oversight

Nuclear Regulation: Emergency Preparedness Issues at the Indian Point 2 Nuclear Power Plant

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-03-10.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                          United States General Accounting Office

GAO                       Testimony
                          Before the Subcommittee on National Security,
                          Emerging Threats and International Relations,
                          Committee on Government Reform, House of
                          Representatives
For Release on Delivery
Expected at 2.00 p.m.
Monday, March 10, 2003    NUCLEAR REGULATION
                          Emergency Preparedness
                          Issues at the Indian Point 2
                          Nuclear Power Plant
                          Statement of Jim Wells, Director
                          Natural Resources and Environment




GAO-03-528T
                                               March 2002


                                               NUCLEAR REGULATION

                                               Emergency Preparedness Issues at the
 Highlights of GAO-03-528T, a report to the
 Subcommittee on National Security,
                                               Indian Point 2 Nuclear Power Plant
 Emerging Threats and International
 Relations, Committee on Government
 Reform, House of Representatives




After the September 11, 2001,                  In 2001, GAO reported that, over the years, NRC had identified a number of
terrorist attacks, emergency                   emergency preparedness weaknesses at Indian Point 2 that had gone largely
preparedness at nuclear power                  uncorrected. ConEd had some corrective actions underway before a 2000
plants has become of heightened                event raised the possibility of a leak of radioactively contaminated water
concern. Currently, 104                        into the environment. ConEd took other actions to address problems during
commercial nuclear power plants
operate at 64 sites in 32 states and
                                               this event. According to NRC, more than a year later, the plant still had
provide about 20 percent of the                problems similar to those previously identified—particularly in the pager
nation’s electricity. In July 2001,            system for activating emergency personnel. However, NRC, in commenting
GAO reported on emergency                      on a draft of GAO’s report, stated that ConEd’s emergency preparedness
preparedness at the Indian Point 2             program could protect the public. Four counties responsible for responding
nuclear power plant in New York                to a radiological emergency at Indian Point 2 had, with the state and ConEd,
State (Nuclear Regulation:                     developed a new form to better document the nature and seriousness of any
Progress Made in Emergency                     radioactive release and thus avoid the confusion that occurred during the
Preparedness at Indian Point 2,                February 2000 event. Because they are the first responders in any
but Additional Improvements                    radiological emergency, county officials wanted NRC and FEMA to
Needed [GAO-01-605, July 30,                   communicate more with them in nonemergency situations, in addition to
2001]). This testimony discusses
GAO’s findings and
                                               communicating through the states. However, NRC and FEMA primarily rely
recommendations in that report                 on the states to communicate with local jurisdictions.
and the progress the plant, the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission                  Since GAO’s 2001 report, NRC has found that emergency preparedness
(NRC), and the Federal Emergency               weaknesses have continued. For example, NRC reported that, during an
Management Agency (FEMA) have                  emergency exercise in the fall of 2002, the facility gave out unclear
made in addressing these                       information about the release of radioactive materials, which had also
problems. GAO also provides its                happened during the February 2000 event. Similarly, in terms of
thoughts on the findings of a soon-            communicating with the surrounding jurisdictions, little has changed,
to-be-issued report (the Witt                  according to county officials. County officials told GAO that a
report) on emergency                           videoconference system—promised to ensure prompt meetings and better
preparedness at Indian Point and
the Millstone nuclear power plant
                                               communication between the plant’s technical representatives and the
in Connecticut, and the                        counties—had not been installed. In addition, NRC and FEMA continue to
implications of that report for                work primarily with the states in nonemergency situations. Although they
plants nationwide.                             note that there are avenues for public participation, none of these is
                                               exclusively for the county governments.
Since 2001, the Entergy
Corporation has assumed                        GAO did not evaluate the draft Witt report or verify the accuracy of its
ownership of the Indian Point 2                findings. The draft Witt report is a much larger, more technical assessment
plant from the Consolidated Edison             than the 2001 GAO report. While both reports point out difficulties in
Company of New York (ConEd).                   communications and planning inadequacies, the draft Witt report concludes
                                               that the current radiological response system and capabilities are not
                                               adequate to protect the public from an unacceptable dose of radiation in the
                                               event of a release from Indian Point, especially if the release is faster or
                                               larger than the release for which the programs are typically designed. GAO is
                                               aware that, in commenting on a draft of the Witt report, FEMA disagreed
www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-528.
                                               with some of the issues raised but said the report highlights several issues
To view the full report, including the scope   worth considering to improve emergency preparedness in the communities
and methodology, click on the link above.      around Indian Point and nationwide. NRC concluded that the draft report
For more information, contact Jim Wells at
(202) 512-3841 or wellsj@gao.gov.
                                               gives “undue weight” to the impact of a terrorist attack.
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

We are pleased to be here today to discuss emergency preparedness at
operating commercial nuclear power plants. Twenty-four years ago, in
March 1979, the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in
Pennsylvania created considerable alarm and uncertainty in the
surrounding areas about the plant’s safety and the adequacy of emergency
planning. On the broader front, the American public focused not only on
Three Mile Island but also on safety and emergency preparedness at
nuclear power plants nationwide. With the September 11, 2001, terrorist
attacks, public concern about the plants has increased again. Concerns
have focused principally on ensuring the plants’ physical security and then
on emergency preparedness in case terrorists are successful in their
attacks. The nation currently has 104 commercial nuclear power plants
licensed to operate at 64 sites in 32 states. These plants provide about 20
percent of the nation’s electricity.

To protect the public should a commercial nuclear power plant
accidentally release radiation to the environment, the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission (NRC) requires the plant owner/operator to prepare for
NRC’s approval a radiological emergency preparedness plan. This on-site
plan describes what is to be done in an emergency, how it is to be done,
and who is to do it. Among other things, the plan identifies the process for
notifying and communicating with the operator’s own personnel as well as
with federal, state, and local agencies and the media during an emergency.
The plan also identifies the circumstances and the actions—such as
evacuating the local population—the plant owner would recommend that
off-site officials take to protect the public. NRC conducts inspections to
ensure that the plant owner can effectively implement the on-site plan. In
addition, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is
responsible for ensuring that state and local communities develop
emergency preparedness plans to address the off-site effects of a
radiological emergency. FEMA oversees the conduct of periodic exercises
to determine whether the off-site response would adequately protect
public health and safety.

My testimony today is grounded in a report we issued in July 2001 to the
Chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform and to
Representatives Gilman, Kelly, and Lowey on emergency preparedness at




Page 1                                             GAO-03-528T Indian Point 2
the Indian Point 2 plant in New York State.1 The Indian Point facility is
located within the Village of Buchanan in upper Westchester County,
approximately 24 miles north of New York City along the east bank of the
Hudson River. About 300,000 people live within 10 miles of the plant and
millions more live in New York City and within 50 miles in Connecticut,
New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Concerns that nuclear power
plants may be targets for terrorists and Indian Point’s close proximity to
these large populations have increased public interest in the adequacy of
the plant’s security and emergency preparedness—leading some to call for
closing the plant. A draft report (the Witt report) commissioned by the
Governor of New York questions the adequacy of emergency preparedness
at Indian Point and raises broader issues about emergency preparedness at
other nuclear power plants.2

In my testimony today, I will discuss the (1) findings and
recommendations of our 2001 report on emergency preparedness at the
Indian Point 2 plant and (2) subsequent progress made by the plant, NRC,
and FEMA in addressing problems noted in our report. You also asked for
our thoughts on the findings of the draft Witt report and its potential
implications for emergency planning at other facilities. To follow up on the
progress made to address the problems we identified in 2001, we reviewed
relevant NRC inspection reports prepared since our 2001 report and held
discussions with officials of NRC, FEMA, and the four counties
responsible for emergency preparedness in the surrounding areas. We did
not conduct a comprehensive update of emergency preparedness at the
Indian Point 2 plant nor verify the accuracy of the draft Witt report’s
findings and conclusions. We should also note that, since our 2001 report,
the Entergy Corporation has assumed ownership of the facility from the
Consolidated Edison Company of New York.

In summary:

•   In 2001, we reported that, over the years, NRC had identified a number
    of emergency preparedness weaknesses at Indian Point 2 that had gone


1
 NUCLEAR REGULATION: Progress Made in Emergency Preparedness at Indian Point
2, but Additional Improvements Needed, GAO-01-605 (Washington, D.C., July 30, 2001).
2
 James Lee Witt Associates, LLC, Review of Emergency Preparedness at Indian Point
and Millstone [Draft] (Washington, D.C., Jan. 10, 2003). The Witt report was commissioned
by Governor Pataki to be a comprehensive and independent review of emergency
preparedness in the areas around Indian Point and for that portion of New York State in
proximity to the Millstone nuclear power plant in Connecticut.



Page 2                                                      GAO-03-528T Indian Point 2
    largely uncorrected. For example, in 1998 and again in 1999, NRC
    identified several communication weaknesses, including delays in
    activating the pagers used to alert the plant’s staff about an emergency.
    Consolidated Edison had some corrective actions under way before a
    February 2000 event raised the possibility that radioactively
    contaminated water would leak into the environment.3 Consolidated
    Edison initiated other actions to address problems that occurred
    during this event. However, according to an April 2001 NRC inspection
    report, the actions were not fully effective. In evaluating Consolidated
    Edison’s response to the February 2000 event, NRC found that critical
    emergency response personnel were not notified in a timely manner,
    which delayed the staffing and operation of the on-site emergency
    response facility. According to NRC, this delay occurred because the
    process to activate the pagers was complex and not well understood
    and Consolidated Edison had responded to the earlier problems
    identified without diagnosing their underlying causes. As a result, NRC
    found emergency preparedness problems similar to those it had
    identified before and during the event. Despite these weaknesses, NRC,
    in commenting on a draft of our report, expressed its view that
    Consolidated Edison’s emergency preparedness program could protect
    the public.

    We reported in 2001 that the four New York counties responsible for
    responding to a radiological emergency at Indian Point 2 had
    strengthened their emergency preparedness programs as a result of the
    lessons learned from the February 2000 event. These lessons included
    the need for better coordination and communications (1) between the
    counties in responding to a radiological emergency and in providing
    the media with information and (2) between Consolidated Edison and
    the counties about the emergency and its potential impact on the
    public. We reported that Consolidated Edison had not clearly
    communicated with the state and counties about whether a radioactive
    release had occurred and, if so, its magnitude. Consolidated Edison
    reported that a release had occurred but posed no threat to the public,
    while county officials reported that no release had occurred. This
    contradictory information led to credibility problems with the media
    and the public. Consolidated Edison, the state, and the counties revised



3
 In February 2000, a tube ruptured in a steam generator and Consolidated Edison
temporarily shut down the plant because of the possibility that radioactively contaminated
water could leak into the environment. According to Consolidated Edison and NRC, the
total amount of radioactivity released posed no threat.



Page 3                                                       GAO-03-528T Indian Point 2
    the plant’s radiological emergency data form to more clearly show
    whether a release had occurred.

    As we also reported, county officials suggested changes to improve
    communications among NRC, FEMA, and nonstate entities. In
    particular, county officials said that since they are responsible for
    radiological emergency preparedness for Indian Point 2, NRC and
    FEMA should communicate directly with them during nonemergency
    situations. In New York and 16 other states—where more than half of
    the nation’s operating nuclear power plants are located—counties or
    other local governments are responsible for radiological preparedness,
    but NRC and FEMA communicated primarily with the states and relied
    on the states to communicate with local jurisdictions. In response, NRC
    said that meeting with local officials would require considerable
    resources, and FEMA said that some states limit its communications
    with local officials. However, NRC had not assessed the costs and
    benefits of routinely meeting with local officials, and FEMA’s method
    of communicating with the states had not effectively provided the four
    counties with information on various initiatives that would affect their
    programs. Since effective communication is critical to prepare for and
    respond to a radiological emergency, we therefore recommended that
    NRC and FEMA reassess their policies for communicating primarily
    with the state in those instances where other entities have a major role
    for responding to a radiological emergency.

•   Since our 2001 report, NRC inspection reports have continued to show
    emergency preparedness weaknesses. For example, NRC reported that,
    during an emergency exercise in the fall of 2002, the facility gave out
    unclear information about the release of radioactive materials, as it did
    during the February 2000 event. Similarly, in terms of NRC and FEMA
    communicating with the surrounding jurisdictions, little has changed,
    according to county officials. County officials told us that a
    videoconference system—promised to ensure prompt meetings and
    better communication between the plant’s technical representatives
    and the counties—had not been installed. During the February 2000
    event, these representatives had arrived late at the counties’ emergency
    operations centers. NRC officials said that they meet with state
    officials concerning emergency preparedness and have instituted
    various initiatives to improve public communication, in which local
    officials can participate. FEMA officials told us that it would continue
    to work with state and local governments on emergency preparedness.




Page 4                                              GAO-03-528T Indian Point 2
             •   The draft Witt report is a much larger, more technical assessment than
                 our 2001 report. While both reports talk to difficulties in
                 communications and planning inadequacies, the draft Witt report
                 concludes that the current radiological response system and
                 capabilities are not adequate to protect the public from an
                 unacceptable dose of radiation in the event of a release from Indian
                 Point, especially if the release is faster or larger than the release for
                 which the programs are typically designed. We are aware that, in
                 commenting on the draft of the Witt report, FEMA disagreed with some
                 of the issues raised but said that the report does highlight several
                 issues worth considering in order to improve preparedness levels in the
                 communities around Indian Point and nationwide. NRC concluded that
                 the report gives “undue weight” to the impact of a terrorist attack. The
                 agency said that it saw no difference between emergency plans for
                 releases caused by terrorist acts and those caused by equipment
                 malfunctions.


             Emergency plans for commercial nuclear power plants are intended to
Background   protect public health and safety whenever plant accidents cause radiation
             to be released to the environment. Since the 1979 accident at the Three
             Mile Island nuclear power plant, significantly more attention has been
             focused on emergency preparedness. For example, the NRC Authorization
             Act for fiscal year 1980 established a requirement for off-site emergency
             planning around nuclear power plants and allowed NRC to issue a nuclear
             plant operating license only if it determines that there is either a

             •   related state or local emergency preparedness plan that provides for
                 responding to accidents at the specific plant and complies with NRC’s
                 emergency planning guidelines or

             •   state, local, or facility plan that provides reasonable assurance that
                 public health and safety are not endangered by the plants’ operation in
                 the absence of a related state or local emergency preparedness plan.

             In November 1980, NRC and FEMA published regulations that provided
             the criteria for radiological emergency plans. The regulations include
             emergency standards for on- and off-site safety and require that emergency
             plans be prepared to cover the population within a 10-mile radius of a
             commercial nuclear power plant. In addition, state plans must address
             measures necessary to deal with the potential for the ingestion of
             radioactively contaminated foods and water within a 50-mile radius. NRC
             and FEMA have supplemented the criteria several times since 1980. For


             Page 5                                              GAO-03-528T Indian Point 2
                            example in July 1996, the agencies endorsed the prompt evacuation of the
                            public within a 2-mile radius and about 5 miles downwind of the plant,
                            rather than sheltering the public, in the event of a severe accident.

                            FEMA and the affected state and local governments within the 10-mile
                            emergency planning zone conduct exercises at least every 2 years at each
                            nuclear power plant site. In addition, each state with a nuclear power
                            plant must conduct an exercise within the 50-mile zone at least every 6
                            years. The exercises are to test the integrated capabilities of appropriate
                            state and local government agencies, facility emergency personnel, and
                            others to verify their capability to mobilize and respond if an accident
                            occurs. Before the exercises, generally, FEMA and state officials not
                            involved in them agree to the accident scenarios and the aspects of
                            emergency preparedness that will be tested. In addition, NRC requires
                            plants to conduct exercises of their on-site plans. According to NRC staff,
                            the plants usually conduct their exercises as part of FEMA’s biennial
                            exercises.

                            Indian Point 2 is one of the 104 commercial nuclear power plants
                            nationwide licensed to operate. The Indian Point site, which is called the
                            Indian Point Energy Center, has one closed and two operating plants. The
                            other operating plant is referred to as Indian Point 3.


                            Over the years, Consolidated Edison’s efforts to improve emergency
In 2001, We Noted           preparedness at Indian Point 2 were not completely successful, and the
That Indian Point 2         company experienced recurring weaknesses in its program, as we
                            reported in July 2001. The four New York counties surrounding the plant
Had Struggled to            made improvements in their emergency response programs but suggested
Resolve Emergency           better communication among NRC, FEMA, and nonstate entities in
                            nonemergency situations.
Preparedness
Weaknesses

Consolidated Edison Acted   Beginning in 1996, NRC identified numerous weaknesses with the
to Resolve Emergency        emergency preparedness program at Indian Point 2. NRC found, for
Preparedness Weaknesses,    example, that Consolidated Edison was not training its emergency
                            response staff in accordance with required procedures, and some
but Its Actions Were        individuals had not taken the annual examination and/or participated in a
Incomplete                  drill or exercise within a 2-year period, as required. In response,
                            Consolidated Edison disciplined the individuals responsible, developed an
                            improved computer-based roster containing the current status of the

                            Page 6                                             GAO-03-528T Indian Point 2
training requirements for emergency response personnel, and began a
process to distribute training modules to those employees before their
qualifications expired.

NRC relied on Consolidated Edison to take corrective actions for other
emergency preparedness problems and weaknesses. However, the
company did not correct the weaknesses identified. For example, in 1998
and again in 1999, NRC identified problems with activating the pagers used
to alert the plant’s staff about an emergency, as well as other
communication weaknesses. In 1999, NRC concluded that Consolidated
Edison lacked the ability to detect and correct problems and determine
their causes, resulting in weak oversight of the emergency preparedness
program. In response, NRC staff said that they met with the company’s
managers to specifically discuss and express NRC’s concerns.

Similarly, NRC identified emergency preparedness weaknesses when
evaluating Indian Point 2’s response to the February 2000 event. For
example, NRC found that Consolidated Edison did not activate its
emergency operations facilities within the required 60 minutes, primarily
because of the complex process used to page the emergency response
staff. This problem delayed the on-site response. NRC’s Office of the
Inspector General also identified emergency preparedness issues,
including the state’s difficulties getting information about the emergency
from Consolidated Edison and the fact that English is a second language
for many who lived within 10 miles of the plant. The Office of the
Inspector General concluded, and NRC agreed, that recurring uncorrected
weaknesses at Indian Point 2 had played a role in the company’s response
during the February 2000 event. However, NRC concluded that
Consolidated Edison had taken the necessary steps to protect public
health and safety.

Consolidated Edison subsequently evaluated its entire emergency
preparedness program to determine the causes of the deficiencies and to
develop corrective actions. Consolidated Edison concluded that senior
management did not pay sufficient attention to the emergency
preparedness program or problems at Indian Point 2 because these
problems were not viewed as a high priority warranting close attention
and improvement. As a result, emergency preparedness had relatively low
visibility, minimal direction, and inadequate resources. The company also
found that (1) the emergency response organization had been stagnant,
understaffed, poorly equipped, and consistently ineffective; (2) the
emergency manager performed collateral and competing duties; and (3)
for a time, a contractor held the manager’s position. Furthermore, the

Page 7                                            GAO-03-528T Indian Point 2
                         professional development and continuing training of the emergency
                         planning staff had been minimal. The company undertook initiatives to
                         address the deficiencies noted.

                         Despite these initiatives, in April 2001, NRC reported that it had found
                         problems similar to those previously identified at Indian Point 2. NRC
                         again found weaknesses in communication and information dissemination.
                         It also found that the utility’s training program had not prevented the
                         recurrence of these issues during on-site drills and that its actions to
                         resolve other weaknesses had not been fully effective. NRC said that
                         Consolidated Edison had identified the major issues in its business plan,
                         which, if properly implemented, should improve emergency preparedness
                         at the plant. In commenting on a draft of our July 2001 report, NRC noted
                         that its April 2001 inspection report concluded that Consolidated Edison’s
                         emergency preparedness program would provide reasonable assurance of
                         protecting the public.


The Four Counties        The need to improve communication between Consolidated Edison and
Strengthened Their       the counties about the extent of the emergency and the potential impact
Emergency Preparedness   on the public was highlighted during the February 2000 event. At that time,
                         Consolidated Edison reported that a radioactive release had occurred but
Programs but Suggested   that it posed no danger to the public. County officials, on the other hand,
Better Communication     reported that no release had occurred. This contradictory information led
Among NRC, FEMA, and     to credibility problems with the media and the public.
Nonstate Entities
                         Before the emergency, the counties did not have a defined process to
                         determine what information they needed and how they would present the
                         information to the public. At the time of the February 2000 event, the
                         Radiological Emergency Data Form that Consolidated Edison used to
                         inform local jurisdictions provided for one of three choices about a release
                         of radioactive materials: (1) no release (above technical specification
                         limits), (2) a release to the atmosphere above technical specification
                         limits, and (3) a release to a body of water (above technical specification
                         limits). In April 2000, Consolidated Edison, in partnership with the state
                         and counties, revised the form to ensure that all affected parties were
                         “speaking with one voice” when providing the media and the public with
                         information. The change to the form provided for one of four choices: (1)
                         no release, (2) a release below federally approved operating limits
                         (technical specifications) and whether it was to the atmosphere or to
                         water, (3) a release above federally approved operating limits and whether
                         to the atmosphere or to water, and (4) an unmonitored release requiring
                         evaluation.

                         Page 8                                             GAO-03-528T Indian Point 2
The counties had also taken some other actions to improve their
radiological emergency programs. For example, all four counties agreed to
activate their emergency operation centers at the “alert” level (the second
lowest of four NRC classifications). Before the February 2000 event, the
counties differed on when they would activate their centers, with one
county activating its center at the alert level and the other three counties
at the site-area emergency level (the next level above an alert). As a result,
once the first county activated its center during the event, the media
questioned why the other three counties had not done so. The counties
also connected the “Executive Hot Line,” which linked the state, four
counties, and governor, to the emergency operations facility at Indian
Point 2 to establish and maintain real-time communications during an
emergency.

In addition to these actions, county officials suggested to us in 2001 that
other changes to improve communications among NRC, FEMA, and
nonstate entities could be taken. In particular, county officials said that
since they are responsible for radiological emergency preparedness for
Indian Point 2, NRC and FEMA should communicate directly with them
during nonemergency situations. Absent these direct communications, the
counties were not privy to issues or initiatives that could affect their
emergency preparedness programs.

NRC staff tried to meet every 5 years with officials from all states that
have operating nuclear power plants. NRC staff told us that they met with
some states more frequently and that the requests to meet exceeded the
agency’s capability. Although NRC’s policy was to meet at the state level,
its staff believed that local officials had various options for meeting with
NRC. For example, local officials could participate in the meetings held at
least every 5 years with the states and could interact with NRC staff during
public meetings, including those held annually for all plants. Emergency
preparedness officials from the four counties around Indian Point 2 said
that they did not believe that public meetings were the appropriate forums
for government-to-government interactions. Therefore, the counties
suggested that NRC should meet with them at least annually. According to
NRC staff, routinely communicating with local officials has resource
implications and involves tradeoffs with its other efforts, such as
maintaining safety and enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of
operations. However, NRC, at the time of our review, had not assessed the
costs and benefits of meeting with local officials nor the impact that such
meetings might have.




Page 9                                               GAO-03-528T Indian Point 2
                       FEMA generally implements its programs through the states and relies on
                       the states to communicate relevant information to local jurisdictions.
                       County officials responsible for emergency preparedness at Indian Point 2
                       identified instances in which this method of communicating with local
                       jurisdictions had not been effective. For example, both New York State
                       and county officials told us that the February 2000 event identified the
                       need for flexibility in FEMA’s off-site exercises. County officials said they
                       responded to the 2000 event as they would have responded during FEMA’s
                       exercises, which are conducted to the general emergency level (the
                       highest of NRC’s action level classifications). Yet, they noted, the response
                       for an alert like the one that occurred in 2000 is significantly different from
                       the response needed during a general emergency, when a significant
                       amount of radiation would be released from the plant site. State and
                       county officials suggested that it would be more realistic to periodically
                       conduct biennial exercises at the lower alert level, which, they noted (and
                       NRC data confirmed), occur more frequently than a general emergency. In
                       commenting on a draft of our report, FEMA said that the emergency plans
                       for the four New York counties require them to conduct off-site
                       monitoring and dose calculations at the alert level.

                       FEMA officials also noted that the agency’s regulations allow state and
                       local jurisdictions the flexibility to structure the exercise scenarios to
                       spend more time at the alert level and less at the general emergency level.
                       Nevertheless, county officials who participated in the exercises were not
                       aware of the flexibility allowed by FEMA’s regulations, in part because
                       they did not participate in developing the exercise scenarios.


                       In reviewing NRC’s reports on its on-site inspections and evaluations of
Emergency              the plant’s emergency preparedness exercises or drills completed since we
Preparedness           issued our 2001 report, we found that the facility’s emergency
                       preparedness program has continued to experience problems or
Weaknesses at Indian   weaknesses. For example, NRC reported that, in an emergency exercise
Point 2 Have           conducted last fall, the facility gave out unclear information about the
                       release of radioactive materials, which also happened during the February
Continued              2000 event. In addition, NRC reported that several actions to correct
                       previously identified weaknesses had not been completed. For example,
                       NRC noted that the timely and accurate dissemination of information was
                       identified as a weakness in the fall 2002 exercise and had been
                       documented previously in drill critique and condition reports.

                       In addition, in our 2001 report, we noted that NRC’s Office of the Inspector
                       General found that, during the February 2000 event, the Indian Point

                       Page 10                                              GAO-03-528T Indian Point 2
plant’s technical representatives did not arrive on time at the local
counties’ emergency operations centers. To help address this problem,
Consolidated Edison said that it would install a videoconferencing system
in the centers to enhance communications between the plant and the off-
site officials. According to county officials, the videoconferencing system
had not been installed as of February 2003.

With respect to our 2001 recommendation that NRC and FEMA reassess
their practices of primarily communicating with state officials during
nonemergency situations, federal and local officials indicated that little
has changed since our report. NRC officials told us that they did reassess
their policy since our report was issued and determined that no changes
were needed. According to FEMA officials, the agency will continue to
work with state and local officials to carry out its emergency preparedness
program but has not made any changes regarding nonemergency
communication with state and local officials.

Given this history of inadequate efforts to address weaknesses in Indian
Point 2’s emergency preparedness program, we continue to believe that
both NRC and the plant owner could benefit from being more vigilant in
correcting problems as they are identified. In addition to improving the
plant’s program, a better track record in addressing these problems could
go a long way in helping alleviate the heightened concerns in the
surrounding communities about the plant’s safety and preparedness for an
emergency. Similarly, more frequent, direct communication by NRC and
FEMA with officials of the surrounding counties could improve local
emergency preparedness programs and, in turn, help local officials better
communicate with their constituents about the plant’s safety and
preparedness for an emergency.




Page 11                                            GAO-03-528T Indian Point 2
                      On August 1, 2002, the Governor of New York announced that James Lee
The Witt Report       Witt Associates would conduct a comprehensive and independent review
Raises Emergency      of emergency preparedness around the Indian Point facility and for that
                      portion of New York State in proximity to the Millstone nuclear power
Preparedness Issues   plant in Waterford, Connecticut.4 According to Witt Associates, the review
at Indian Point and   encompassed many related activities that were designed, when taken
                      together, to shed light on whether the jurisdictions’ existing plans and
Other Nuclear Power   capabilities are sufficient to ensure the safety of the people of the state in
Plants                the event of an accident at one of the plants, and how the existing plans
                      and capabilities might be improved. According to Witt Associates, it has
                      considered and incorporated public comments on a January 2003 draft of
                      its report and plans to issue the final report this month.

                      We have not evaluated the Witt report or verified the accuracy of its
                      findings and conclusions. We did note that the draft report identifies
                      various issues—such as planning inadequacies; expected parental
                      behavior that would compromise school evacuation; difficulties in
                      communications; the use of outdated technologies; problems caused by
                      spontaneous evacuation in a post September 11, 2001, environment; and a
                      limited public education effort—that may warrant consideration at Indian
                      Point and nationwide. The draft Witt report concludes that NRC and
                      FEMA regulations need to be revised and updated. We understand that
                      FEMA agreed, to an extent, in its review of the draft report. According to
                      the agency, the draft report raises a number of issues that should be
                      considered for enhancing the level of preparedness in the communities
                      surrounding the Indian Point facility, such as better public education,
                      more training of off-site responders, and improved emergency
                      communications. In addition, FEMA stated that some of these issues
                      should be evaluated for their applicability nationwide. However, FEMA
                      also said that a number of the issues raised in the draft report were not
                      supported by its own exercise evaluations, plan reviews, and knowledge of
                      the emergency preparedness program. According to NRC, the draft report
                      gives “undue weight” to the impact of a terrorist attack. The agency said
                      that it saw no difference between emergency plans for releases caused by
                      terrorist acts and those caused by equipment malfunctions.

                      In summary, Mr. Chairman, the post September 11, 2001, environment
                      clearly presents new challenges for NRC and FEMA. While the public has
                      always had considerable interest in the safety of nuclear power plants, the


                      4
                          Mr. Witt is a former FEMA Director.



                      Page 12                                              GAO-03-528T Indian Point 2
           terrorist attacks have brought a level of focus and anxiety that may rival or
           exceed that caused by the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. NRC and the
           nuclear industry deserve credit for taking action to strengthen physical
           security as the result of a changing world, but we are still concerned that,
           as shown in this hearing today, problems in emergency preparedness
           remain after being repeatedly identified as needing attention. Mr.
           Chairman, GAO is currently conducting reviews of physical security at
           selected nuclear power plants and is looking in-depth at safety issues at
           the Davis-Besse plant in Ohio. We plan to report the results of our work
           later this year.

                                          -   -   -   -   -

           Mr. Chairman, this concludes our prepared statement. We would be happy
           to respond to any questions that you or Members of the Subcommittee
           may have.

           Contacts and Acknowledgments

           For further information about this testimony, please contact me at (202)
           512-3841. Raymond Smith, William Fenzel, Kenneth Lightner, William
           Lanouette, Jill Edelson, Heather Barker, and Addison Ricks also made key
           contributions to this statement.




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