In an effort to make the agricultural community aware of the impact on Yakima County and a step by step process for releasing information should a radiation release from Hanford occur, emergency management specialists trekked to Sunnyside last night.
"If there is a release, it can affect us here in the valley," said Jim Hall, Director of the Yakima Valley Office of Emergency Management.
Hall said that his team's job is to prepare a plan of action, even though the chances of a radiological release are slim.
"Our goal is, if something were to happen, to provide a consistent response to the event, provide a perception of comfort that everything that can be done is being done and to relieve a lot of fears that the word 'radiation' brings with it," he said.
That was an ongoing theme echoed by panelists last night: fighting public perception.
Guest speakers included James Woods from the state department of agriculture, Charles Erwin, Senior Program Manager from the Yakima Valley Office of Emergency Management, and Steve Williams, Special Hazards Program Manager from the Yakima office of Emergency Management.
The panelists emphasized that it's important to understand the procedure for releasing information, as well as steps to take, in the event of a radiological release.
First, there are two planning zones when dealing with a Hanford release: one that deals with a ten-mile radius, and one that deals with a 50-mile radius. Yakima County falls into the 50-mile radius of emergency planning.
In the 50-mile radius planning zone, the concern deals more with ingestion of radioactive materials. Crops and livestock could become contaminated.
In the event of an emergency, the 50-mile radius would become an "advisory area."
In the advisory area, farmers are encouraged to shelter livestock and feed animals with food that wasn't exposed at the time of the release, as well as provide water that was covered at the time of release.
During this time emergency specialists would rapidly be deployed to the area.
According to Woods, at the core of the release, amounts would be measured. Then, using software, another area would be created outside of that. Even further outside of that perimeter would be the "food control area."
Food or livestock coming from the food control area would be embargoed to protect the nation from an adulterated food supply.
No food or dairy products can be moved out of the food control area until testing is complete and the ban lifted.
Woods explained that all of the nuclear power plants in the United States carry insurance through one company, American Nuclear Insurance, and pay millions each year for coverage. Woods said that growers would definitely be paid for their losses, but in terms of other important aspects of the agricultural economy, like packing plants and warehouse, compensation isn't quite as clear.