Energy:

Further Actions Needed To Improve Emergency Preparedness Around Nuclear Powerplants

RCED-84-43: Published: Aug 1, 1984. Publicly Released: Aug 1, 1984.

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GAO reported on the adequacy of federal, state, and local offsite emergency planning and preparedness for mitigating the consequences of a nuclear power plant accident.

GAO concluded that, although progress has been made since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, more can and should be done. GAO found that state and local emergency preparedness plans were developed and tested for all 54 operating nuclear power plant sites, and 24 of these met the federal criteria and were approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The reasons that the remaining plans have not been approved relate to their not meeting federal criteria, some local communities not fully participating in the emergency planning process, and the difficulty some state and local governments experienced in obtaining funding for emergency planning and preparedness. In addition, GAO found that improvements are needed in the exercises conducted to test the adequacy of state and local planning and preparedness. FEMA and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) rely on states and utilities to plan preparedness tests, but FEMA does not verify the compliance of preparedness plans with federal criteria, and it does not have an agencywide tracking system for ensuring that deficiencies are identified. Finally, GAO found that agencies need to provide better guidance to state and local governments for developing state and local emergency preparedness plans, and that the federal response plan for nuclear power plant emergencies can be improved by providing for more centralized federal agency control and coordination.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Nearly 3 years have passed since the report was issued and Congress evidently is not going to take the action GAO suggested. This issue should be reconsidered at the time of GAO follow-up work on emergency planning.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider whether stronger central control of the federal response to a nuclear power plant emergency is needed to improve federal coordination in such an emergency. If such central control is to be established, any proposed legislation would need to designate a federal agency to exercise the control. The proposed legislation should also provide the controlling agency the authority to require periodic exercises of the federal response plan in each region in conjunction with state and local exercises.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Action was completed and verified.

    Recommendation: The Director, FEMA, and the Chairman, NRC, should undertake a comprehensive reassessment of their agreement covering state and local emergency planning and preparedness. The reassessment should identify one procedure and the requirements necessary for making consistent findings on offsite emergency planning and preparedness.

    Agency Affected: Federal Emergency Management Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FEMA issued a guidance memorandum in January 1988 that prioritizes exercise objectives into three levels.

    Recommendation: The Director, FEMA, should, in consultation with states, develop minimum requirements for exercise scenarios and identify which elements of the federal criteria are most important and must be given priority in exercises.

    Agency Affected: Nuclear Regulatory Commission

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Action was completed and verified.

    Recommendation: The Director, FEMA, should develop and implement a program for verifying compliance with elements in the federal emergency preparedness criteria that are not tested in exercises.

    Agency Affected: Federal Emergency Management Agency

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Action was completed and verified.

    Recommendation: The Director, FEMA, should implement, once developed, an agencywide system for tracking all deficiencies identified in exercises until corrected.

    Agency Affected: Federal Emergency Management Agency

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Action was completed and verified.

    Recommendation: The Director, FEMA, should improve the process for: (1) reporting exercise results so states receive exercise evaluations in a more timely manner; and (2) obtaining schedules of corrective action from the states by ensuring that recently issued guidance is effectively implemented.

    Agency Affected: Federal Emergency Management Agency

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Action was completed and verified.

    Recommendation: The Director, FEMA, should issue final guidance for evaluating public alert and notification.

    Agency Affected: Federal Emergency Management Agency

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Action was completed and verified.

    Recommendation: The Director, FEMA, and the Chairman, NRC, should prepare scenarios for exercises of state and local plans as required by their regulations. However, if FEMA develops minimum requirements for exercise scenarios, as recommended, this should improve the scenarios prepared by states and utilities and could eliminate the need for FEMA and NRC to prepare scenarios. Under these circumstances, if states and utilities are allowed to continue preparing exercise scenarios, the Director, FEMA, and the Chairman, NRC, should develop procedures to receive and review them in a timely manner to ensure that they meet minimum requirements.

    Agency Affected: Federal Emergency Management Agency

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Action was completed and verified.

    Recommendation: The Director, FEMA, and the Chairman, NRC, should prepare scenarios for exercises of state and local plans as required by their regulations. However, if FEMA develops minimum requirements for exercise scenarios, as recommended, this should improve the scenarios prepared by states and utilities and could eliminate the need for FEMA and NRC to prepare scenarios. Under these circumstances, if states and utilities are allowed to continue preparing exercise scenarios, the Director, FEMA, and the Chairman, NRC, should develop procedures to receive and review them in a timely manner to ensure that they meet minimum requirements.

    Agency Affected: Federal Emergency Management Agency

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Action was completed and verified.

    Recommendation: The Director, FEMA, and the Chairman, NRC, should undertake a comprehensive reassessment of their agreement covering state and local emergency planning and preparedness. The reassessment should establish and implement controls to ensure that NRC receives periodic status reports on the outstanding deficiencies in each offsite plan and exercise.

    Agency Affected: Nuclear Regulatory Commission

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Action was completed and verified.

    Recommendation: The Director, FEMA, and the Chairman, NRC, should undertake a comprehensive reassessment of their agreement covering state and local emergency planning and preparedness. The reassessment should establish and implement controls to ensure that NRC receives periodic status reports on the outstanding deficiencies in each offsite plan and exercise.

    Agency Affected: Nuclear Regulatory Commission

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Action was completed and verified.

    Recommendation: The Director, FEMA, should work through the Federal Radiological Preparedness Coordinating Committee to develop guidance for assessing public education in the 10-mile emergency planning zone of nuclear plants.

    Agency Affected: Congress

  12. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Action was completed and verified.

    Recommendation: The Director, FEMA, should work through the Federal Radiological Preparedness Coordinating Committee to develop definitive federal guidance on potassium iodide use.

    Agency Affected: Nuclear Regulatory Commission

  13. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FEMA developed seven guidance documents related to radiation measurement systems.

    Recommendation: The Director, FEMA, should work through the Federal Radiologicial Preparedness Coordinating Committee to update and expand guidance on using radiation measurement instruments and interpreting the information obtained.

    Agency Affected: Federal Emergency Management Agency

  14. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Action was completed and verified.

    Recommendation: The Director, FEMA, and the Chairman, NRC, should undertake a comprehensive reassessment of their agreement covering state and local emergency planning and preparedness. The reassessment should identify one procedure and the requirements necessary for making consistent findings on offsite emergency planning and preparedness.

    Agency Affected: Federal Emergency Management Agency

  15. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FEMA completed a study of the current levels of radiological training and an analysis of skills required by NUREG-0654/FEMA-REP-1.

    Recommendation: The Director, FEMA, should work through the Federal Radiological Preparedness Coordinating Committee to improve existing radiological emergency training for state and local officials.

    Agency Affected: Federal Emergency Management Agency

 

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