U.S. NRC Blog

Transparent, Participate, and Collaborate

Like a Good Boy Scout, We’re Always Prepared

Diane Screnci
Senior Public Affairs Officer
Region I
 

Because emergency preparedness is so important to the agency’s mission, the NRC has requirements to ensure nuclear power plant operators — and the NRC staff — are prepared to respond to events. And our rules require plants to have up-to-date emergency plans.

The NRC shares federal oversight of nuclear power plant emergency preparedness with FEMA. States have the overall authority for making protective action decisions for residents in the area, such as sheltering and evacuation, if there is an event at a plant. Local emergency responders also have an important role in protecting the public.

Region I incident response personnel participate in an exercise.

Region I incident response personnel participate in an exercise.

Plants must practice their emergency plans periodically to make sure plant staff is prepared to deal with a radiological emergency. Every other year, both the NRC and FEMA evaluate emergency response exercises at each operating plant, with both the state and local emergency responders participating.

NRC inspectors monitor the on-site response. They watch over the shoulders of operators and emergency responders to assure they’re correctly evaluating conditions, taking appropriate steps to deal with the reactor conditions and communicating well with off-site agencies, including the NRC. FEMA evaluates the efforts of state and local governments, and emergency responders.

The NRC staff must also be prepared to respond to an emergency. So several times a year, we participate in exercises, too. For example, the NRC’s region I recently participated in an emergency exercise for which we sent a site team to participate alongside plant emergency responders, and state and local emergency response agencies. We had staff in the various emergency facilities, including the simulator, the plant’s emergency operations facility, the joint news center and the state operations center. We also staffed our own incident response center in the Regional Office.

Participating in exercises gives us a chance to practice how we’d respond in an actual event. That means the NRC staff monitors and independently assesses reactor conditions, performs dose calculations, and reviews protective action recommendations. We also “issue” press releases, participate in mock news conferences, and interact with federal and state officials, and local emergency management agencies.

Afterwards, we take a look at what worked, and what didn’t go so well, and make changes to our procedures so that we’re continually improving.

We also learn from real events, like Hurricane Sandy, and put those lessons into place, so that the next time, we’re even better prepared.

20 responses to “Like a Good Boy Scout, We’re Always Prepared

  1. Ihjaz Ahmad December 24, 2014 at 7:19 am

    No nuclear energy is truly ever safe. It is better to go for natural Energy like solar, Wind.. etc

  2. dick0645 August 4, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Hypothetically speaking though I would think emergency planning would be a major factor if a new plant were proposed for a location so close to NYC. I think a decision to extend the licenses of both Indian Point plants should be considered just like a new plant license. It would be a conservative and proper thing to do with the lives of millions of people at stake.

  3. richard123456columbia August 4, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Moderator, who is paying FEMA to provide this service and if they fail in their duty is NRC still responsible, I would assume so.

    • Moderator August 4, 2014 at 12:05 pm

      FEMA is a federal government agency and its funding comes from the U.S. Treasury.

      Moderator

      • richard123456columbia August 4, 2014 at 12:25 pm

        Why wouldn’t that cost be transferred to the nuclear power plants that require this to operate its plant. Another hidden subsidy like who pays for the NRC, IAEA, many studies and others.
        You did not answer this “if they (FEMA) fail in their duty is NRC still responsible?

  4. Kilimanjaro July 31, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    i somehow dont trust government agencies that much after the wikileaks and snowden issues came to light

  5. CaptD July 31, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Who at the NRC questions our Nuclear Experts beliefs when it come to risk taking?
    At some point, perhaps gross denial is best left for mental professionals with other types of training.

    Case in Point, Japan is now suffering with a Trillion Dollar Nuclear Eco-Disaster, yet most nuclear experts and elected Officials consider that it, in effect, is “no big deal”:

    Polluted Ocean, N☢ Problem, it will get better after a while….
    Polluted Fields, N☢ Problem, they can remove the upper layer
    Polluted Air, N☢ Problem, they can wear paper masks for a while
    Polluted Food, N☢ Problem, they can mix the good to dilute the bad
    Polluted Homes, N☢ Problem, they can power wash them clean
    Polluted Schools. N☢ Problem, they can clean them
    Polluted Cities, N☢ Problem, they can return soon…

    The Fukushima disaster is an example of a case where something like a meltdown with a once per 100,000 years probably not only occurred, but occurred 3 times in less than a week!

    Since many elected Leaders & Nuclear Professionals were “surprised” by Fukushima, perhaps you would consider a followup Blog article, asking this question:

    Are our Nuclear Power Plants really safe from whatever Nature can throw at them, because if they are not then the NRC needs to begin both internal and external studies ASAP to reevaluate Nuclear Safety in the USA before something occurs that we thought never would happen.

  6. CaptD July 31, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    The NRC like Good Scouts should also always tell the truth!

    Here are the actual US NRC emails made after 3/11/11, they give a great insight into just how “bad” things were at the time, note that sometimes they started speaking in Spanish and or “code” to remind each other that they should watch what they say, knowing that these emails might be made public…

    http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1117/ML11175A278.pdf

    IMO The NRC was more concerned about PR “damage control” than anything else! There was a later directive for experts working in other US National Labs to not get involved unless they had permission (Hint: Don’t say or volunteer)…

    These released NRC emails that occurred after Fukushima, can give a glimpse into what we can expect to happen if a beyond basis event occurs where a nuclear operator cannot keep its power plant and/or reactors under control so that it goes BAD (like Fukushima).

    Fact: Nature can destroy any land based nuclear reactor, any place anytime 24/7 yet we are continually told by the NRC that everything is perfectly safe while the nuclear industry says that they need less not more oversight!

    This kind of “we experts are wonderful and have everything completely under control” is exactly what the Japanese Nuclear Experts were chanting until 03/11/11 occurred which left them with not one but three meltdowns which are still polluting the Pacific Ocean and will continue to do so, for the foreseeable future because what is now happening in Fukushima is beyond mans control.

    The NRC would be well devised to post a listing of all the things that can make reactors go BAD, and then we can start crossing those things off as we put safeguards in place to prevent them. That is what we need the NRC to do, instead of posturing and comparing itself to Boy Scouts.

    • richard123456columbia July 31, 2014 at 7:53 pm

      CaptD, one is even enough a EMP from man made or nature can take out 100’s at a time, Carrington event 1853 not very long ago.

      • CaptD August 1, 2014 at 8:34 pm

        richard123456columbia – Yes, there are many things that can make nuclear go BAD and we humans should spend some money making them even safer, despite what the nuclear industry says, because we, not them will have to pay for any problems, hopefully not with out lives…

  7. joy cash July 31, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Too bad Hanford doen’t come under NRC’s realm of safety preparedness.

  8. dick0645 July 31, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    When was the last emergency exercise conducted in Region I with the Indian Point Nuclear Units located in the backyard of New York City? How did that go? Over 300,000 people live within the 10-mile radius Plume Exposure Pathway around these units. Of course millions more live just beyond that zone. I am sure the NRC is aware that folks die just from having to be evacuated (let alone any danger from radioactivity released in an accident). In Japan more people have now died from just being relocated (as a result of the accident there), than have died from the accident itself! How could the NRC even seriously consider extending the life of the Indian Point units?! Today the NRC would not even consider allowing a new nuclear plant to be built so close to a large metropolitan area, even if the plant had the latest technology installed.

    • Moderator July 31, 2014 at 3:48 pm

      The last NRC-evaluated emergency exercise for the Indian Point nuclear power plant took place on Oct. 2, 2012. The NRC did not identify any concerns during the exercise. The next exercise is scheduled for this coming October.

      Diane Screnci

      • richard123456columbia July 31, 2014 at 7:47 pm

        Moderator, the number of people living close to the plant was not a concern?
        It should have been closed, I also can not believe that tests of aging plants can find major faults and take into account that old parts can not be fitted with new replacement equipment and work properly under all conditions that the original did.
        When a car runs for 10 years any part can fail, rebuilds can reduce repairs but you may be thumbing a ride on the freeway.

      • Moderator August 4, 2014 at 8:42 am

        FEMA is responsible for reviewing and assessing off-site emergency planning and response for U.S. nuclear power plants. It also assists state and local governments with emergency readiness activities. The NRC reviews and assesses on-site emergency planning and response. Based on its reviews and assessments, FEMA notifies the NRC on an ongoing basis whether it has “reasonable assurance” that the emergency plans for each plant remain protective of public health and safety. The latest such evaluations by FEMA has reaffirmed its determinations that the Indian Point plans meet the applicable standards.

        In terms of the population around these plants, the owners are required by the NRC to evaluate changes on a regular basis and update the evacuation time estimates for their facilities. These reviews make use of the most recent U.S. Census data. In August 2011, the NRC Commission approved changes to emergency planning regulations that require nuclear power plants to update their evacuation time estimates after every U.S. Census or when changes in population would increase the estimate by either 25 percent or 30 minutes, whichever is less: http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1124/ML11242A224.pdf .

        Diane Screnci

      • dick0645 August 4, 2014 at 10:56 am

        I am glad FEMA and the NRC are satisfied with emergency preparedness at these plants that are in the backyard of New York City. There are many folks who are not including the Governor of NY. Would you directly answer one question fot me? Would you license a brand new nuke plant, even with all the latest technology, so close to a major metropolitan center?

      • Moderator August 4, 2014 at 12:06 pm

        Many factors go into a review of a new nuclear plant application. We can’t answer a hypothetical question, such as you pose. But for information on how new nuclear plants are licensed, please go here: http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/new-reactors.html

        Diane Screnci

      • dick0645 August 4, 2014 at 12:22 pm

        Dear Ms. Screnci, I really appreciate your prompt responses to mine and other folks concerns. I also like the fact that the NRC is using the social media for public information and feedback.

  9. joy cash July 31, 2014 at 11:42 am

    Truth is simply none can be fully prepared for a nuclear emergency.
    When will we learn the lessons of Hiroshima, Chernobyl & Fukushima??
    No nuclear energy or spent fuel is truly ever safe.

  10. stock July 31, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Rather than “being prepared” I would much rather live next to a solar PV farm which has zero evacuation zone and does not require a Yucca mountain, nor the poorly packed dirty bombs of WIPP

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