Nuclear disaster funding increases in Plymouth

the owner of Pilgrim Station is opening up its wallet to fund local emergency training, an indication that the nuclear accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is having an impact on plant operators in the United States.

In June, Plymouth and Entergy Nuclear agreed on a deal that will allow town officials to beef up first responder training for emergencies at the Pilgrim nuclear power plant. Aaron Wallace, Plymouth’s emergency management director, says the 2012-2013 agreement gives the town an annual grant of $245,000 for administration costs, including salaries, and $75,000 for training. The training money is more than twice the $31,000 the town received in 2010.

Rob Williams, an Entergy Nuclear spokesman, says that the company reached “interim agreements with a couple of towns” in the 10-mile evacuation zone around the plant, but declined to offer more details about any of those pacts at press time, saying only that “process [is] still underway.”

Williams says that last year Entergy provided the eight communities near Pilgrim Station with $1.3 million for expenses related to planning, training, equipment, and supplies. Another $1.7 million went to other public safety agencies involved in nuclear disaster preparations.

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Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

Wallace says Plymouth police officers and fire fighters currently receive training on the basics of radiation and state emergency planning and operating procedures. He says the town’s preparations are effective, but he wants to see training move beyond the basics. In Japan, news reports showed first responders using specialized equipment to decontaminate residents and check radiation levels, says Wallace. “That’s [the training] that we want to be able to provide to all of our first responders who have that role,” he says.

Local emergency managers expect to see more federal and state requirements post-Fukushima. If federal nuclear regulators increase the size of emergency zones to include more communities, a move that Bay State and federal law­makers called for at a special Beacon Hill hearing on nuclear power plant safety in April, emergency managers in Plymouth and elsewhere would have to select new evacuation centers, (Plymouth’s are in Braintree, Bridge­water, and Taunton), health care centers, and transportation routes. “Trying to figure out how to fund those and… accurately plan those will be a challenge,” says Wallace.