NRC Officials Prepare for More than Just Radiation

Officials with the Nuclear Regulatory Committee (NRC) implemented new regulations last August dealing with the way emergency coordinators and responders approach disaster preparedness at over 100 U.S. nuclear facilities. The new rules were put in place to do away with what regulators deemed as complacency in disaster preparedness at nuclear facilities, according to a story by http://thegazette.com.

Before the changes, the status quo for an emergency preparedness exercise was to assume a radiation release was imminent. Emergency responders would then go through pretty much the same simulated scenario each time. NRC officials want to change this as they feel communities should be prepared for a plethora of disasters that could happen at any given facility, not just a radiation-release scenario.

Those with the NRC, and elsewhere, felt that the old regulations were outdated and needed an overhaul. One example of this is that a normal mandatory evacuation surrounding a nuclear facility only extended to a 10-mile radius. When radiation was released from the Fukushima facility in Japan, the area affected by the radiation extended out to 125 miles around the facility.

Other new regulations that have been implemented since August 2011 and are currently being implemented include:

  • A backup method for alerting the public to disasters
  • Backup methods designed to take into account changing population levels as residents move into and out of the areas surrounding nuclear facilities
  • Emergency coordinators designate a backup facility for emergency responders and the coordination of recovery efforts.

NRC officials feel that with the severity of other natural disasters, such as tornadoes and earthquakes, that can occur while a shutdown is in progress (or the disasters themselves could cause such a shutdown) these types of scenarios need to be taken into consideration when planning for the worst. By being prepared, they say, recovery will be quicker, safer, and easier.

For more information about the NRC nuclear requirements, visit: http://thegazette.com/2012/05/29/nuclear-emergency-planning-overhaul-draws-fire/