The General Accounting Office said yesterday that most states with nuclear facilities, including Pennsylvania, do not have federally approved on-site emergency plans.
In a year-long study made public yesterday, the congressional agency recommended against licensing of any new nuclear plants by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission unless state and local emergency plans meet all of the NRC's essential requirements.
In addition, the GAO recommended that the government require a 10-mile emergency zone around commercial nuclear reactors instead of the five-mile radius it now uses. The report said that a five-mile zone is "much smaller than the area that could be affected by a large radiological release."
Pennsylvania Gov. Richard Thornburgh yesterday advised the evacuation of preschool children and pregnant women in a five-mile zone around the Three Mile Island nuclear plant after an accident there Wednesday. Thornburgh also called on all remaining residents within a 10-mile radius to stay indoors to reduce the risks of radiation exposure.
At the time the GAO report was prepared, 33 of the 43 states with commercial or military nuclear facilities did not have emergency plans that meet all the NRC's standards.
The report did not list any of the states, but the GAO's Ralph Running told a reporter that Pennsylvania "has told a reporter that Pennsylvania "has not had its emergency plan concurred in by the NRC." Running added, however, that "just because the NRC has not concurred does not mean that it is necessarily a bad plan."
The GAO study also said: While the NRC has found the emergency plans of only 10 states-an 11th had since been added-"have all the essential elements," the agency has continued to license nuclear plants. During 1975 and 1976, the NRC did not grant approval of any of the state emergency plans submitted for review in conjunction with license application
Of the 41 states with some type of nuclear emergency plans, 16 had not been tested at all, and only nine had conducted full-scale drills.
Preparation to deal with nuclear emergencies at department of defense and energy weapons and research facilities "appears almost noneistent. Federal organizations have not adequately assured that their facilities do not pose potential radiological hazards to the public," the report said.
Forty percent of the nuclear power facilities licensed by the NRC are located in 10 states which have yet to win NRC approval of their plans.
The NRC requires operators to devise emergency plans with state and local officials and submit the proposals along with their applications for nuclear power plant licenses. In addition to Alabama, the states with NRC-approved emergency plans are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina and Washington.
State plans for Maryland and Virginia, both of which have nuclear power stations, have not won NRC approval.
The NRC last December took exception t the thrust of the GAO report when a draft was circulated for comments. Lee V. Gossick, a senior NRC official, wrote that, "We believe that the impression left by the report on the capabilities and preparedness of state and local officials may be doing them a disservice."
One major problem in contending with nuclear accidents pointed up by the 78-page report is that there is no single federal agency in existence to direct the mass evacuation that could be prompted by a major disaster.
Another flaw, according to GAO, is that there "does not appear to be a federal policy on providing nuclear accident response information to the a general public." The report also said some nuclear plant operators and utilities "were reluctant to provide public information" about the possibility of a nuclear accident because of a "fear of creating public alarm."