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What to do if Palisades had a nuclear disaster

7:54 PM, Nov 4, 2013   |    comments
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The Palisades Nuclear Plant has been shut down five times in 2012.

COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WZZM) -- Palisades in Van Buren County is one of five nuclear plants recently cited for "high level" safety violations. Issues range from radioactive leaks to a worker found drunk on the job.

13 On Your Side is looking at what you should do if there's a major problem at the plant. We take you through a step-by-step plan on how to survive a disaster.

Here are some of the plant's historic issues:

8 serious violations since 2000
79 gallons of radioactive water that spilled into Lake Michigan this past spring.
5: Palisades was rated one of the five worst nuclear plants for high violations.

In March, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the metal surrounding the reactor is some of the most brittle of any of the nation's atomic plants. But Entergy, the company that owns Palisades, insists the nuclear plant is safe.

In the last year, Palisades operators put in one thousand hours to get the 42 year old nuclear generator up to par, which begs this question: What to do if there's a major issue at Palisades?

Palisades is on Lake Michigan near South Haven and if there's a nuclear accident, residents in a 10-mile zone would be directly affected.

The first thing residents would hear is sirens, signaling them to turn on the TV or radio. That's where they'd hear instructions from emergency management.

If instructed to evacuate, quickly pack up. Families with very young children are reminded to pack baby supplies. If residents can't leave their home, there are options, such as closing vents and staying in the basement.

If you can drive, head to a receiving site outside of the evacuation area. You may be brought to a place like Paw Paw High School which is 10 miles outside of the evacuation area.

In the case of a nuclear emergency, residents would be individually checked for radiation and if contaminated, they would be instructed to shower and change clothes.

If found contaminated, potassium iodide tablets would be prescribed to help reduce the radiation from going through the body. It's a pill taken once per day for 14 days.

If there was a major leak, crops within a 50-mile radius would be impacted, especially honey, dairy, and wild game. All crops and livestock would be embargoed and not sold.

Who lives within 50 miles of the Palisades nuclear power plant? Anyone in Saugatuck, Holland, Zeeland, southwest Kent County, Kalamazoo, and as far south as South Bend.

Grand Rapids is beyond the 50-mile zone but that doesn't mean residents in Michigan's second largest city would not be impacted by an emergency.

Palisades operators say they are working to increase safety ratings. The Nuclear Regulatory Committee says safety at the plant has improved.

A palisades representative says the plant is prepared for an emergency. "We conduct emergency drills quarterly to make sure we have the drills in place and are well practiced," said Palisades representative Lindsay Rose.

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