New report claims most jurisdictions are not planning and do not possess
emergency evacuation plans for the Salem Nuclear Generating Station.

For Immediate Release: APRIL 14, 2015

CONTACT: Ben Smilowitz / / (202) 556-3023

ROCKVILLE, MD — Emergency planning and public education related to radiological incidents at the Salem Nuclear Generating Station are inadequate, according to a new report by Disaster Accountability Project (DAP).

Federal regulations require jurisdictions within 10-mile “emergency planning zones” of U.S. nuclear power plants to develop evacuation protocols for responding to radiological incidents, and to provide to residents living within these zones annual information on radiation and protective actions during radiological emergencies.

Outside the 10-mile zones, local governments are not required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to plan for radiological emergency evacuations, or educate the general public on what to do in the event of a radiological emergency.

Without planning and regular public information, many residents living outside the 10-mile radius are likely to voluntarily evacuate, even if authorities deem their particular locations safe. Such voluntary “shadow evacuations” have the potential to complicate the evacuation of people most immediately in danger by, for instance, putting additional traffic on roadways, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. In response, the NRC claimed that such planning is unnecessary, saying that current 10-mile planning zones provide an “adequate” level of protection of public health and safety in the event of an emergency at a nuclear power plant.

Between June 2014 and July 2014, DAP surveyed 22 cities and counties in New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland within 50 miles of the Salem Nuclear Generating Station in Salem, New Jersey, seeking documents and information related to radiological preparedness, including evacuation planning.

Key findings include the following:

  • Only three of the 22 jurisdictions within 50 miles of the Salem plant could provide or make a direct referral to any shadow evacuation planning. 4.9 million people live in jurisdictions that could not provide any information about shadow evacuation planning.
  • Only 5 out of 22 jurisdictions within 50 miles of Salem provided any emergency radiological planning specific to the plant. 6.5 million people live in the other 17 jurisdictions that could not provide any emergency planning specific to radiological incidents at the Salem plant.

“Most communities situated ten or more miles from nuclear power plants do not plan for radiological emergencies simply because Washington doesn’t require it,” said Ben Smilowitz, Executive Director, Disaster Accountability Project. “Most people that live 20, 30, or 40 miles away from plants do not realize that their communities are only adhering to bare-minimum standards for radiological emergency preparedness.”

“This report’s findings should serve as a wake-up call to local communities that if Washington is not going to demand emergency planning, residents should demand it themselves. We hope residents of these communities will call on their local governments to do more, regardless of any mandate from Washington,” said Smilowitz.


Of the 22 jurisdictions within 50 miles of the Salem plant, only two — Philadelphia, PA, and Baltimore County, MD — provided any shadow evacuation planning specific to Salem. However, these jurisdictions simply referred DAP to third-party sources for the information.

After an earthquake and tsunami severely damaged the Japanese Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in 2011, over 150,000 people were evacuated within 19 miles of the stricken plant due to the presence of radiological plumes. The NRC itself recommended that U.S. citizens evacuate as far as 50 miles of the plant. This distance exceeds the current mandatory planning zone of 10-miles, and the Commission has not satisfactorily reconciled this disparity between current planning and real-world implementation.

The “Report on Emergency Evacuation Planning for the Salem Nuclear Generating Station” can be found here:



Since 2007, the nonprofit Disaster Accountability Project saves lives and reduces suffering after disasters by maximizing the impact of preparedness, response and relief through citizen oversight and engagement, policy research and advocacy, and public education. Connect with Disaster Accountability Project at