Are we prepared?
As millions of tsunami victims struggle to survive Japan, officials there are scrambling to prevent a nuclear catastrophe. After Friday’s earthquake and tsunami that caused a partial meltdown, there have already been two explosions at Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.
At Cook Nuclear Power Plant in Bridgman, Michigan, spokesperson Bill Schalk said they practice regularly for disasters.
“We do have highly-practiced emergency planning in place not only at the plant, but also in coordination with Berrien County and the state of Michigan,” said Schalk.
Schalk said the plant just finished an exercise last week involving a simulated emergency and evacuation. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Federal Emergency Management Agency review the drills, which are required every two years.
“And we did quite well,” Schalk added.
Nuclear experts say the Fukushima plant’s problems stemmed from a loss of power which prevented water from continuously flowing into the nuclear core.
Schalk said the Cook plant has “redundancy” in its safety systems to keep the power coming in case of a disaster locally. He said both reactor cores have a back-up diesel generator, plus a third generator to be used as a “back-up to the back-up.”
“So really the key in any nuclear management situation is having the power that you need to operate your pumps and motors and valves and we have several backups to our power supply systems here at Cook,” he said.
Schalk said the plant was also built to withstand natural disasters including earthquakes.
In 2009, the state of Michigan began offering free potassium iodide pills - also known as K-I tablets - to people within ten miles of a nuclear power plant.
Those pills would help stabilize your thyroid so it won't absorb radioactive iodine in case of an accident.
You're only supposed to use those pills, though, if the state declares a general emergency.