FEMA, NRC observe Nine Mile Point explosion exercise

by Nicole Reitz

The Joint Information Center at the Oswego County Airport was open Wednesday for a drill exercise to evaluate the Nine Mile Point nuclear power plant’s preparedness in case of an emergency.

The event was monitored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which reviews off-site agency plans, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The graded drill began when an alert was declared at Nine Mile Point Unit 2 at 8:52 a.m. In the scenario, a fire started in an emergency diesel generator, which caused an explosion at the reactor. Nine Mile Point Unit 1 had been operating as usual.

In response to the emergency, the Joint Information Center at County Route 176 in Fulton was activated. The center is the official source of emergency information from New York State, Oswego County and CENG, the licensee for the Nine Mile Point nuclear power plant.

If an alert were to be declared, residents, especially those within the 10-mile emergency planning zone surrounding the plant, should tune into their radio or television stations and listen for the Emergency Alert System messages.

The EAS messages carry official government information with health and safety instructions that the public would be asked to follow. Area residents wanting more information on plant conditions could also call the public inquiry line.

At 10:18 a.m., the drill escalated from an alert to a site area emergency and non-essential personnel were evacuated from the station.

Governor Cuomo advised farmers within the 10-mile radius to shelter all dairy animals and other livestock and place them on stored feed and water. In this stage, there was no release of radiation into the atmosphere or water due to the event.

In the case of a real event, at this time, residents in the 10-mile radius of the nuclear power plant would be asked to refer to their Public Emergency Response Information calendar, which contains maps of the planning areas. Similar information can also be found in the yellow pages of local telephone books, or on posters placed in public locations.

At 11:53 a.m., a general emergency was declared by officials at Nine Mile Point Unit Two because of release of radiation above the federal limits due to equipment problems. A general emergency is the most serious of the four emergency classifications as defined by the NRC.

By 12:55 p.m., people in the 10-mile radius were asked to evacuate to the New York State Fairgrounds and swallow their Ki tablet. The Potassium Iodide tablet is distributed by the county and is used to protect the thyroid gland against radioactive iodine released during a nuclear emergency.

In the event of a real incident, a state of emergency would be declared and the emergency alert system activated by the Kevin Gardner, chair of the Oswego County Legislature.

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