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June 28, 2011

FEMA Official: Nuclear Power Plant Exercise 'Very Successful'

FULTON, NY - A federally evaluated exercise of Oswego County's Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program "was very successful," said Rebecca Thomson, Technological Hazards Branch Chief and Regional Assistance Committee Chair for the National Preparedness Division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Region II.

A team of 38 federal representatives evaluated Oswego County's and New York State's operations during a June 21 to June 23 exercise of a simulated emergency at the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant, owned and operated by Entergy Nuclear-Northeast. The exercise involved hundreds of participants from the county, state, Entergy, and other partners, and incorporated an evaluation of New York State's implementation of Ingestion Pathway recommendations.

"These results are still preliminary," Thomson said during a public meeting on Friday, June 24, noting the exercise had just ended the previous evening. FEMA is expected to issue a final report in 90 days. FEMA evaluates the off-site plans and preparedness to determine whether there's a "reasonable assurance to protect public health and safety in the event of a nuclear power plant accident," she explained.

"We are happy with the results, and are pleased with the cooperation of all of the people involved in this event," Patricia Egan, Director of the Oswego County Emergency Management Office, said.

The full-scale exercise involving Oswego County, New York State and the FitzPatrick Plant took place June 21, with the state and county operating their Emergency Operations Centers fully. The Joint Information Center staffed by Oswego County, state, and FitzPatrick personnel was also opened, and the FitzPatrick plant operated all of their emergency facilities in response to a simulated accident at the plant.

The FEMA team evaluated county and state emergency operations that took place at the County and State Emergency Operations Centers; the Joint Information Center; WSYR Radio, the county's primary Emergency Alert System station; and the licensee's Emergency Off-site Facility. They also evaluated field monitoring teams, traffic and access control points, back-up route alerting, transportation of a contaminated, injured person to a designated hospital, and the school evacuation process.

"The very few lessons learned will improve capabilities" in emergency planning activities to protect the health and safety of the public, Thomson said. "There is always enthusiastic participation by the county, and it's always impressive."

Staff from the county's Emergency Management Office; Legislature; Community Development, Planning and Tourism; Central Services; E-911 Communications Center; Fire Coordinator; Health; Highway; Personnel; Sheriff's; Social Services; Veterans' departments and Youth Bureau participated. Other partners in the exercise included Oswego County Radio Amateur Emergency Service (RACES), Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County, ClearChannel and WSYR 570-AM, Oswego County Local Human Needs Committee, Palermo Volunteer Fire Department, Onondaga County, Oswego County BOCES, Oswego and Fulton police departments, New York State Police, New York State Emergency Management Office (including Region IV), American Red Cross, and Constellation Energy, as well as Entergy Nuclear. Several volunteers also participated.

On June 22 and 23, the focus shifted to simulated emergency protective measures for a 50-mile radius surrounding the nuclear power plants, called the Ingestion Pathway. New York State took the lead and continued coordination from the State Emergency Operations Center in Albany. All 10 counties in the Ingestion Planning Zone participated in the conference calls originating from Albany, discussing how the accident and protective measures would impact their county. "For the first time, FEMA and state observers were stationed in each county to assist in understanding the information, maps and data that the state provided," Thomson noted.

The 10 counties include Oswego, Onondaga, Madison, Oneida, Jefferson, Lewis, Cayuga, Seneca, Ontario, and Wayne. Oswego and Onondaga counties partnered on recovery activities as well as Ingestion Pathway activities, as Onondaga County hosts the Reception Center that would be established at the New York State Fairgrounds for people evacuating during a nuclear power plant accident in Oswego County.

The state's demonstration of field sampling teams, accident assessment, and activities at the state Emergency Operations Center and Wadsworth Laboratory went well, she said. Federal agencies including the Department of Energy, Centers for Disease Control, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Nuclear Regulatory Commission also participated as support for New York State.

"We want to thank all of the many participants for their dedication to the protection and safety of the public in the community they serve," Thomson said.

Steve Barr, Senior Emergency Preparedness Inspector for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Region I, said the NRC's evaluation of the FitzPatrick Plant's implementation of its emergency plan went very well. "The overall preliminary finding is that the licensee demonstrated a reasonable assurance that Entergy can implement the FitzPatrick Emergency Plan to adequately protect public health and safety in the event of an emergency at the plant." The NRC's report is expected to be available in 45 days.

The exercise is one element of the emergency preparedness program established to help assure the safety of the residents living in the vicinity of three nuclear power plants in Oswego County. If an emergency situation required residents of the 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone to take action, sirens and tone-alert weather radios would sound to alert residents to turn on their radios and televisions and tune into an Emergency Alert System station. EAS stations are listed in the Public Emergency Response Information calendar mailed to residents of the Emergency Planning Zone in December; on posters placed in public locations; and in the yellow pages of local telephone books. The calendar is also available on the Oswego County website at oswegocounty.com/emo.

For more information on radiological emergency planning in Oswego County, people may call 315-591-9150 or 1-800-962-2792.

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