and if this snippet is any indication, we're in for more of the sort of alarmist reporting that's helped send the former cable news giant's ratings spinning into oblivion.
Case in point, this on-screen graphic that CNN's Amber Lyon calls the "damage area," around Vermont Yankee.
In the nuclear industry, this is actually known as the emergency planning zone or EPZ, drawn in a 10-mile radius around every nuclear power plant in America. As NEI notes in one of its fact sheets on emergency planning:
Within the 10-mile EPZ, the main immediate protective actions for the public include instructions for sheltering in place or evacuation. The slow pace at which an event may unfold—over several hours or days—provides time for orderly sheltering or evacuation, if necessary.
The nuclear industry prepares for any eventuality at its plants even though the risk of an actual accident causing any fatalities is incredibly small. Just a few weeks ago, the independent Nuclear Regulatory Commission released its State-of-the-Art Reactor Consequence Analyses or SOARCA. Its conclusions are encouraging:
The study found there was "essentially zero risk" to the public of early fatalities due to radiation exposure following a severe accident. The long-term risk of dying from cancer due to radiation exposure after an accident was less than one in a billion and less than the U.S. average risk of dying from other causes of cancer, which is about two in one thousand.
Later, Lyon quoted anti-nuclear campaigner Arnie Gundersen as saying that many American nuclear plants are just one "earthquake, hurricane or flood away from disaster," backed with video of the terrible floods that plagued the state in the wake of Hurricane Irene. But what Lyon failed to mention is that even when Vermont Yankee's hometown of Brattleboro was inundated by those floods, the plant remained safe (thanks again to the precautions taken in design and construction of the plant) and continued to provide electricity to consumers as they recovered from the storm.
When it comes to extreme weather events, 2011 was something of a real-life stress test for American nuclear power facilities, with plants all over the country successfully enduring earthquakes, a hurricane, massive flooding in the Midwest and a spate of violent twisters in the Southeast. We chronicled all of this in an interactive graphic we posted on our SafetyFirst microsite back in January:
All of this information, and more, could really help provide some balance to the CNN report, which is scheduled to run at 8:00 p.m. EST on both Saturday and Sunday night. Unfortunately, for some reason, CNN never bothered calling us here at the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry's policy arm, to ask for an interview. We've since reached out to CNN's Amber Lyon letting her know that we're available. We'll update our readers if and when we get any response.
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