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Nuclear power plants connect to state agencies.


THE PENNSYLVANIA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) now have a real-time view of monitors at Exelon Corp.'s three Pennsylvania nuclear power plants, including Three Mile Island (TMI).

The state can access the system within PEMA's headquarters at its Harrisburg emergency operations center. The connection has been in place since 2006, but became fully operational this year. It includes a real-time computer connection from the plants' computers that monitor radiation levels and other plant processes, such as pump and valve levels.

DEP's Chief of Nuclear Safety Richard Janati says the department became interested in establishing such a connection after observing a similar one at plants in Illinois. It's working so well for DEP that they are working on similar connections with networks at other plants in the state.

Among the benefits, DEP now receives direct information in the event of a problem, such as the one that led to the 1979 meltdown at TMI.

In that case, TMI and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) were providing conflicting information to the state. "Back in 1979, we had a bad experience with relying on others for information, and we decided we never want to go through that again," says Janati. Although the data provided by this connection is coming from the plant, it is in real-time and is not filtered.

The connections are not monitored around the clock, but Janati and DEP's nuclear safety specialist assigned to TMI, Mike Murphy, say the system will still be beneficial in an emergency.

The data is more comprehensive than anything DEP has had before, according to Murphy. In addition, it will give them more time to do "plume modeling," to predict what's going to happen next in the event of a crisis.

He also notes that the system provides more data fields than the NRC's emergency re actor display system. Also, the NRC's system only becomes available during an alert, while this feed is always available.

The real-time connection fulfills a July amendment to Pennsylvania's Radiation Protection Act, which mandates that plants must establish an "expedited, secure process" for providing radiation and plant monitoring data to the state. "I have to give Exelon a lot of credit because when they provided that system to us, it was not a requirement," says Janati.

Not everyone is satisfied. EFMR Monitoring Network is a nonprofit group that monitors TMI and another of Exelon's Pennsylvania nuclear plants. EFMR Coordinator Eric Epstein says that the group also wants TMI and other plants to fund a real-time monitoring system outside of the fence lines. The NRC does not require such a monitoring system outside the fence lines, according to PEMA spokesman Justin Fleming.

Is the EPA Prepared for Future Disasters?

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has concern over the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) preparedness to respond to indoor contain nation in future disasters. That's according to a recent GAO report that examined the EPA's second "indoor clean and test program," which was an assessment of air contamination following the collapse of the World Trade Center. Among other criticisms, the GAO found that EPA has not set protocols regarding how and when to collect data to determine the effects of a disaster.

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Title Annotation:Intelligence
Author:Spadanuta, Laura
Publication:Security Management
Date:Dec 1, 2007
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