Report: Power Plants Pose Unnecessary Chemical Release Dangers

Power plants needlessly endanger millions of Americans in the event of chemical releases from accidents or terrorism, according to a new report from the Working Group on Community Right-to-Know. The authors called on government and power plant operators to reduce the danger to the public.

"We urge power plants to replace these dangerous chemicals with safer alternatives that are readily available," said Paul Orum, director of the group, which is based in Washington, D.C.

The report, "Unnecessary Dangers: Emergency Chemical Release Hazards at Power Plants," presents for the first time an analysis of the power plants' own chemical risk management plans as submitted to EPA. Findings, which are based on worst-case scenerios, include:

  • Some 225 non-nuclear power plants endanger 3.5 million Americans in the event of emergency chemical releases of gaseous ammonia or chlorine.
  • Approximately 24 power plants account for two-thirds of the people in danger.
  • In 10 states, more than 100,000 people live in danger of emergency chemical releases from power plants. These states are California, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Rhode Island, Virginia and New Jersey.
  • Numerous federal agencies and other experts have warned that terrorist might target facilities that use extremely hazardous chemicals.
  • Power plants can sharply reduce the danger to communities by switching to safer chemicals.

Congress is considering legislation that would require power plants and other industrial facilities to review safer alternatives to storing large amounts of extremely hazardous substances and to use these safer chemicals where practicable.

"It would be prudent for power companies to adopt safer alternatives to ammonia and chlorine gas," said George Sorvalis of the Working Group on Community Right-to-Know. "Many power plants are already using safer chemicals to achieve the same results without putting workers and communities at risk. Better safe than sorry."

The report is available at

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