Post-Disaster Consideration of Nuclear Power Plant and Offsite Emergency Preparedness and Response

The NRC bases its post-disaster findings for emergency preparedness on its review of a plant's capabilities to implement its emergency plan and the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) findings regarding State and local capabilities to implement their emergency plans. This process is laid out in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the NRC and FEMA.

FEMA's responsibilities include monitoring State and local agencies' response and preparedness capabilities to ensure those organizations can respond to a nuclear power plant incident during, and following, events such as a public health emergency, hurricane, earthquake or tornado.

If an event affects the area around a nuclear power plant to the point where FEMA seriously questions offsite emergency response capabilities, the NRC/FEMA MOU calls for a Disaster Initiated Review (DIR) to be performed. FEMA would normally start with a Preliminary Capabilities Assessment (PCA), which is an assessment that is performed immediately following an event to promptly determine the status of offsite infrastructure and emergency response capabilities. The PCA outcome would dictate if a more-detailed assessment (DIR) needs to be performed to evaluate the impact on offsite infrastructure and emergency response capabilities in response to a natural disaster or event. The NRC and FEMA coordinate primarily at the regional level during a PCA. If a DIR is needed, then NRC and FEMA headquarters are included in the discussions.

FEMA notifies the NRC in writing if it decides a full DIR is needed, including a schedule for the review. While a DIR is not a comprehensive review of offsite plans and preparedness, the NRC considers pertinent DIR findings during decision-making on the restart or continued operation of an affected nuclear power plant. Both the NRC's inspection procedure (IMC 1601 "Communication and Coordination Protocol for Determining the Status of Offsite Emergency Preparedness" and FEMA's operating guide cover NRC/FEMA guidance and coordination when considering offsite response capabilities after an event affecting the area around a reactor.

After a major event, the NRC and FEMA discuss lessons learned, identifying areas for enhancing the agencies' coordination and communication. The agencies also hold tabletop exercises with offsite organizations and the nuclear industry to validate post-event procedures.