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Data net warns emergency team.


This is the Ohio Emergency Management Agency's nuclear data system. A problem has been detected at the Davis-Besse power plant ...

That is one message Larry Grove, radiological emergency-response supervisor with Ohio's EMA, hopes his team never hears.

Since February 1989 the Columbus-based agency has monitored critical nuclear-safety data from Ohio's Davis-Besse and Perry reactors.

The $200,000 system checks factors including water pressure, water temperature and levels, and stack emissions at both plants on a 15-minute basis.

Any "unusual event" triggers a programmed series of responses. If a reactor's water level falls too low, for instance, the system pages Grove on an after-hours designated duty officer.

"The computer first calls the pager number and sets off a pager code. That code should in general terms tell the duty officer what kind of problem we have," Grove says.

If the officer doesn't respond within the period allotted, the computer calls his home phone over a DECtalk network. If there's no answer there, it rings a cellular phone, which officers are required to have nearby at all times.

Rapid Response

The system greatly improves the agency's ability to respond to possible health threats from reactor mishaps. Before its installation there was no such data coming in from Davis-Besse, 120 miles away. Perry, 150 miles away, sent only meteorological and stack-monitor information.

"When we didn't have the computer," Grove says, "especially for data internal to the plant--like containment information and pressure-vessel information--we would have to call up the plant and ask them about it. We would only call them up if we were in the middle of an emergency. It would take them time to answer. Now we have that information."

The Micro VAX 3600-based system sends error-checked data from either site to a 1200-baud modem in Columbus. Perry recently implemented a microwave link. Davis-Besse uses a dedicated land line until microwave facilities are in place.

The microwave channel's alternate-routing capability makes it much more reliable than a land line, says EMA Communications Officer Mark Patchen. Grove concurs. If, he says, someone accidentally digs up a leased line, "We're out of luck."

By using available capacity on a state-owned system, the EMA also erased leased-line mileage charges.

Even wind direction now can be monitored. This helps the EMA predict the course of possible harmful emissions. The alarm also sounds if data stops flowing, which happened briefly during installation of Perry's microwave link.

The EMA installed its network in response to recommendations made by Ohio's Emergency Evacuation Review team shortly after the Chernobyl disaster. It is modeled on a larger system in Illinois.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission now encourages all states to follow these states' lead voluntarily.
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Title Annotation:nuclear power plant safety
Author:Jesitus, John
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jan 1, 1990
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