Making Sure SAFER Resources Are Ready To Go

Jack Davis
Director, Japan Lessons Learned Division

mitigation_strategies_infographic_r4Part of the U.S. nuclear power industry’s response to the NRC’s post-Fukushima Mitigation Strategies Order involves emergency equipment centers in Memphis, Tenn., and Phoenix, Ariz. The centers have multiple sets of generators, pumps and other equipment. The centers would send needed equipment to a U.S. nuclear plant to maintain safety functions indefinitely if an event disabled that plant’s installed safety systems.

The NRC’s been reviewing how an industry group, the Strategic Alliance for FLEX Emergency Response (SAFER), can move equipment from the response centers to plants. We observed two demonstrations SAFER ran in July and reviewed SAFER’s equipment, procedures, and deployment strategy. Overall, the NRC staff concludes that having the response centers and the group’s plans and procedures in place will enable plants to comply with the final phase of the Order.

The group has contracted with Federal Express (for both truck and aircraft shipment) to get supplies to a plant within 24 hours of a request. SAFER’s documentation of FedEx’s capabilities included a proven ability to work with the Federal Aviation Administration to get proper access to otherwise restricted airspace in the event that equipment must be flown to a nuclear power plant site. 

One SAFER demonstration sent equipment by road from Memphis to the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania. The NRC staff noted some areas for improvement, such as clarifying who’s responsible for unloading equipment at a site or where the equipment’s first tank of fuel will come from. SAFER responded by adding details to its plans and beefing up its training program.

The other demonstration simulated airlift of equipment from Phoenix to the Surry plant in Virginia. After the NRC shared its observations, SAFER gave our staff additional details on how it would obtain helicopters to bring supplies to a plant if area roads are impassable.

 We also reviewed a report on the Memphis center’s test of packing the equipment to efficiently load and fit onto FedEx’s planes. Although the test generated a delivery schedule a few minutes longer than the industry expected, the NRC is satisfied that SAFER has applied lessons learned to streamline its approach and ensure SAFER can meet its own deadlines.

 Our website’s Japan Lessons Learned section can give you more information about the mitigation strategy requirements and related guidance.

New Op Center Makes NRC Response More Efficient

Bill Gott
Chief, Operations Branch
Division of Preparedness and Response

The NRC’s Emergency Operations Center in Rockville, Md., is the hot spot for agency responders during real events and exercises. It was there that experts convened when planes became terrorist tools in 2001 and when Fukushima’s reactors began to fail after a massive tsunami in 2011.

It’s also been hub for countless exercises and smaller events that pull together trained responders from throughout the agency to staff teams responsible for monitoring reactor responses, planning for protective actions, and staying connected with stakeholders ranging from other federal agencies to Congress and the media.

But the Op Center had issues as a work space. It was cramped, with low ceilings and a strange use of space to accommodate the “wagon wheel” design, with all teams arranged around the decision-making Executive Team. It was also a design based on people moving around and passing paper.

As far back as 2008, the NRC began looking at options for redesigning and/or moving the Op Center. With the impending construction of the 3WFN building, the decision was made in 2010 to move the center across the street to the new addition to the headquarters complex.

A view of the agency's new Op Center, with the Executive Team on the left and the Reactor Safety and Protective Measures teams on the right, seen here during an exercise.
A view of the agency’s new Op Center, with the Executive Team on the left and the Reactor Safety and Protective Measures teams on the right, seen here during an exercise.

While the footprint is about the same in terms of square feet, the new center has a large open area and a better design with a more efficient use of space. A large “video wall” with six projectors and 80 linear feet of room allows maps, status information, chronologies, task check lists and news feeds to be presented simultaneously for all responders to see. LED lighting provides a better spectrum, saves energy and is easier on the eyes for responders often working 12-hour shifts during real emergencies.

The new space also relies on web cams and head sets for responders to give briefings to the Executive Team. This reduces foot traffic, noise, and the need for team leaders to be away giving briefings when they are needed to be near their response staff. The Executive Team members – the agency’s top managers – have their own laptop computers to stay better connected via email and the internet to response information without relying on the “transfer of paper” that was the norm previously.

Separate spaces for the support teams include an expanded room for the Federal Liaison Team, which has increased its members since Fukushima. The room has space for liaisons from other federal agencies to be part of the NRC response.

And there is a secure conference room and safeguards team room for discussion of classified information. Also in the new Op Center is space for the Headquarters Operations Officers – key personnel who staff the center 24-hours-a-day as the link between the agency and licensees.

The Op Center’s location in the basement of the new building is an additional plus. It has no windows and is considered more secure and robust in the event of a severe weather event that might have rendered the former Op Center temporarily unusable.

All in all, the new Op Center helps the NRC be ready to respond to any incident involving its licensees.

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