You could say I’ve been on the fence on nuclear power. In fact, my backyard fence is less than 10 miles from the Indian Point plant in Westchester, New York. But after hearing about the disaster plan of Japanese energy company Tepco, which operates the now devastated Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, I’m starting to climb down from the fence. I remember what crisis comms consultant Eric Dezenhall told me after the BP disaster (paraphrasing): PR becomes irrelevant in a major disaster—just get the problem fixed. Well, Tepco compounded the difficulty in fixing their problem with an almost laughable disaster plan that called for one stretcher, one satellite phone, 50 protective suits, one firetruck and communications via different plants by fax machine. OK, I know a 46-foot wall of water is really unthinkable, but the fact the Tepco and the Japanese government reviewed and approved this plan every year is pretty unthinkable, too.
So if I were representing the nuclear power industry here in the U.S., I’d make sure that disaster plans are updated and made readily available for public consumption. Up in Westchester, we’ve yet to receive any communications from Entergy Corp., which runs Indian Point, unless you count an Entergy official telling the press that the plant is safe. In the wake of the Japan disaster, that’s just not good enough.
–Scott Van Camp