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SC 5-1: Approach to Optimizing Decision Making for Late-Phase Recovery from Nuclear or Radiological Terrorism Incidents
In March 2008 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued its Protective Action Guides (PAGs) for radiological dispersal device (RDD) and improvised nuclear device (IND) incidents (Federal Register 73, No. 149, 45029–45049). This document provides recommendations for protection of public health in the early, intermediate and late phases of response to an RDD or IND incident, and discusses approaches to implementation of the necessary actions. Although PAGs for the early and intermediate phases of response generally follow U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines, the proposed late phase PAG for cleanup and restoration of an affected site is based on an approach termed “optimization.” DHS guidelines provide a general description of the goals of the late recovery phase, but they do not describe the complex optimization approach to decision making during the process of achieving these multifaceted goals.
In an effort to more fully define the process and procedures to be used in optimizing the late-phase recovery and site restoration following an RDD or IND incident, DHS has requested that NCRP prepare a comprehensive report addressing all aspects of an effective optimization process. The preparation of the NCRP report, entitled “Approach to Optimizing Decision Making for Late-Phase Recovery from Nuclear or Radiological Terrorism Incidents,” will be a three-year effort. Members of SC 5-1 represent a broad range of expertise for addressing the complex issues involved in optimizing decisions on late-phase cleanup and site recovery following an RDD or IND incident, including experts in homeland security, health physics, risk and decision analysis, economics, environmental remediation and radioactive waste management, and communication with members of the public and government organizations. Members of SC 5-1 will hold discussions with stakeholders at the local, state and federal levels during the course of preparing the NCRP report. The complexity of the optimization process and the need for a broad range of experience and expertise on the NCRP Committee is underscored in a paper published by S.Y. Chen and T.S. Tenforde [Homeland Security Affairs VI(1), January 2010].
The report is meant to be all-encompassing within the scope of the Committee’s charge, which is to be primarily based on established radiation protection principles while also accommodating the existing statutory cleanup processes. Recovery lessons learned from the recent Fukushima nuclear reactor accident are being included.
A paper, co-authored by Drs. Chen and Nisbet, has presentation at the International Radiation Protection Association Conference in Glasgow, United Kingdom during May 2012.
The second assemblage of the Committee occurred in a face-to‑face meeting at NCRP Headquarters in Bethesda on June 11-12, 2012. S.Y. Chen led a discussion of the Committee on whether the scope of the report should extend beyond terrorism incidents. A corollary recognition emerged during the discussion that risk and dose might not be viewed as necessarily scaling well together if their relationship is otherwise left unaddressed. Dr. Chen offered a resolution for that issue by directing that their differences be minimized by first looking at the whole incident picture via actions to lower collective dose, and then working the recovery down to the individual level. The sections were then reviewed for progress, and all were determined to be continuing on pace for completion. Per suggestion by NCRP President John Boice and affirmed by S.Y. Chen, the Committee will make the report as widely appealing as can be achieved within the scope of SC 5‑1’s charter. The final rough drafts of the sections, appendices, glossary and references will be turned over to Dr. Chen by the end of July 2012 for unification into a single draft of the report. Creation of a list of acronyms for the report will begin before that time.
Also during the second quarter:
During the third quarter (July to September) the next assemblage of the Committee took place via teleconference on August 24. The writing progress of the sections and appendices was reviewed and deemed to be good. The Committee discussed the latest White House initiative on long‑range recovery, and how, if enacted, it might affect both existing EPA PAGs and ultimately the Committee’s report. The Committee elected to monitor the initiative and to respond as developments with the initiative may occur. The Committee did succeed in completing smooth drafts of the report sections and appendices on time for submittal to PAC 5. The drafts were transmitted to PAC 5 for review on September 6 and comments are anticipated by early October.
During the fourth quarter (October thru December), the committee met two times. During the first meeting on October 17 to 18 feedback on comments made by PAC 5 on draft sections and appendices were discussed and evaluated. SC 5-1 recommended that the scope of the Report be augmented to encompass all types of nuclear and radiological incidents due to the awareness from the Fukushima incident that large scale contamination is possible by other kinds of non-terrorist events. Approval was given to include the additional scenarios and for the new title of the report, “Decision Making for Late-Phase Recovery from Nuclear or Radiological Incidents.” The following non-nuclear terrorism scenarios were approved to be added to the report:
[Historical Note for the Record: On March 11, 2011, a major nuclear reactor accident occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Facility in Japan. It was the largest nuclear accident in Japan’s history and the second-largest nuclear accident in the history of mankind, the largest being the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident in Ukraine, in the former Soviet Union. The combined disaster at Fukushima was initiated by an earthquake and subsequently by a tsunami; the resulting nuclear accident created an unprecedented situation that has challenged the modern society of Japan. The accident caught worldwide attention and led to more in-depth evaluations toward better preparedness for such events in the future. In the United States, for example, a principal level exercise (PLE) was coordinated by the White House in 2012 with radiation guidance provided for the late-phase remediation cleanup process for incidents involving nuclear power plants, RDDs, or INDs.]
During the second meeting in the fourth quarter (November 12) SC 5-1 completed their responses to PAC 5 reviewer comments.
During the first quarter of 2013, the Committee interacted as a whole by teleconference/ webinar on January 21, 2013. During the teleconference, overall progress was determined to be on schedule, and the Committee agreed to resolve the few remaining comments received from the PAC 5 review process (which began in the previous quarter) by January 25. That task was successfully concluded on time.
SC 5-1 finished refining its draft report titled “Decision Making for Late-Phase Recovery from Nuclear or Radiological Incidents” and the draft report was forwarded to Council members on February 27. Comments from the Council are due on April 15, 2013.
The Committee remains on schedule for completion and publication of the report later this year.
NCRP is grateful to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for financial support for this work.
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