Five Questions with Rick Hasselberg

Rick Hasselberg is a Senior Emergency Response Coordinator with the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response.

  1. How would you briefly describe your role at the NRC?

5 questions_9with boxI manage the NRC’s Reactor Safety Team. If an emergency occurs at a nuclear power plant, my team is responsible for assessing nuclear facility conditions, predicting future conditions, and recommending actions the NRC might take to help protect public health and safety. I am responsible for recruiting, training, and continuously challenging the expertise and response readiness of one of the most respected emergency response organizations in the world.  What could be better than that?

  1. What is your foremost responsibility at work?

I think about emergencies. While 99 percent of the people working at the NRC are working hard to ensure that appropriate safety measures are in place, I work under the assumption that any of those safety measures could possible fail and that it’s time to get busy.  (The more I think about the things that might happen, the less surprised I will be if they do.

  1. What is your most significant challenge in the workplace?

rickh_fixedI struggle with competing demand for the agency’s best and brightest employees.  I must ensure that NRC will able to maintain a pool of experienced, qualified response team members who can be pulled away from their regular duties to train, exercise and, if ever needed, to respond to an actual emergency event.

  1. What do you consider one of your most notable accomplishments at the NRC?

I joined the NRC in late 1979, in the months following the Three Mile Island Accident. During that period, the NRC was under considerable pressure to improve both its internal training programs and its external public information (outreach) programs. I contributed significantly to both programs, introducing multimedia production techniques (film, video, and 35mm slides) for improving internal technical training, and I created and presented a highly acclaimed, day-long Nuclear Power and Radiation seminar that NRC presented to news media representatives throughout the United States. I was credited with helping to re-establish NRC credibility with the news media.

  1. What is one quality of the NRC that more people should know?

This agency has a lot of very smart, very talented people who really care about their role in serving the nation. I’m very proud to serve with them.

Five Questions is an occasional series in which we pose the same questions to different NRC staff members.

 

 

Chernobyl – Thirty Years Ago Today

2015-6-4 Chornobyl (59)On April 26, 1986, a sudden surge of power during a reactor systems test destroyed Unit 4 of the nuclear power station at Chernobyl, Ukraine, in the former Soviet Union. The accident and the fire that followed released massive amounts of radioactive material into the environment.

So starts the NRC backgrounder on accident. Today, exactly three decades later, it’s still an event worth recalling.

Last year, NRC Commissioner William Ostendorff and several NRC staffers, (photo above right) visited the site and saw the progress for containment and decommissioning first hand.

Said Commissioner Ostendorff of his visit: “I was struck by the impact of this tragic accident in 1986, especially by the visit to the abandoned city of Pripyat. I saw first-hand the detailed work underway to more 2015-6-4 Chornobyl (35)permanently contain the damaged reactor for coming generations. I am grateful for the international support to fund the construction of the New Safe Confinement structure.”

The New Safe Confinement construction site can be seen in the photo to the left. The Commissioner’s visit included the construction site for the Dry Type Storage facility. The final completion date for this project is 2064.

As part of their tour, the Commissioner and NRC staff visited the abandoned city of Pripyat, home to an amusement park originally scheduled to open one week after the accident. (see photo below right)

After the accident, 2015-6-4 Prypiat (39)ferriswheelofficials closed off the area within 18 miles of the plant, except for those with official business at the plant and those people dealing with the consequences of the accident and operating the undamaged reactors. The Soviet (and later on, Russian) government evacuated about 115,000 people from the most heavily contaminated areas in 1986, and another 220,000 people in subsequent years.

For more information on the accident, check out this blog post or take a look at this video.