At the conclusion of this unit the student should know --
1. NRC requires emergency plans to be in place at all U.S. nuclear plants;
2. NRC is responsible for regulation of on-site emergency planning/actions
3. FEMA is responsible for off-site emergency planning and interfaces with MSP EMD
4. States coordinate local emergency plans so the conform to FEMA guidelines
5. Plant emergency planning organizations work with both the state and local agencies to
assure alignment with nuclear plant emergency procedures (plan interrelationships)
6. Plans are developed to protect onsite and offsite people and property
7. There are 3 planning areas the EAB, 10 Mile EPZ and the 50 Mile EPZ.
8. The nuclear plant control room is the first line of defense in a nuclear emergency
9. The control room will determine, based on procedure, the level of emergency
10. There are four levels of emergency, each with a separate set of actions to be taken
11. At varying levels of an emergency onsite and off-site facilities are staffed and activated
12. Various Actions and protective responses may occur if a significant release or potential of
a release exists in an emergency
EPA's Radtown USA
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is the federal agency that licenses and
monitors the operation of all nuclear power plants in the United States. As a prerequisite to
issuing a license to operate a nuclear power plant, the NRC requires a detailed emergency plan
be developed to demonstrate the utility’s ability to maintain the plant’s reactor in a safe
manner. The emergency plan must also be approved by a second federal agency, the Federal
Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, for interface and cooperation among local, county,
state and federal law enforcement and emergency management personnel. Without an
approved emergency plan, a utility cannot be granted a license to operate its plant, even if the
plant is completely built and ready for full-power operation.
In nuclear emergency planning, the NRC regulates actions and activities taken by plant
personnel at the site. FEMA is responsible for the coordination of off-site activity, interfacing
primarily each state’s Emergency Management Office. The Emergency Management Office, in
turn, coordinates the local emergency plans in the state so that they are consistent with FEMA
requirements. These plans are exercised in practice drills on a routine basis. If deficiencies
are found, corrections are made and drills are conducted again. The counties that host
nuclear power plants have a great understanding of the importance of emergency planning
because they have detailed plans in place and the plans are exercised.
Functions of the Emergency Plan
• To protect the health and safety of the general public.
• To protect on-site personnel.
• To prevent damage to property.
• Planning Description
There are three planning zones or areas defined by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as
areas where planning is needed to ensure that prompt effective action can be taken to
minimize exposure and protect the public in the unlikely event of an inadvertent release of
radioactive fission products to the environment.
• Exclusion Area Boundary (EAB) - An approximate circle around the
containment where Entergy has authority within this area to control access and
• Plume Exposure Pathway (10 mile EPZ) - Approximately 10 miles in radius, is
the area where short-term radiation exposure problems may exist due to an
inadvertent release of radioactive fission products to the atmosphere. Radiological
exposure problems in this zone are primarily due to whole body gamma exposure and
intake of radioiodines. Within this zone, evacuation and/or sheltering may be used as
immediate protective actions to protect the general public. This is also the area in
which Entergy will provide protective action recommendations.
• Ingestion Exposure Pathway (50-mile EPZ) - Approximately 50 miles in radius,
is the area that long term ingestion problems may exist due to radioactive material
deposition on the ground. The primary concern is contamination and subsequent
ingestion of contaminated water and foodstuffs such as milk or fresh vegetables.
Individual states are responsible for making protective action recommendations in this
All nuclear plants in the United States, maintains plans and procedures to deal with emergency
situations. These procedures provide the details for operators to control the plant in a safe
manner and instruct operators to contact other plant employees or outside agencies for
assistance if necessary. The plant’s control room is the first line of defense in an emergency,
and operators are extensively trained on emergency procedures.
An Emergency Classification is a set of plant conditions which indicate a level of risk to the
public. Both nuclear power plants and research and test reactors use the four emergency
classifications listed below in order of increasing severity. The vast majority of events reported
to the NRC are routine in nature and do not require activation of our incident response
program. For information on how we respond to an event that could threaten public health and
safety, see How We Respond To an Emergency.
Recognizing that security-related events may involve different response actions from the
licensees, the NRC issued Bulletin 2005-02, Emergency Preparedness and Response Actions
for Security-Based Events. This bulletin identifies minor changes to the emergency
classification levels to reflect emphasis of post-9/11 conditions.
Notification of Unusual Event - Under this category, events are in process or have
occurred which indicate potential degradation in the level of safety of the plant. No
release of radioactive material requiring offsite response or monitoring is expected
unless further degradation occurs.
Alert - If an alert is declared, events are in process or have occurred which involve an
actual or potential substantial degradation in the level of safety of the plant. Any
releases of radioactive material from the plant are expected to be limited to a small
fraction of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) protective action guides (PAGs)
Site Area Emergency - A site area emergency involves events in process or which
have occurred that result in actual or likely major failures of plant functions needed for
protection of the public. Any releases of radioactive material are not expected to
exceed the EPA PAGs except near the site boundary.
General Emergency - A general emergency involves actual or imminent substantial
core damage or melting of reactor fuel with the potential for loss of containment
integrity. Radioactive releases during a general emergency can reasonably be
expected to exceed the EPA PAGs for more than the immediate site area.
At the different levels of an emergency, plant emergency plans and procedures direct that
onsite and off-site facilities be staffed and in operation. These facilities include a Technical
Support Center (TSC), and Operational Support Center (OSC), Emergency Operations Facility
(EOF) and a Joint Information Center (JIC). This center acts as a news media center point,
coordinating messages from the all responding agencies and Entergy. It is the Joint
Information Center, or JIC, that involves Customer Service representatives at Entergy’s call
The only major accident in a nuclear power plant in this country was at Three Mile Island near
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in March 1979. At Three Mile Island, there was major fuel damage,
and radioactive gases and contaminated cooling water filled the containment building. Some
radioactivity was released into the atmosphere, but it didn’t hurt people or the environment.
A much more serious accident happened in 1986 at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union.
That reactor was built differently than those in the U.S. Most importantly, it had no
containment system. The reactor core was severely damaged and a large amount of
radioactivity was released into the environment.
In US Nuclear Power Plants engineered safeguards are in place to limit the release of radiation
even in a severe accident.
In Reactors, Radiation Is Trapped and Contained in Several Ways:
Small amounts of radioactivity can be released into the environment during operation but only
under controlled and monitored conditions. In an accident, radiation may be released in a
limited quantity if the failure of the engineered safeguards occurs.
Gaseous and Liquid Effluent Releases
Gaseous and liquid radioactive waste, may be released to the environment. This can result in
the exposure of general members of the public. The diagram below shows some of the
pathways that could result in the exposure of a member of the public.
Liquid releases could be taken in by the aquatic growth, which could then be consumed by an
individual. The water could be used to irrigate crops or processed as drinking water. Also, the
individual could receive direct exposure from the release if in the vicinity of the water, such as
swimming or sunbathing.
Gaseous releases could result in exposures by being inhaled by the individual. Also, if the
individual is the in the vicinity of the release, a direct exposure could be the result.
If a release or the potential for a release occurs then Protective Action Decision Making would
Depending upon the circumstances in an unlikely event of a nuclear power plant radiological
emergency, the public may be advised to take protective actions, which may include
evacuation and sheltering in place:
Evacuation from an area removes the public from further exposure to radioactive material. To
learn more, see Principles of Evacuation.
Sheltering means keeping the population indoors, such as at home, the office, school, or a
shopping mall to reduce exposure to radioactive material.
Under most conditions, evacuation is preferred. However, under some conditions, sheltering in
place provides protection that is equal to or greater than evacuation, considering weather,
competing events, fast-breaking or short-term release, or traffic conditions. Depending on the
type of building used, sheltering in place can result in a reduction of radiation dose of up to
80% compared to a dose received outdoors and unsheltered. NUREG-0654/FEMA-REP-1 ,
Rev. 1, Supplement 3, "Criteria for Preparation and Evaluation of Radiological Emergency
Response Plans and Preparedness in Support of Nuclear Power Plants - Criteria for Protective
Action Recommendations for Severe Accidents," provides additional information on decisions
for protective actions. In June 2005, the NRC issued RIS 2005-08 that endorses guidance
written by the Nuclear Energy Institute which details an acceptable range of early-phase
protective actions that licensees may use in the event of a nuclear power plant incident.
Potassium Iodide as Supplement. In January 2001, the Commission published a rule
change to the NRC emergency planning regulations to include the consideration of the use of
potassium iodide. As necessary, KI is to be used to supplement evacuation or sheltering in
place, not to take the place of these actions. If taken properly, potassium iodine (KI) will help
reduce the dose of radiation to the thyroid gland from radioactive iodide, and reduce the risk
of thyroid cancer. For more information, see Use of Potassium Iodide.
Evacuation Studies. The NRC published a study in January 2005 that examined the
efficiency and effectiveness of public evacuations of 1,000 or more people in response to
natural disasters, technological hazards, and malevolent acts, occurring in the U.S. between
January 1, 1990 and January 30, 2003. This study, NUREG/CR-6864, "Identification and
Analysis of Factors Affecting Emergency Evacuations," (Volume 1 & Volume 2) identified a
universe of 230 evacuation incidents, and a subset of 50 incidents were selected for case
study analysis. This study revealed that large-scale evacuations in the U.S., whether pre-
planned or ad-hoc, are very effective, successfully save lives, and reduce the potential number
of injuries associated with the hazards.
Evacuation Time Estimates. To help plan evacuations, evacuation time estimates are
developed for each nuclear power plant site. These estimates are one tool used to assist
government authorities to determine the best exit routes and traffic control points. For
example, as demonstrated in Figure 1, authorities may decide to recommend evacuation for a
small part of the emergency planning zone (the red shaded area in the figure) and recommend
sheltering in place for other areas in the zone. Authorities would instruct those sheltering in
place to receive additional information and instructions, if needed. The time estimates are
used to identify potential traffic congestion and to develop plans for traffic management and
use of traffic control personnel during an evacuation.
The NRC updated guidance on how to develop evacuation time estimates in January 2005.
NUREG/CR-6863, "Development of Evacuation Time Estimate Studies for Nuclear Power
Plants," integrates new technologies in traffic management, computer modeling, and
communications systems to identify additional tools useful in the development of new, or
updating the existing, evacuation time estimates.
Protective Action Decision Making includes:
•Entergy and governmental field monitoring teams will be dispatched if there is a
possibility of radiological release. These teams search for the radiation release and
assess its magnitude.
•If an actual or potential release is taking place or is expected, Entergy will conduct a
•Field teams will confirm or correct this projection.
•Governmental authorities will conduct an independent dose assessment to confirm
this dose projection.
•Based on this dose projection or its potential, if there is a need for protective actions,
Entergy will notify the proper authorities. The need for a specific action is either
confirmed or corrected by those authorities.
Protective Response Measures that may be taken for up to the 10 mile EPZ include:
•Access control: This measure
limits access into an area of
potential radiological exposure by
means of roadblocks or other
•Breathing protection: This
measure may be used with
sheltering-in-place. Persons will be
advised to cover their nose and
mouth with a handkerchief or
•Sheltering-in-place: This measure
recommends that members of the
public seek shelter in a permanent,
airtight structure such as a house
or office building. Persons will be
advised to close doors and
windows and to reduce the
intake of outside air from
heating or cooling systems.
•Evacuation: This is the most
Members of the public will be
required to leave an area of
potential risk until all danger
Notification of the public would
occur by various means
including potentially sirens,
tone alert radio, automated
dialing systems and by
Reception centers and other facilities may be established to handle the response to the
Joint Information Center (JIC)
The JIC acts as the sole source of information about the nuclear emergency at any of the
Entergy Nuclear Facilities. Spokespersons would provide periodic news briefings to the media,
generate news releases and explain what happened at the plant and how the various off-site
agencies are protecting the public. A Joint Information Center (JIC) as described above would
be activated in accordance with various site procedures or agreements and be staffed by
representatives from Entergy, the states, the localities, and federal resources.
Crucial in this information flow from the JIC is feedback from the media and general public.
The coordination of this feedback is known as Inquiry response. The Entergy Customer Service
Centers are an integral part of the site JIC’s and the Inquiry Response process. As a Customer
Service representative, your skills in discussing a variety of energy topics with sometimes
angry customers are extremely valuable to Entergy. Thank you for your hard work and
dedication. These skills are particularly valuable in the case of a nuclear emergency situation.
Customers are familiar with calling the “800” number in the telephone directory to report a
downed wire, or loss of service. There is no doubt that our telephone lines would be
extremely busy in the event of a nuclear emergency. Your skills in using information supplied
by JIC, such as news releases and the online information we have provided like the Emergency
Preparedness booklets, will help us respond to inquiries and dispel rumors. Customer Service
representatives using their existing tools and a new tool called “WebEOC” will log and respond
to calls. A JIC staffer will review your entry logs looking for rumors and responding to
inquiries that require additional information. Rumor control is a federal requirement of the
Inquiry response process. This “Rumor Control” function is valuable in dispelling rumors and
determining rumor trends. The WebEOC contact link between the call center(s) and JIC is part
of the built in feedback process. Through this contact process rumors can be identified at the
JIC and addressed through media briefings and news releases.
Each Service Center representative has access to the online information systems for nuclear
emergencies. The web based information system provides useful general information, FAQs,
and about what to do if you hear a siren, where your children will be taken if they are in
school and what you should do at home for each location.
Periodically, practice drills are conducted prior to an evaluated (graded) emergency exercise.
These drills and exercises involve simulating an accident at the plant that requires off-site
facilities to be staffed and activated. The Customer Service centers, may also be activated
and evaluated for number of responses received, quality of responses given, and trend
analyses made. For exercise purposes, several “non-playing” Entergy employees act as callers
and telephone in pre-established questions. You will always be able to tell when you get an
exercise call – it should always prefaced by the phrase “THIS IS A DRILL.”
It is important to remember that, just as in emergency situations involving weather, you
should not speculate about the situation. Questions from the “fake” drill callers may try to
take you down that path. Use the news release material issued from the JIC and available on
WebEOC or other methods and materials supplied to you online to respond with facts.