Emergency Planning and Response

The Emergency Planning and Response Branch is responsible for radiological emergency planning (REP) preparation, training and response. The department responds to all radiation incidents and emergencies, including unexpected radiation releases from nuclear power plants, transportation accidents, lost or stolen radioactive sources, and contamination of a facility or the environment. To prepare for these incidents, the department trains its staff and other emergency personnel in emergency response and decontamination procedures, dose assessment, and preparedness for possible weapons of mass destruction. Staff also learns how to respond to nuclear reactor emergencies during four annual training exercises at the state's nuclear power plants.

Nuclear Power Plants

There are five nuclear power reactors operating at two sites in Alabama: Units 1 and 2 at Joseph M. Farley (Southern Nuclear) and Units 1, 2 and 3 at Browns Ferry (Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)). Every year, a federally evaluated exercise is conducted. The NRC evaluates onsite response while the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) evaluates the offsite response.

Basic Radiation Training

Basic Radiation Training is available to all first responders, i.e., fire departments, law enforcement, emergency medical services, hospitals, communities, etc in the State of Alabama. But to the demanding regulation of the nuclear power plant industry, the training is heavily concentrated around the two nuclear power plants. Please contact the Emergency Planning and Response Branch if interested in training.

Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP)

Transuranic, or TRU, waste began accumulating in the 1940s with the beginning of the nation's nuclear defense program. Generally, TRU waste consists of clothing, tools, rags, residues, debris, soil and other items contaminated with radioactive elements, mostly plutonium. As early as the 1950s, the National Academy of Sciences recommended deep-geologic disposal of TRU radioactive wastes in stable formations, such as deep salt beds. Sound environmental practices and strict regulations required such wastes to be isolated to protect human health and the environment. In 1979, Congress authorized the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). The WIPP facility, located 26 miles southeast of Carlsbad, NM. In 1988, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certified WIPP for safe, long-term disposal of TRU wastes. The U.S. DOE has established an elaborate system for safety transporting TRU radioactive waste to the WIPP for permanent disposal. The waste is transported in shipping containers approved for use by the U.S. NRC.

Expanded Radiological Emergency Response Team (ERERT)

The Expanded Radiological Emergency Response Team (ERERT) was formed under the authorization of the State Health Officer in 2007. During a radiation emergency, all divisions and organizational elements of the Department of Public Health needed to accomplish the mission will function as part of the Radiation Control Agency. The radiation emergency response actions of each organizational branch of the Department of Public Health shall be coordinated by and at the general direction of the Office of Radiation Control. The Office of Radiation Control (ORC) is located in the central office of ADPH in Montgomery, Alabama. If a radiation emergency occurred in an area of the state at a significant distance from Montgomery, it will take ORC staff several hours to physically respond to the incident site to provide assistance in detecting and measuring radiation. In an effort to provide a more rapid response by ADPH, two environmentalists and two nurses from each Public Health Area will serve as members of the ERERT. The ERERT members are the first to the scene agents whose primary duty is to provide the State Health Officer or his designee with an initial assessment of the radiological conditions and to provide initial assistance in the resolution of radiological hazards. The ERERT members are issued equipment, trained to respond to an accident involving radioactive material. Besides the semi-annual training taught ORC, ERERT environmentalists are required to attend the Radiological Emergency Response Operation (RERO) course sponsored by the Center of Domestic Preparedness (CDP) at the Noble Training Center and the ERERT nurses are required to attend the Radiation Emergency Medicine Course at the Radiation Emergency Assistance Center/Training Site (REAC/TS).

Additional References


Page last updated: July 21, 2017