What is General Emergency?
GENERAL EMERGENCY is an event in progress that involves actual or imminent substantial core degradation or melting with potential for loss of containment integrity. Releases can be reasonably expected to exceed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Protective Action Guideline exposure levels off-site for more than the immediate site area.
Purpose of GE
The purpose of the General Emergency declaration is to initiate predetermined protective actions for the public. Also to provide continuous assessment of information from the power plant and off-site organization measurements, initiate additional measures as indicated by actual or potential releases and provide consultation with off-site authorities and updates for the public through off-site authorities.
General Emergencies are very severe accidents that call for immediate protective action by the public. While the events contributing to a General Emergency classification represent a major threat, a large release of radioactive material would not necessarily take place. Actions taken are precautionary. Some examples1 of initiating conditions for a General Emergency ELC are:
- Effluent monitors detect levels corresponding to 1 rem/hr whole body or 5 rem/hr thyroid at the site boundary under actual meteorological conditions.
- Loss of 2 or 3 fission product barriers with a potential loss of the 3rd barrier (e.g., loss of primary coolant boundary, cladding failure, and high potential for loss of containment).
- For Boiling Water Reactor: Transient (e.g., loss of off-site power) plus failure of requisite core shutdown systems (e.g., scram).
- For Pressure Water Reactor: Transient initiated by loss of feedwater and condensate systems (principal heat removal system) followed by failure of emergency feedwater system for extended period.
1 The above examples have been edited for a non-technical audience.
Nuclear Power Plant Actions at a GE
- Promptly inform State and local off-site authorities of the General Emergency status and reason for emergency as soon as discovered.
- Augment resources by activating on-site Technical Support Center (TSC), on-site Operational Support Center (OSC), and near-site Emergency Operations Facility (EOF).
- Assess and respond.
- Dispatch on-site and off-site monitoring teams and associated communications.
- Dedicate an individual for plant status updates to off-site authorities and periodic press briefings (at Joint Information Center).
- Make senior technical and management staff on-site available for consultation with NRC and State on a periodic basis.
- Provide meteorological and dose estimates to off-site authorities for actual releases via a dedicated individual or automated data transmission.
- Provide release and dose projections based on available plant condition information and foreseeable contingencies.
- Close out or recommend reduction of emergency class by briefing of off-site authorities at EOF and by phone followed by written summary within 8 hours of close out or class reduction.
Broad View of State and/or Local Off-Site Actions at a GE:
- Provide requested assistance following established disaster support procedures.
- Activate the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC). Governor proclaims a disaster emergency condition. State Field Command Post and key emergency radiological response personnel are dispatched.
- Local Government Emergency Operations Centers and local government emergency services are activated and augmented as required.
- Recommend evacuation from predetermined areas is acted on.
Provide off-site monitoring results to power plant and others and jointly assess the situation.
- Continuously assess information from power plant and off-site monitoring with regard for the need for changes to the protective actions already initiated and for mobilizing evacuation resources.
- Assess the need to extend the evacuation areas and distances.
- Establish a Joint Information Center and provide periodic press briefings or news releases.
- Consider relocation of the State Field Command Post if actual dose accumulation in near-site EOF exceeds lower bounds of EPA protective action guidelines.
- Maintain General Emergency status until closeout or reduction of emergency class.
Specific View of State Actions at a GE:
- The Nebraska State Patrol (NSP) Communications Center in Lincoln and the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) will be concurrently notified by the Nuclear Power Plant affected. (After normal working hours, the NSP Communications Center will notify the NEMA Duty Officer.)
- The NEMA Operations Officer will in turn will notify the Nebraska Health and Human Services Regulation and Licensure (HHS R&L) Point of Contact and the Governor's Authorized Representative (GAR).
- The HHS R&L Point of Contact telephones the affected Nuclear Power Plant and obtains the most current information.
- The HHS R&L Point of Contact then telephones the GAR with an assessment of the plant's condition.
- Based on the most current information, the GAR activates the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC), and if after normal working hours recalls additional personnel to man it.
- SEOC resources are augmented by other state agencies.
- The Governor proclaim a Disaster Emergency Condition, if not already done. If radioactive material has been released, the Governor in consultation with the GAR, other state agencies, and the affected local governments declares an embargo/quarantine of crop and livestock in the affected area.
- If not done at the Alert or Site Area ECL, the GAR through the NEMA Operations Officer dispatches key emergency response personnel, including radiological monitoring teams with associated equipment and communications to establish a State Field Command Post at the Plant EOF.
- The GAR and his staff depart to the Plant EOF (GAR maintains contact with SEOC en route
- Designated NEMA staff depart for the Joint Information (Media) Center
- Designated NEMA staff depart for Risk Counties (those counties within 10 miles of the affected power plant) and for Host Counties (those counties which have been designated to receive evacuees) should an evacuation protective action guide be implemented.
- HHS R&L Dose Assessment and Field Monitoring Teams depart for affected Nuclear Power Plant.
- The SEOC verifies that sirens in the affected counties have been sounded and that the initial Emergency Alert Message (EAS) has been sent and broadcast and affected county governments have been notified.
- The GAR in consultation with the local government direct that sub-area one be evacuated, and other sub-areas as required.
- The GAR directs the SEOC (in consultation/notification with other affected states if time permits):
- To have animals sheltered and placed on stored feed and water within 10 miles of the affected power plant.
- To have the air space above the affected power plant closed to an altitude of 5,000 feet.
- To have the Missouri River closed:
For Cooper: From Mile Marker 516 to Mile Marker 544
For Fort Calhoun: From Mile Marker 630 to Mile Marker 660
- To have "winds aloft" readings taken.
- To notify the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and, as required, request assistance.
- To verify State Parks near the affected power plant have closed and park visitors directed away from the power plant.
- Of hazard areas and protective action guideline decisions made in conjunction with local governments as necessary. (A continuous action)
- To verify evacuation procedures are being implemented by the local government emergency operations center for Special Needs Populations (Shut-ins, handicapped, schools, nursing homes, hospitals, and jails) if required.
- To verify that Reception and Care facilities in Host Counties have been opened as necessary.
- SEOC coordinates the release of Emergency Public Information through the Emergency Alert System (EAS) once decision has been made by the GAR in consultation with the affected local governments.(A continuous action)
- The GAR through the SEOC provides local governments with requested assistance following established disaster procedures. (A continuous action)
- The GAR coordinates actions taken or to be taken with affected neighboring state representatives. (A continuous action)
- The Joint Information Center is activated and provides periodic press briefings and news releases. (A continuous action)
- Health and Human Services Regulation and Licensure (HHS R&L) off- site monitoring teams, together with plant and neighboring state teams, provide monitoring results to the power plant and others. (A continuous action)
- The GAR, HHS R&L representative, neighboring state representatives jointly assess the situation with the power plant and local government representatives. (A continuous action)
- Maintain the General Emergency status until closeout or reduction in emergency class.
- Once initial emergency phase is over and if there was a release of radioactive material, Federal, State and local officials will have to work closely with the public to allow controlled and monitored access into contaminated areas for those people with valid requirements for re-entry.