An AP investigation suggests that America's nuclear power plants and safety policies have not aged well: The once-rural areas around the plants have become far more crowded and difficult to evacuate, and the plants themselves are running at higher power and thus pose more of a risk in the event of an accident. But some estimates of evacuation times have not been updated in decades. As a result, emergency plans would direct residents to flee on antiquated, two-lane roads that clog hopelessly at rush hour.
Also, evacuation zones have remained frozen at a 10-mile radius from each plant since they were set in 1978. As the Fukushima disaster shows, that's probably way too small a zone. Consider one example: If a 50-mile order were ever issued for Indian Point, it would take in about 17.3 million people—6% of all Americans, according to an AP population analysis. That would include parts of New Jersey and Connecticut and most of New York City. "At no time in the history of man has anyone tried to move 17 million people in 48 hours," says a New York City preparedness official. About 40% of Americans live within 50 miles of nuclear plant. Cick for the full piece. (Read more nuclear power plant stories.)