Voters Asked To Back Expansion Of Nuclear Evacuation

Voters will have a chance in November to weigh in on who they think the state should include in any evacuation plans in the event of a nuclear catastrophe at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth.

Monday, August 4, eight representatives from Cape Downwinders delivered a petition containing more than 2,000 signatures to Secretary of State William F. Galvin’s office in Boston. The petition calls for the inclusion of a public policy question on November ballots that would call for the expansion of the Emergency Planning Zone surrounding Pilgrim Nuclear to include all of Cape Cod and the Islands.

Presently, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency has established a 10-mile evacuation radius that includes Plymouth but not the Cape.

Cape Downwinders is a public advocacy group whose stated mission is to “take action to protect the lives and welfare of the residents of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket against the threat of death or injury resulting from the use of nuclear energy.”

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The group has argued that Pilgrim Nuclear poses a public threat because its reactor is a GE Mark 1 boiling water reactor, the same model that failed at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan in March 2011.

They have made similar pleas to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency to widen the Emergency Planning Zone to include the Cape and Islands. The agency has held steadfast to its advice that anyone on the Cape, if and when a nuclear disaster occurs, should shelter in place and not attempt to evacuate to the mainland.

Diane C. Turco of Harwich was among the eight group members at the Statehouse Monday. Ms. Turco said that the group is looking to build strong public support for passage of the measure in the next legislative year. She said that similar legislation to extend the evacuation zone has been in the Statehouse dating back to 1987.

“In 1992, a similar referendum question passed, but nothing ever happened. Last year, a bill was submitted and nothing happened,” she said.

The current petition seeks to provide the following nonbonding advisory question to voters:

“Shall the State Senator from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation to expand the radiological Plume Exposure Emergency Planning Zone around the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, an approximately 10 mile-radius area, to include all of Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket Counties?”

While the question on the ballot would be nonbinding, the group is confident that if voters give their approval, state Senator Daniel A. Wolf (D-Harwich), who represents the district, will act in accordance with the proposed measure.

“We know that Sen. Wolfe will support the legislation,” Ms. Turco said.

She added that while the group’s foremost goal is the removal or shutdown of the Pilgrim Nuclear reactor, they are also seeking strong public support for their position that people on the Cape and Islands are at serious risk for danger.

Cape Downwinders has become known for their protests and rallies in opposition to the continued operation of Pilgrim Nuclear. On Mothers Day this year, four members of the group, Ms. Turco, Mary Conathan of Chatham, and Sarah W. Thacher and Susan Carpenter of Dennis, were arrested during a protest at the Pilgrim Nuclear site. Ms. Turco said that she and three others went on the property to make a symbolic statement.

“We went on the property to plant flowers and take back the land for our children and our future,” she said.

All four were charged with trespassing. They go on trial in October. An expert witness who has agreed to testify on their behalf is Dr. Helen M. Caldicott. Dr. Caldicott is a former Nobel Peace Prize nominee and anti-nuclear advocate.

“We are thrilled to have her,” Ms. Turco said.

In May 2012, following a protest at the Sagamore Bridge, 14 members were arrested at the Pilgrim Nuclear site and charged with trespassing. The group attempted to deliver a letter calling for Pilgrim Nuclear’s shutdown to the president of Entergy Incorporated, the company that owns the plant. The case was dismissed in March of last year and some of the defendants, immediately after the dismissal, returned to the plant and were arrested a second time on the same trespassing charge. They were found guilty in March and sentenced to one day in jail with time served.

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