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Dukakis Rejects Evacuation Plan, Threatening Future Of Troubled Plant

September 21, 1986

BOSTON (AP) _ Gov. Michael S. Dukakis said Saturday he would not submit an evacuation plan for towns near the Seabrook nuclear power plant, a move that will further delay the troubled plant’s startup.

″Chernobyl changed the equation dramatically,″ Gov. Michael S. Dukakis said in announcing his decision, referring to the April 26 disaster at the Soviet nuclear power plant that killed at least 31 people and forced more than 90,000 to evacuate their homes.

″Before, all we had were models and theories of what would happen in an accident,″ Dukakis said. ″We’re not talking about (those) anymore. We’re talking about the real thing.

″It’s simply impossible to evacuate the people surrounding Seabrook in the event of an accident,″ said Dukakis, who offered to help the plant’s owners, more than a dozen New England utilities, study the feasibility of converting the plant to burn coal or other fossil fuels.

Seabrook’s owners had hoped to start up the plant next month. John Kyte, a spokesman for New Hampshire Yankee, the plant’s builders, said Dukakis had delayed the startup six months.

″It’s extremely unfortunate that Governor Dukakis has taken advantage of a flaw in federal statutes,″ Kyte said. ″It’s going to hurt the New England economy. The consumer will have to pay for it.″

The decision was hailed by opponents of the plant, many of whom were at the Statehouse for the announcement.

″All the town meetings and demonstrations have paid off,″ said Thomas Moughan, coordinator for Citizens Within the Ten-Mile Radius.

New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, a Seabrook supporter, said Massachusetts had abdicated its responsibility and transferred it to Seabrook, which must take its case to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Sununu was referring to the NRC decision on the Shoreham nuclear plant on Long Island, New York. When state and local authorities refused to cooperate in emergency planning for Shoreham, the NRC ruled that the plant’s owners could step in and submit off-site emergency plans of their own.

″What it effectively says ... is a governor does not have a veto power over the federal licensing process,″ Kyte said.

Before licensing a plant, the NRC has required state-approved evacuation plans for communities within 10 miles. Sununu has submitted plans for the 17 New Hampshire communities.

According to the NRC, after a catastrophic accident, radiation could travel the 10 miles within one to four hours, depending upon weather conditions.

Dukakis called Chernoybl a ″best-case scenario″ and said he doubts an accident at Seabrook would occur under conditions favorable enough to avoid exposing the public to radiation.

The NRC expects to tell Seabrook’s owners this fall whether they have any hopes of easing evacuation planning requirements for communities near the plant.

Massachusetts communities within 10 miles of Seabrook are Merrimac, Newbury, West Newbury, Newburyport, Salisbury and Amesbury.

Owners expect Seabrook to cost about about $5 billion, 10 times its original projected cost. The plant originally was to have been finished by 1979.

Kyte said financing charges could add $50 million a month to the amount consumers eventually will pay for the plant, which will serve all six New England states.

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