Bolstering emergency preparedness at US plants

31 August 2011

First Energy Nuclear Operating Company (Fenoc) has begun construction of a new emergency operations facility for its Davis-Besse nuclear power plant in Ohio. The move comes as the US nuclear regulator makes changes to emergency preparedness regulations.

 

Davis-Besse (NRC)
Davis-Besse (Image: First Energy)
Fenoc said that the new 1115 square-metre facility in the nearby town of Lindsey will "allow for improved coordination between the plant and state and local emergency management agencies during the unlikely event of an emergency at the plant." It added, "Personnel will utilize state-of-the-art equipment to monitor environmental conditions and communicate with state and local emergency representatives. The facility will also be used during quarterly training drills and bi-annual emergency exercises evaluated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency."

 

Ground was broken for the new facility on 30 August and its construction is expected to be completed in February 2012. Until then, the current emergency operation facility at the Davis-Besse plant and a smaller, alternate back-up facility at First Energy's service centre in Lindsey will be available for operation.

 

Barry Allen, vice president of the Davis-Besse plant, commented: "Protecting public health and safety is our top priority at Fenoc and Davis-Besse. The new facility underscores our commitment to the community and will ensure our responsibility to the public is fully upheld."

 

The Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan showed the value of hardened on-site emergency response centres, according to head UK safety regulator Mike Weightman in a preliminary report into the accident from the International Atomic Energy Agency. He suggested that such centres "should be provided for all major nuclear facilities with severe accident potential."

 

New regulations

 

Meanwhile, the NRC has approved changes to the emergency preparedness regulations for US nuclear power plants, research reactors and test reactors.

 

Among the changes in the rule are limitations on the duties of a plant's on-site emergency responders to ensure they are not "over-burdened" during an emergency event and requirements to incorporate "hostile-action-based scenarios" in the drills and exercise programs. New requirements for back-up measures for alerting and notification systems are also included in the rule.

 

The new rule - which was first put before the NRC in 2006 - also requires nuclear power plants to update their evacuation time estimates after every US Census or when changes in population would increase the estimate by either 25% or 30 minutes, whichever is less.

 

NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko commented, "Although there are likely to be lessons learned from Japan that will apply to emergency preparedness, I do not think that we need to wait to implement the many enhancements that this rule will provide."

 

The rule becomes effective in 30 days.

 

Researched and written

by World Nuclear News

 

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