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Roberta Pevear: Seabrook is an accident waiting to happen

  • The Seabrook nuclear power plant is at the edge of a marsh. AP file



For the Monitor
Saturday, June 09, 2018

From 1979 to 1988, I served Hampton Falls and Hampton in the New Hampshire House of Representatives on the Environment Committee, and as its clerk I also served 10 years as civil defense director of Hampton Falls, which abuts Seabrook.

I was the prime sponsor of the so-called Seabrook evacuation plan, which was taken over by the state, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Seabrook nuclear power plant. The plan was, and still is, unworkable.

Originally, we were told the area to be evacuated had to be 2 miles (the “constant radiation area”), but we were able to get it up to 10 miles, including the cities of Portsmouth and Newburyport. (At Fukushima, the U.S. government told its citizens to get 50 miles away, which, in our case, would include Boston, Portland, Concord, Manchester, etc.)

I was told we could not test each town and city’s evacuation plan, one at a time, because “people would get killed in the tests.” The plant, the state and federal government (NRC) had no intention of having a plan that worked in a safe and timely manner.

When the contract for the cement at Seabrook was under consideration by the Governor and Executive Council, we begged them not to sign with the company they gave the contract to, and they did it anyway. Now, Seabrook is the only nuclear plant with an alkali-silica problem.

Stephen Comley of We the People, has, as a receiver of information of whistleblowers, called for the NRC to hold hearings of the whistleblowers on whether they know things that would make it impossible to evacuate the thousands of people in the event of a serious accident. He has two cities and five towns in Massachusetts supporting him.

There are members of the state Legislature and local officials who still believe that a safe and timely evacuation is impossible in this area.

Seabrook was plopped into one of the richest estuaries in the world on our 12-mile coast. You have a nuclear plant built on an earthquake fault. (In the 1700s, the earth opened up, more than once, showing blue flames and the smell of sulphur. Hampton Falls called the area Brimstone Hill.) The plant is also at the edge of a marsh, and therefore near a rising ocean with unprecedented tides raging.

The plant sits between the beaches and the exit roads. Not only is it impossible to evacuate the residents and thousands of beachgoers during the summer months, but our winters are becoming more severe and unpredictable. During one storm last winter, Seabrook lost the ability to turn on its warning sirens.

If there ever was, from start to finish, an accident waiting to happen, Seabrook is it. It is totally irresponsible to even consider trying to crank another 20 years out of this doomed nuclear plant, and we ask that the NRC hold the requested hearing of whistleblowers before considering a license extension.

We ask that the NRC do its job of protecting the people and not the industry it was set up to regulate.

(Roberta Pevear, a former state representative, lives in Exeter.)