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Rules and Responsibilities for Planning


Pilgrim’s Federal Regulations/Role

Following the accident at Three Mile Island in 1979, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued regulations requiring that before a plant could be licensed to operate, the NRC must have "reasonable assurance that adequate protective measures can and will be taken in the event of a radiological emergency." The regulations set forth 16 emergency planning standards and define the responsibilities of licensee, and State and local organizations involved in emergency response.

Detailed information about emergency planning and preparedness is contained in Appendix E of 10 CFR Part 50 and in NUREG-0654 (FEMA-REP-1), a joint publication of the NRC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) entitled "Criteria for Preparation and Evaluation of Radiological Emergency Response Plans and Preparedness in Support of Nuclear Power Plants." The Regulations and guidance can be accessed on NRC's website - Click here.

In the regulations, the NRC defined a plume exposure pathway emergency planning zone (EPZ) consisting of an area about 10 miles in radius and an ingestion pathway EPZ about 50 miles in radius around each nuclear power reactor. Each reactor owner is required to test its emergency plan with offsite authorities at least once every two years.

However in June 2005, the NRC endorsed the Nuclear Energy Institute's (NEI's) White Paper that states, "The minimum recommendation that shall be made at a General Emergency is to evacuate 2 miles around and 5 miles downwind from the plant. Subsequent recommendations should be based on EPA PAG’s, changing plant conditions or changes in wind direction."
The White Paper can be accessed on NRC's website's Electronic Library.

Regulations cover procedures to notify the public of a problem at the facility and the actions that citizens should take if protective measures (such as evacuation or sheltering) are required; arrangements 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 and sheltering.

State Role

Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency’s (MEMA) Nuclear Safety Division has developed with Pilgrim’s owner radiological emergency response plans and implementing procedures. All plans and procedures are reviewed annually and tested – table-top exercises.

The following types of organizations and facilities have plans: emergency planning zone and host communities; State, federal, or private agencies with major response duties; transportation staging areas; transportation providers; Reception Centers for the general public; Mass Care shelters; emergency worker radiological monitoring & decontamination stations; schools, licensed day care facilities, and children's camps; nursing homes, hospitals, and group homes; correctional facilities.

MEMA and the Governor certify the Plan and Procedures to the Federal government, annually.

The facility's emergency response plan must be discussed and agreed upon by the owner of 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.

Local Role

The Plan and Procedures for each community are the responsibility of the Board of Selectmen and are administered by the town’s Emergency Management Agency – typically the Fire Chief. The towns are asked to certify their plan and Procedures to the state, annually. The towns may request, not order, the licensee and MEMA to make changes in their plans.

What happens if the town/municipality does not certify, sign off, on their Radiological Emergency Plans and Procedures?

If the local community does not certify, it is a public relations embarrassment to both the licensee and the state –a show of lack of confidence. Under certain circumstances, this action may bring a federal investigation; and if the federal government determines that the plan and procedures do not “provide reasonable assurance” than a clock is set giving the licensee a certain number of days for corrective action.

If the local community does not sign off on the plan/procedures, it does not mean that in the event of an emergency the local community will be without plans. The state will put into place and enforce the plan that is already written - on the books. Further, the Plans and Implementing Procedures can be changed by the licensee and state  - they are not frozen, if not signed by the local community

Citizen Input

Two of the five Pilgrim Emergency Planning Zone towns have nuclear advisory committee’s – Duxbury and Plymouth. Their job, in part, is to review the Plan and Procedures and make recommendations to the Selectmen and Town. One of the five towns, Duxbury, requires that the town’s annual certification of the Radiological Plan and Procedures occurs in public at a Board of Selectmen’s Meeting.


The owner of Pilgrim writes the plan and procedures, in cooperation with MEMA. Pilgrim is responsible for paying both the towns and State for radiological emergency planning expenses - most of MEMA’s budget comes from Entergy.

Emergency plans are particularly important today because accidents can and do happen; nuclear reactors are on the short list of terrorists; nuclear reactors are showing age-related degradation; and regulatory oversight has become increasingly lax.

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