Evacuees may find refuge here

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July 10, 2013 - 12:00 AM

If Allen County were to accept responsibility of dealing with people fleeing an “event” at the Wolf Creek Nuclear Plant northeast of Burlington, the county wouldn’t be out a cent.
That was among things Russel Stukey, Coffey County emergency management coordinator, told Allen County commissioners Tuesday morning.
Stukey and several Coffey County and Kansas Department of Health and Environment officials, as well as Matt Sunceri, Wolf Creek manager, gave locals a 45-minute tutorial on how Allen County could be helpful.
For the past 20 years Lyon County, through Emporia State University, has maintained a potential site for evacuees, Stukey said, an arrangement that will end later this year, “apparently because of a change in (ESU) leadership.”
There is a chance ESU will stay on board, but Coffey County and the generating plant want a backup.
The Wolf Creek officials want a reception and care center in Allen County in case of an emergency at the nuclear power plant. Purposes would be fourfold: monitor evacuees to determine if they had been exposed to radiation; decontaminate any who were; register evacuees; and provide shelter for those in need.
Stukey predicted many would stay with relatives, friends or in a motel.
Stukey promised Coffey County will foot all bills, train emergency personnel and volunteers and have a well-stocked trailer in place with all things needed to detect radiation, decontaminate people and clean up any radiation that might spill. He described the arrangement as one similar to what Allen or any other county might make to deal with a natural disaster, such as a flood or tornado.
Iola fire station would be an ideal reception center, where people could drive through, stopping to have themselves checked, he added.
Sunceri said the likelihood of radiation escaping from Wolf Creek was extremely remote, with the U.S. having the “gold standard of nuclear plant safety.” The only release of radiation in the industry to date was at Three Mile Island, Pa., 34 years ago.
Stukey said plans were to evacuate those in harm’s way ahead of any release.
About 6,000 people live within 10 miles of Wolf Creek and the maximum that would be expected to be downwind from the plant at any given time is 20 percent, or about 1,200. That number would grow if the wind were blowing from the northeast toward Burlington, he added, which is a rarity in Kansas.
Commissioner Tom Williams asked Pam Beasley, Allen County’s emergency management director, to talk with Stukey further about Allen County’s involvement, and also solicit a recommendation from the Local Emergency Planning Commission, which she moderates.
“Let’s get the LEPC’s reaction,” added Dick Works, commission chairman.
“I think it (a plan to cooperate) can be worked out,” Beasley said.

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