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Protecting Our Nation - Since 9-11-01 (NUREG/BR-0314)
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Emergency Preparedness in Response to Terrorism

Emergency preparedness (EP) is a prudent defense-in-depth measure regardless how small the probability of a serious reactor accident or a terrorist attack. It is one of many defense-in-depth measures that can mitigate the public health consequences of a reactor accident even though nuclear safety regulations, engineering, and operations reduce the likelihood of such accidents. The existence of terrorist threats may affect the likelihood of a reactor accident, although it is not currently possible to estimate the change in probabilities with great confidence. However, EP requirements are not based on the probability of a terrorist-based attack on a nuclear plant in the same manner that they are not based on the probability of a reactor accident.

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Impact of September 11, 2001, on Emergency Preparedness

The world has changed since the terroristic events of September 11, 2001, and in response, NRC took immediate action by advising nuclear power plants to go the highest level of security -- which they all promptly did. Shortly afterward, NRC and the industry reevaluated the physical security at the nation's nuclear power plants. In February 2002, the NRC issued Interim Compensatory Measures (ICMs) requiring all U.S. nuclear power plants to perform specific plant design studies, add additional security personnel, enhance physical protection features, improve EP, and provide additional training. Nuclear industry groups and Federal, State, and local government agencies assisted in the prompt implementation of these measures and participated in drills and exercises to test new planning elements.

Protecting public health and safety has always been paramount in nuclear power plant design and operation. Robust structures, such as reactor containment buildings, protect the reactor. Safety systems, such as diesel generators, are redundant and independent. These design features provide excellent protection from external hazards, such as tornadoes and hurricanes, as well as nuclear accidents. The same design features also protect against potential acts of terrorism, making nuclear power plants among the most robust and well-protected civilian facilities in the country.

Physical security at nuclear power plants is provided by well-armed and well-trained security personnel who remain ready to respond to an attack 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The sites are protected by sensitive intrusion detection equipment, fences, and barriers and are monitored by cameras and security patrols. The NRC is conducting force-on-force (FOF) exercises using trained adversaries to ensure nuclear power plant security personnel can implement many new security improvements. NRC EP specialists observe these exercises to ensure the licensee can implement emergency plans during a terrorist event. Additionally, NRC conducts routine inspections to ensure licensees comply with EP, security, and all other regulations.

On April 11, 2002, the Commission announced the creation of the Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response (NSIR) to improve NRC effectiveness in assuring protection of the public health and safety from security threats at licensed facilities. On January 20, 2004, the Commission announced the creation of the Emergency Preparedness Project Office (EPPO) to improve NRC's effectiveness in ensuring the adequacy of EP programs at these same facilities. While the NRC has had security and EP specialists since its creation, these organizational changes were implemented in response to the post-9/11 threat environment and to improve NRC's effectiveness and efficiency. On June 13, 2004, EPPO was integrated within NSIR, creating the Emergency Preparedness Directorate (EPD), and aligned the NRC's preparedness, security, and incident response missions.

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Consideration of Potential Terrorist Activities with Respect to Emergency Preparedness

NRC continues to conduct studies to determine the vulnerability of nuclear power plants and the adequacy of licensee programs to protect public health and safety in the post-9/11 threat environment. Whether the initiating event is terrorist based or a nuclear accident, the EP planning basis provides reasonable assurance that the public health and safety will be protected. EP plans have always been based on a range of postulated events that would result in a radiological release, including the most severe.

The NRC has also conducted analyses of spent fuel pool (SFP) vulnerability. The calculations have shown that SFPs are robust structures that are difficult to damage. Even under conditions in which fuel is damaged, current analyses predict the time to begin and magnitude of a release is consistent with that considered by the EP planning basis. However, additional calculations continue to be performed to ensure that a reasonable spectrum of initial and boundary conditions is evaluated.

From the studies completed thus far, it is clear that current decommissioning plant EP programs are adequate given the age of spent fuel contained in their pools. Modestly aged fuel will be air cooled under a loss of spent fuel pool water accident. The age of spent fuel dictates the time it would take to heat up the fuel, potentially releasing radioactive nuclides. All spent fuel at the current fleet of decommissioning plants is older than five years and is therefore very slow to overheat even under these more challenging conditions. Regardless of the spent fuel age or configurations considered, the current analyses show that spent fuel heat-up time is longer than previously estimated by NRC in draft NUREG-1738, "Technical Study of Spent Fuel Pool Accident Risk at Decommissioning Nuclear Power Plants," dated February 2001. Based on the analysis performed to date, the staff has not identified any spent fuel pool accident issues that would invalidate the EP planning basis.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007