Posted by: Corey Gruber, Assistant Administrator, National Preparedness
The tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan have resulted in extraordinary loss of life, injury, and property damage. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with those affected by the disaster. When international disasters occur, they often raise questions about how we would deal with a similar event here at home.
Keeping nuclear facilities safe in the U.S. is a coordinated effort among the plant’s operator, federal, state, local and tribal government agencies. Following the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, Congress established emergency planning and preparedness as a condition for licensing and operations. With any commercial nuclear facility within the U.S., the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has regulatory oversight for onsite activities within the plant. FEMA, in turn, has responsibility for working with state, tribal and local governments for offsite emergency planning and preparedness. Specific planning standards and evaluation criteria exist that must be satisfied in order for NRC to issue an operating license. This process is designed by law to ensure plans and preparedness “adequately protect the public health and safety by providing reasonable assurance that appropriate protective measures can be taken offsite in the event of a radiological emergency.”
FEMA’s Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program (REPP) provides state, tribal and local governments with processes to review and approve preparedness measures (e.g., plans, procedures, personnel, training, facilities, and equipment). It offers support and resources such as site assistance visits, planning guidance, and helping conduct exercises to ensure the health and safety of citizens living around commercial nuclear power plants, in the event of a radiological accident.
Here are some facts on the REPP:
Working with state, local and tribal officials
We work in close coordination to ensure plans and preparedness measures are in place to protect public health and safety. We ensure these plans can be used by emergency response personnel, and that they include sufficient resources and equipment. Planning and preparedness measures employ tools such as the National Incident Management System (NIMS), the National Response Framework (NRF), and Comprehensive Preparedness Guide 101: Developing and Maintaining State, Territorial, Tribal, and Local Government Emergency Plans.
As part of the REPP, we also evaluate the alert and notification system for nuclear power plants in case an accident should occur, including outdoor warning sirens and back-up systems.
We cooperate closely with the NRC and provide all findings from these evaluations to the NRC to use when making its licensing decisions.
Informing the public
As we do with all hazards, we are focused on making sure the public is aware of the various risks in their communities and providing preparedness and safety information about the potential impact of a radiological threat.
Families that live near or around nuclear power plants should become informed about steps they can take to protect themselves before an incident occurs by contacting their local Office of Emergency Management, referring to information in the local telephone directory and regular publications they receive by mail about emergency preparedness, or visiting Ready.gov.