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Plant safety on leaders’ radar

In the wake of the tragedy in Japan, some area supervisors couldbe looking to hold talks regarding response preparations shouldsomething similar happen at the Grand Gulf nuclear plant in PortGibson.

Plant and emergency response officials said plans are in placealready and drills are held periodically to review safetyprocedures.

Jefferson County District Two Supervisor Cammie Hutchersonvisited Monday’s Lincoln County supervisors meeting and presentedthe idea of a multi-county effort to pursue preparedness efforts inthe event of a Grand Gulf problem. He mentioned the possibility ofsirens, evacuation routes and other response-related issues.

“We’re going to be an impact on you all over here if somethinghappens over there,” Hutcherson told Lincoln supervisors.

Lincoln County District Two Supervisor Bobby J. Watts suggestedthe formation of a committee of area county officials to contactthe proper authorities and get the correct answers to localofficials’ concerns.

Hutcherson said an Entergy representative visited with JeffersonCounty officials recently and that they were waiting to hear morefrom him. The supervisor indicated that having preparations forresponse was a prudent course of action.

“We can’t say it can’t happen,” Hutcherson said.

Alluding to a 100-mile radius around the plant, Hutcherson saidthe counties of Claiborne, Jefferson, Lincoln, Adams, Copiah,Franklin and Warren could be involved in the regional effort.

“You never know which way the wind will be blowing that day,” hesaid.

Hutcherson added that he liked Watts’ idea for seekinginformation from the appropriate representatives.

“I think that would be a definite approach,” he said.

Suzanne Anderson, communications officer for Grand Gulf, saidthe plant conducts periodic safety drills every few weeks. They areconducted to include a designated 10-mile emergency zone around theplant, and emergency response directors from Claiborne County andTensas Parish, La., are invited to participate.

Regarding the possibility of evacuations, Anderson said theMississippi Emergency Management Agency oversees and would makethose determinations. She added that MEMA is also invited toparticipate in the plant’s safety drills.

Lincoln County Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey, who isalso president of the state association of emergency responsedirectors, said state and federal officials are involved in safetyoversight at Grand Gulf. He recalled no incidents of any magnitudeat the plant during his time as civil defense director.

“We have a plan, but it’s not something I’d lose any sleepover,” Galey said.

In addition to the plant’s drills, Galey said there is afull-scale exercise involving a larger area conducted every fewyears at the plant. He indicated one would be coming up in the nearfuture.

“Lincoln County will participate,” said Galey, although addingthat the general public will likely not be aware it is beingconducted.

Regarding Hutcherson’s concerns, Galey said he visited with thesupervisor after Monday’s meeting.

“He was a concerned supervisor,” Galey said. “I tried to answerhis questions and point him in the right direction.”

In other business Monday, Galey said federal and state emergencymanagement officials were expected to be in the county later thisweek to evaluate damage from the heavy rains on March 8. He saiddamage totals statewide could be enough to allow Lincoln County tobe included in disaster relief funding efforts.

The storm dumped more than 6 inches of rain on the area thatafternoon and evening. Also, there was flash flooding in severalareas and some roads were damaged, including one that was washedout.

“We had up to 50 roads that were closed at one time,” Galeysaid.

Also Monday, supervisors approved a license plate tax exemptionfor military personnel deployed overseas in Iraq or Afghanistan.The exemption, for up to $100, applies to one vehicle anddeployment orders must be included in the application for theexemption.

“No one is exempted from school tax,” said Lincoln County TaxAssessor-Collector Nancy Jordan.

The exemption is similar to one granted several years ago forvolunteer firefighters. However, the military exemption will end inSeptember 2012, according to the state law authorizing themove.

Supervisors first looked at the military exemption measure in2007, but took no action at the time.

“It’s effective today if we pass it,” said Board President DougMoak prior to the board’s granting the exemption.