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TESTIMONY OF RICHARD VOLLMER, DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR NU
CLEAR REACTOR REGULATION, NUCLEAR REGULATORY COM.
With me, I have Mr. Thomas Novak, to my left, Acting Director, Division of PWR Licensing, NRC Headquarters.
And next to him, Mr. Vincent Noonan, who is the Project Director responsible for the Seabrook project.
Further to the left, Mr. Spence Perry, General Counsel for the Federal Emergency Management Agency-FEMA.
And next to him, Mr. Craig Wingo, also from FEMA. Mr. Chairman, if you would, I would request that Mr. Thomas Níurley, the Regional Administrator for Region I be brought up to the stage. I think this is his region, and he is very intimately involved with this facility, and I think it would be to the benefit of the subcommittee if he could also participate at the stage.
Mr. MARKEY. I think that the gentleman has made a fine request, and an appropriate request; and, at this time, we would ask that Mr. Murley please come forward and join the panel.
Mr. VOLLMER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We appreciate the opportunity to appear before this subcommittee. I will cut my remarks down. I have prepared testimony which I believe has been sent to the subcommittee, but our remarks are in response to the request of the subcommittee dealing particularly with the emergency planning issue at Seabrook.
As Governor Dukakis noted, in the wake of the Three Mile Island accident in March of 1979, the NRC undertook a formal reconsideration of the role of emergency planning in ensuring the continued protection of the public health and safety of those living in the vicinity of nuclear power plants.
The NRC issued regulations requiring that, prior to the issuance
a full-power operating license, a finding must be made that there is reasonable assurance that adequate protective measures can and will be taken in the event of a radiological emergency.
The regulations set forth 16 emergency planning standards, defining the areas of responsibility of the licensee and offsite authorities such as States and local governmental bodies concerned with protective actions during a nuclear emergency.
The responsibility for assessing the adequacy of offsite emergency preparedness rests with FEMA, which is the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And the NRC is responsible for determining the overall adequacy of the state of emergency planning based on the FEMA findings, and our own assessment of the adequacy of the onsite plan.
A key feature of the regulations is the Emergency Planning Zone, EPZ concept, which we have heard quite a bit about this morning, which has been adopted to strengthen the NRC's defense in-depth safety philosophy by providing that, in the event of an unlikely fission product release, there is reasonable assurance that
emergency protective actions can be taken to protect the people in the area.
NRC chose the 10-mile radius around the plantsite as an EPZ, believing that this provided adequate level of protection for a wide range of accident consequences.
The reason for requiring emergency response plans with states and local communities near a nuclear plant was to provide outside authorities with a range of protective action options that could be taken to provide dose savings to the nearby population for a wide variety of accidents.
The emergency plans are not required to address any particular accident or a worst-case accident. Further, the NRC regulations do not require any demonstration that the population within the 10mile EPZ can be evacuated within a prescribed time limit; nor do they require that a specified radiation dose be prevented for any or all members of the public near the plant.
A standard of reasonable assurance in the area of emergency planning requires a finding by the NRC that adequate emergency plans are in place to permit a wide range of protective actions as dictated by local conditions. Also, there are adequate facilities and staff to implement the plan. And finally, that the plans have been found to be workable in an emergency exercise.
Now, Seabrook is one of approximately 75 nuclear plant sites in the United States for which emergency response plans are required. Although Seabrook has a relatively high permanent population, and a high seasonal and transient beach population within the EPZ, other sites also have large permanent and transient populations as well.
Now, Seabrook currently has a license authorizing fuel loading and precritical testing only. A favorable Board decision on the onsite issues in dispute is required prior to authorization of any further power-any power operation which would start if authorization was given for low-power operation.
Further, adjudicatory proceedings of offsite emergency planning issues are currently under way, but a hearing schedule has not yet been set by the Licensing Board. In order for a full-power authorization to be issued, issues involving offsite emergency response planning must be resolved.
The State of New Hampshire formally submitted emergency plans to FEMA in December of 1985 with the latest revisions submitted in September of 1986. Hearings on the New Hampshire plans previously scheduled to start in August of 1986 have been postponed at the request of FEMA, and to our knowledge, have not yet been rescheduled.
An exercise involving the licensee in New Hampshire was conducted on February 26, 1986. New Hampshire has indicated that corrective actions for the problem identified by FEMA as a result of that exercise have been implemented, and that the plan and procedure changes are included in their September 1986 submittal to FEMA. Although Massachusetts had been preparing an emergency plan, on September 20, as the Governor noted, he stated that "the Commonwealth does not intend to submit emergency plans to FEMA."
Mr. Chairman, your earlier written questions asked about the circumstances involving several technical and legal meetings held between the NRC staff and the licensee, concerning emergency planning at Seabrook, the Seabrook probabilistic risk assessment, PRA, and a possible request by the licensee to reduce the EPZ to two miles.
The licensee conducted a plant specific risk assessment a few years ago. The NRC encourages owners to conduct such studies since they have frequently demonstrated their value in understanding and in improving the safety of the plant.
Recently, the owners submitted to the NRC two additional documents based on the Seabrook PRA. The owners have indicated they are conducting these studies to help evaluate emergency planning options for the Seabrook station.
The NRC staff review of this new information is not yet complete. It will be publicly available in a report when it is completed by the staff.
The licensee has asked the NRC to perform a technical review of the Seabrook PRA update, and the staff considered it appropriate to review the Seabrook submittals to obtain a better overall perspective of the risk at Seabrook. Depending on the results of the staff's technical review, the licensee may request a change to the emergency plan process at Seabrook, but at this time he has not done so; nor has he specified what future actions may be requested.
With respect to meetings held relative to the Seabrook PRA update, and whether the members of the public were given an opportunity to attend, meetings conducted by the NRC technical staff are generally open to attendance by the public.
With respect to notice practices, the technical staff routinely provides meeting notices to intervenors and interested governmental authorities in contested areas such as Seabrook. This practice has been followed in the Seabrook case.
On occasion, the NRC staff management may meet with corporate licensee management to discuss such administrative matters as scheduling and timing of certain staff reviews, rather than to discuss technical information or strategy; and these meetings are not open to the public or noticed.
In contested hearings, the NRC legal staff often meets with lawyers for the applicant and/or the intervenors to discuss hearing related matters; and these meetings are likewise not subject to the agency policy for open technical meetings.
FEMA and the State of New Hampshire have also held technical meetings concerning emergency planning issues at Seabrook. And the NRC technical staff has participated in those meetings. Such meetings are not covered by the NRC policy for open technical meetings.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to close by indicating that, since 1973 the NRC has conducted over 200 inspections at Seabrook, totalling 21,000 inspection hours. These inspections involve NRC observation of work in progress, examination of completed work, review of work control documents, independent measurements and calculations, and examination of Quality Assurance records.
Where problems and construction deficiencies were found, the NRC required corrective actions. Where problems and construction
deficiencies are found in the future, we will certainly require that they be corrected.
I would like to add, Mr. Chairman, one comment with regard to, it is really in addition to my prepared testimony, it is on the very important issue of the integrity of the NRC licensing process, and the question of advocacy which has been raised.
You expressed concern that the NRC had extended itself to advocate alternatives to the emergency planning regulations for Seabrook. I would like to indicate that it is clear that the NRC has been given certain technical information by the utility on this. But the NRC does not charter a course for the utility or its approaches. And if we did, we certainly could not guarantee, speaking for the staff, or even estimate its chance for success, because our regulations as you know provide for a very detailed review and evaluation process, as well as a very detailed adjudicatory process in such case as this where there is a contested hearing.
The NRC has held a number of meetings noticed and open to the public on this issue, since we have received the Seabrook submittal in July 1986. We have not yet formed any conclusion relative to the merits of any technical information provided by Seabrook; nor have we seen any particular proposal relative to the emergency planning issue.
Further, our statutes require, and the NRC will assure, that all elements of the regulatory process, both legal and technical, will be fully satisfied before a license to operate the Seabrook plant will be issued. This will include for Seabrook a full review and assessment of any emergency planning, technical materials, or exemption requests that may come along, completely open to the public, followed by adjudication of such issues in an open proceeding.
Mr. Chairman, I can assure you that the NRC is fully aware of its responsibility with respect to the public health and safety, and that the NRC places this mission above all other considerations.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Now, again, it is the subcommittee's understanding that Mr. Craig Wingo who is from the Office of Natural and Technological Hazards Programs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will serve as the spokesperson for that agency today.
We welcome you, Mr. Wingo, and we ask, once again, if you could please try to limit your remarks to the briefest possible time.
The chair recognizes the gentleman for five minutes.
TESTIMONY OF CRAIG S. WINGO Mr. WINGO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My name is Craig Wingo. Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Wingo, could you just move the microphone in a little bit closer and speak into it.
Mr. WINGO. My name is Craig Wingo. I am Chief of the Field Operations Branch, Technological Hazards Division, in the Office of Natural and Technological Hazards Programs.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency deeply regrets that your request for appearances by other senior officials of the agency could not be met on this particular date. As FEMA Director Julius
Becton indicated to you, pressing operational commitments facing the agency this week precluded such appearances. We appreciate the committee's understanding of this situation.
However, as the Branch Chief for Headquarters Field Operations for the radiological emergency preparedness program, I am pleased to appear before you to represent FEMA, and to discuss the REP program, as it relates to offsite emergency planning in the plume exposure emergency planning zone for the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station.
Before discussing Seabrook specifically, I would like to outline the context of program procedures and philosophy in which the Seabrook situation has unfolded.
The primary concern of FEMA's REP program is the health and safety of the public around nuclear power plants. FEMA works to achieve this goal through an evaluation of plans and preparedness under the process published in 44 C.F.R. 350.
This FEMA process, commonly referred to as the "350 process," is based on a formal submission by the Governor, or his/her designee, of the State and local plans for the emergency planning zone [EPZ] around a specific nuclear power plant.
The evaluation process includes participation by a Regional Assistance Committee (RAC), chaired by FEMA and including officials from the Departments of Energy, Commerce, Health_and Human Services, Transportation, Agriculture, Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The RAC reviews the plan and its members render advice on their particular area of expertise. The plans are reviewed against the criteria of NUREG-0654/FEMA-REP-1. This guidance document was developed jointed by FEMA and NRC with full public participation. It encompasses the standards for developing, reviewing and evaluating licensee, State and local government radiological emergency planning and preparedness.
The appropriate regional office coordinates the planning review and assures that an exercise is conducted to adequately test the plans. The regional office or State also conducts a public meeting to inform interested parties of the content of the plans and what would be expected of the public in the event of an emergency at
The plans are approved by the FEMA Associate Director of the State and Local Programs and Support Directorate. Currently, this authority has been delegated to the Deputy Associate Director, Mr. David McLoughlin.
Following approval, FEMA notifies the Governor and NRC and publishes a notice in the Federal Register.
This is done only if a determination is made following appropriate plan exercises that the health and safety of the public living in the vicinity of the plant can be protected in the event of a radiological emergency at the plant.
However, the process does not end with the initial approval. The State and the affected local governments must continue to keep plans updated. They must also participate in periodic exercises with the utility as a condition of continued FEMA approval.