Stronger Federal Assistance to States Needed for Radiation Emergency Response Planning

RED-76-73: Published: Mar 18, 1976. Publicly Released: Mar 18, 1976.

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There is a need for stronger Federal assistance to States for radiation emergency response planning. This report discusses the status of State radiation emergency response plans and the improvements needed in the Federal interagency effort to get State and local governments to improve their plans.

Since 1973 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has led a Federal interagency effort in assisting States to develop radiation emergency plans for incidents at nuclear facilities and accidents involving transportation of radioactive materials. In an evaluation of State radiation emergency plans, NRC found that most of the States had the following problems: poorly developed relationship to general State emergency plans; vague concept of operations; fragmented organization; inadequate provisions for accident assessment, protective response, and medical support; not integrated with plans of contiguous States; and unclear relationship between State and local plans. GAO reviewed four State plans that disclosed several areas requiring more attention: inadequate training of State and local officials involved in radiation emergency activities; inadequate testing of plans by the States, although State officials acknowledged the need for comprehensive testing; and weak coordination between State and local assist agencies in defining authority and responsibility.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of NRC should report through the Director of the Federal Preparedness Agency to Congress periodically on the status of the interagency effort, setting out the following: actions of the States in improving their plans; relationships and commitments of the Federal agencies involved; and any recommendations for legislation or other plans to enable NRC to get States to prepare adequate radiation emergency plans. GAO also is recommending that the Chairman of NRC and the Administrator of the Energy Research and Development Administration should improve the effectiveness of interagency field assistance. The following alternatives may be considered by NRC to get States to prepare adequate radiation plans: work with the Federal Disaster Assistance Administration to encourage the States to use part of their disaster assistance grant funds to develop radiation emergency plans; and work with the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency to encourage States to use part of their civil defense assistance to develop and operate radiation emergency plans. If Federal efforts to improve State radiation emergency plans are unsuccessful, NRC would have to reconsider whether it should continue to license nuclear facilities in States without adequate plans.

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