Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations require that comprehensive emergency plans be prepared and periodically exercised to assure that actions can and will be taken to notify and protect citizens in the vicinity of a nuclear facility. Typically the emergency preparedness plan for a nuclear power plant includes an area within a 10-mile radius around the plant. The facility’s emergency response plan must be discussed and agreed upon by the organization operating the power plant, by local and county emergency response officials, and by state emergency management officials. The plan is then reviewed by the NRC for adequate on-site preparedness, and by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), for adequate offsite preparedness.
Citizens living near a nuclear power plant must be advised periodically of the procedures that will be used to notify them of a problem at the facility and the actions that citizens should take if protective measures (such as evacuation or sheltering) are required. In general, a system of sirens (or tone-alert radios) will be activated within the 10-mile emergency planning radius to advise citizens to listen to local radio or television announcements for information and safety instructions. Arrangements must be made in advance for evacuation route planning, for reception and care of evacuated persons, and for special situations, such as the safe transport of school children or hospital patients out of the area.
In addition to the coordinated facility, local, and state emergency plans, Federal agencies have plans in place to coordinate their response activities and share their resources in support of state and local officials during an emergency. Coordination activities include joint planning and training sessions and exercise participation.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has revised a section of its emergency preparedness regulations that suggests populations within the 10-mile emergency planning zone of commercial nuclear power plants consider including potassium iodide as a protective measure for the general public to supplement sheltering and evacuation in the event of a severe nuclear power plant accident. The NRC provided funding for initial supplies of potassium iodide for those that choose to incorporate potassium iodide for the general public into their emergency plans.
Potassium iodide is a salt, similar to table salt. Its chemical symbol is KI. It is routinely added to table salt to make it “iodized.” Potassium iodide, if taken within the appropriate time and at the appropriate dosage, blocks the thyroid gland’s uptake of radioactive iodine and thus reduces the risk of thyroid cancers and other diseases that might otherwise be caused by thyroid uptake of radioactive iodine that could be dispersed in a severe reactor accident.
Geauga Public Health is the official distributor of KI for residents living within the 10-mile radius of Perry Nuclear Power Plant. This includes a portion of Thompson, Ohio. The Health District maintains a supply of KI for qualifying residents that can be picked up at the office during normal business hours. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission answers some frequently asked questions about emergency preparedness for nuclear accidents and the use of KI.
Additional information about the Potassium Iodide (KI) program on the ODH website.