A new bill aimed at improving public safety in Massachusetts within 20 miles of nuclear power plants received a public hearing on Beacon Hill on Tuesday. 

Under federal rules dating back to 1978, communities near nuclear plants must prepare evacuation plans for residents and businesses within a 10 mile radius of the plant. 

In a severe accident most of the early deaths from radiation sickness (not cancer) are predicted to occur in those within a 10 mile radius of a nuclear plant.  But, Representative Sarah Peake, a Provincetown Democrat, said if we’ve learned anything from the Fukishima disaster in Japan, it's that 10 miles isn’t enough.

“The U.S. State Department and the NRC recommended that any US citizen within 50 miles of Fukishima should get out of there," Peake said at the hearing. "Yet for us, they say 10 miles is good enough here. What's good for the goose has to be good for the gander. So, I would like them just to apply the same safety standards that they advised their U.S. citizens overseas here."

The proposed bill would require the state to expand the safety plans to a 20 mile radius.  The Massachusetts Department of Public Health would be required to stockpile thyroid-blocking agents for cities and towns within that radius.

Another measure heard by the public safety committee would require the state to install more real time computerized monitors to detect how much radiation is in the air.  The devices automatically alert the Department of Public Health when radiation levels are elevated. To pay for this, the state would increase assessments on nuclear plants from $180,000 to $400,000.

Massachusetts residents are within radius of three reactors.  And, if this law passes it can be enforced over state lines at plants including the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth, Vermont Yankee in Vernon, Vt., and Seabrook Nuclear Power Station in Seabrook, NH.