Decline or fail – When the nuclear planning local authorities cannot match expectations.

I was interested to learn that the American system has a mechanism to respond to a situation where a nuclear power station cannot get adequate support from the local responders for their off-site plan. Their rules define “decline or fail” as a “situation where State or local governments do not participate in preparing offsite emergency plans or have significant planning or preparedness inadequacies and have not demonstrated the commitment or capabilities to correct these inadequacies in a timely manner so as to satisfy NRC licensing requirements”. (44 CFR 352.1)

An Executive Order enacted by Ronald Regan in 1988 summarises the situation. Chapter and verse can be found in Code of Federal Regulations 44 Emergency Management and Assistance (dated 2002).

The licensee seeks Federal assistance by submitting certification that a decline or fail situation exists to the host FEMA Regional Administrator explaining why assistance is needed and providing documentary proof that they have tried to rectify the situation themselves.

This is reported to FEMA Headquarters and the involved off-site organisations. The State and local governments have 10 days to submit a written report of their views and position and FEMA make a determination about whether or not a decline or fail exist within 45 days of the original communication.

The FEMA Deputy Administrator for the National Preparedness Directorate shall make a final determination as to whether Federal facilities and resources are needed. This process identifies what resources could be called on, the extent and purpose for which they can be called and the limitations on their use.

Interestingly it is assumed that the State and local authorities will contribute their full resources and exercise their authorities in accordance with their duties in a real event.

The Federal resources are to take care not to supplant State and local resources and only make good the impact of the decline or fail. FEMA will attempt to recover the costs incurred from the licensee and from the nonparticipating or inadequately participating State or local government.

In the UK REPPIR requires co-operation from various bodies and requires that the off-site plan be reviewed and tested but makes no mention of what happens if off-sites are deemed inadequate.

Author: Keith Pearce

Emergency Planning and Health Physics consultant and author

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