With the recent tragic events caused by the disastrous earthquake in Japan, did it make you pause and think of how we would react as an agricultural community if an emergency nuclear event would happen locally? Are you aware that sections of Berks County fall into four nuclear power plant 50 mile radius zones? In fact, several Southeastern Berks municipalities fall within a ten mile radius of the Limerick Generating Plant. These zones include almost all facets of the diverse agricultural commodities and enterprises in Berks County. While we recognize that this disaster is extreme and nuclear power plants have a great record of safety overall, this recent incident and the anniversary of the Three Mile Island incident (which is one of those four) should heighten our awareness for preparedness.
First of all, you should know that our Berks County Department of Emergency Services has emergency plans in place and on a regular basis, holds emergency response drills. They have always recognized the significance and consequences of agricultural issues and value our partnership in their preparedness plans, as we value them. Penn State Extension, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency are integral parts of these drills and efforts and we are always at the table. Between our ag agencies, we have established a protocol of coverage, educational information and notification in the event of an emergency. Ironically, two days prior to the Japan disaster, Berks Extension Educator Morgan Firestine and Rick Kauffman along with many extension and ag colleagues from our region, participated in a regional emergency response exercise focusing on the Limerick Nuclear Plant. Many of the scenarios dealt with livestock, water, food distribution and production issues. While we practice how to respond to these issues, there are many steps and precautions which producers should put into effect immediately should an event occur to minimize contamination.
We would be glad to send you a packet of background information and steps to consider preparing for and reacting to a possible nuclear accident. Let us hope we never have to encounter such an event, but as with so many things, we owe it to ourselves to be as prepared as possible.
Richard S. Kauffman, County Extension Director