South Texas Project says it's proactive in educating residents in an emergency situation
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BAY CITY - Having a nuclear power plant not far from home may cause worry for many, but South Texas Project follows guidelines to keep residents safe of worry.
South Texas Project is located outside Bay City, in a rural area where the closest city is 10 miles away.
About 3,000 residents live in the federally-mandated planning zone.
Although the planning zone is only within the radius of 10 miles from the plant, the nuclear power plant takes steps to inform residents within a 50 mile radius of evacuation procedures should a natural disaster or emergency arise.
About 298,000 people live with the 50-mile zone of the plant, which includes five counties, said Buddy Eller, director of communication and public affairs at STP.
They take the same steps of early notification to ensure they evacuate people should a potential situation arise.
"Our No. 1 priority is to protect the health and safety of residents surrounding the nuclear plant," said Eller.
The plant uses different formats like newsletters, direct mailings with information of what steps to take should there need to be an evacuation, he said.
Evacuation procedures are also included in the local phone books and brochures, most of which can be found at area hotels and restaurants. Additional information can also be relayed through the local media and local radio stations.
If an emergency should arise, Eller said, the county and state would manage onsite response activity including designated evacuation routes.
All traffic control points are completely controlled and coordinated, he said.
In a given situation, the nuclear power plant can only make recommendations to a plan of action to the county lead emergency director, who is the county judge.
"The director then consults with the state and determines if an evacuation is needed," he said.
The plant also has installed 32 state-of-the-art sirens within the mandated planning zone.
Each siren is a way to alert residents about an emergency at the plant or other emergencies such as hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or fires, Eller said.
The sirens are powered by batteries to ensure the sirens can operate even if power lines are lost in severe weather. The batteries will produce enough power for up to 21 days.
In preparation for an evacuation or nuclear emergency situation, the Emergency Response Division conducts, on average, three mock drills with county and state agencies.
"The goal of an emergency drill is to ensure that everything is coordinated with the city, county and state officials should there be a real emergency at the plant," Eller said.
The exercises are graded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Mock drills include medical exercises, natural disasters, accidents at the plant and drills on hostile action.
"We must be prepared for any type of a situation," he said. "At the end of the day, our priority is the safety of our friends and neighbors."
Each emergency plan is developed in conjunction with the county and regulations and guidance from the NRC and FEMA.
"We take conservative actions that are predetermined and established to ensure, in the unlikely event we had an incident, we can project everyone's safety," he said.