Every nuclear power plant in the country has a detailed plan for responding in the event of an emergency. Operators test that plan regularly, with the participation of local, state and federal emergency response organizations.
Federal Emergency Preparedness Regulations
U.S. nuclear energy facilities are required by law to develop and test comprehensive on-site and off-site emergency response plans. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the state in which the plant is located review and approve these plans.
The NRC coordinates approval of these plans with the Federal Emergency Management Agency Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program, which has the lead role in emergency planning beyond the nuclear plant site.
Each plant must conduct a full-scale emergency exercise every two years, coordinated with local and state government agencies.
Emergency Planning Zones
The U.S. government has established a 10-mile emergency planning zone around each nuclear energy facility to protect the public in the event of a serious reactor accident.
If the event is serious, emergency management leaders would instruct the public to shelter or evacuate to avoid exposure to a potential radioactive release.
In the event of a release of radiation, state and local governments will sample water, milk, soil and crops within a 50-mile radius of a nuclear energy facility to determine if radiation was deposited.
Several communities have used off-site nuclear facility emergency plans in response to other types of emergencies. For example, during the October 2007 wildfires in California, county emergency officials drew on relationships and communications links they had established during their years of planning for nuclear-related events.