Radiological and Nuclear Emergency Preparedness

Vermont works diligently to prevent radiological incidents and to be prepared for radiological and nuclear emergencies. State law enforcement monitors for radiation during their routine work as part of Vermont’s Preventive Radiological Nuclear Detection Program. The Health Department and the Department of Public Safety train and prepare for all types of radiological and nuclear emergencies.

Radiological Incidents

A radiological incident could be as simple as a lost or stolen source of radiation. This is a potentially dangerous situation and local law enforcement should be contacted immediately by calling 911. It could also include serious injury or be involved in a fire. In any life-threatening situation, call 911 for emergency medical services, fire department and law enforcement response.

After calling 911—as necessary—call the Vermont Emergency Management Watch Officer at 800-347-0488. This number is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The Watch Officer will contact the Radiological Health Program so they can respond as appropriate. The Radiological Health Program and Vermont Hazardous Materials Response Team are specially trained and equipped for any radiological or nuclear incident. Both train and exercise regularly and work closely with other State and Federal radiological and nuclear response and recovery resources.

Radiological incidents could also be an act of terrorism as with a radiation exposure device (RED) or radiological dispersal device (RDD). An RED is a source of radiation, such as radioactive material or an x-ray machine, that is left somewhere to expose people and potentially make them sick. An RDD may be radioactive materials dispersed with explosives (a dirty bomb) or with a device like a sprayer. Knowing that this is occurring is difficult without seeing containers labeled as radioactive or without using a radiation measurement device.

Radiological and Nuclear Emergencies

Radiological emergencies involve radioactive materials or radiation-producing machines. Nuclear emergencies involve special nuclear materials (isotopes of uranium and plutonium) that can undergo fission. There are many radioactive materials that could be involved in a radiological incident, but there are only a few special nuclear materials that undergo fission.

Nuclear emergencies can occur when a nuclear power plant releases its nuclear fission products, through nuclear detonations as with an improvised nuclear device (IND) or a nuclear weapon. A nuclear weapon is likely to have been launched by a nation-state. An IND is likely to be detonated by a terrorist organization. In both cases, the nuclear detonation is accompanied by massive amounts of blast, thermal and radiation damage, and may also be accompanied by nuclear fallout. A nuclear detonation is unlikely at a United States nuclear power plant.

Responding to a Radiological or Nuclear Emergency

For an RDD or nuclear detonation, the first response is clear and critical—GET INSIDE, STAY INSIDE AND STAY TUNED. For an RDD, taking shelter keeps you protected from radioactive contamination, the primary radiological hazard. For a nuclear detonation, taking shelter protects you from potentially lethal levels of radiation from nuclear fallout.

Studies indicate that depending on the population of the affected area, hundreds to hundreds of thousands of lives can be saved by taking shelter for 12 to 24 hours after a nuclear detonation. Even first responders should take immediate shelter and await guidance about when and where lifesaving response activities are less dangerous and most effective.

Authorities will use every means possible to get messages out about what to do next. A phased evacuation will be conducted when conditions outside are better known and community reception centers are set up as places to go to for help.

More Information

Emergency Preparedness Resources and Partners

Emergency Preparedness Resources

Vermont Radiological Health Program
Phone:
 802-863-7220 or 800-439-8550 (toll-free in Vermont)
Fax: 802-865-7745
AHS.VDHEnvHealth@Vermont.gov

EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS PARTNERS

The Health Department partners with the following state agencies and departments to help ensure Vermonters are provided adequate warning and emergency response in the event of a radiological release at Vermont Yankee:

Health Department staff train emergency responders throughout the state in the essential skills required in emergency events and staff critical positions in local and state emergency operations centers. In addition to meeting classroom and field training requirements, Health Department staff participate in annual drills to test their ability to use their skills.

Vermont Yankee and Radiological Emergency Resources

Agency What the Agency Does
Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Radiological Emergency Response Plan (RERP) The plan from the Vermont Radiological Emergency Response Program.
Vermont Department of Public Safety Emergency public information for Vermont Yankee.
Vermont Department of Public Service Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel The Vermont Department of Public Service represents the public interest in utilities such as power, water and telecommunications.
Windham Regional Commission (WRC) The WRC reports to the Public Service Board on Vermont Yankee issues such as the license extension. The WRC also provides planning assistance to the towns in Windham County, including those in the Emergency Planning Zone.
Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Massachusetts oversees planning and training for towns in the Emergency Planning Zones of Vermont Yankee, Pilgrim Station in Plymouth, MA and Seabrook Station in Seabrook, NH.
New Hampshire Homeland Security & Emergency Management New Hampshire has five towns in the Vermont Yankee Emergency Planning Zone as well as 17 towns in the Emergency Planning Zone around Seabrook Station in Seabrook, NH.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) FEMA is the lead federal agency for response to a disaster. For radiological health, they oversee off-site response to the local and state responders.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) The NRC is responsible for monitoring all nuclear power plants in the U.S.. They also provide technical assistance and resources in an emergency.