Digital Version of November/December 2014 Print Edition
NNSA in Russian nuclear accident response drill
Representatives from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Office of Emergency Operations participated in an emergency response exercise in Russia that involved the theoretical destruction of a nuclear reactor by an aircraft.
The Arctic-2012 emergency response exercise in Russia was held at the Sayda-Bay branch of the Northwest Center on Radioactive Waste Management. Sayda Bay is on the northern Russian coast near Murmansk.
The exercise, said NNSA, was the latest in a series of radiological emergency response exercises carried out by the Russian Federation and the U.S. under a 1994 agreement between the two governments. Sayda-Bay became a military area where hulls and reactor compartments from nuclear submarines dismantled at Severodvinsk, Nerpa and Gadzhiyevo are stored.
“This exercise provided an excellent opportunity for local, regional and national governmental organizations to practice response actions, mutual assistance and verify notification procedures,” said Joseph Krol, associate administrator for NNSA’s Emergency Operations, who was part of the observation team. “We are pleased to be able to continue to share NNSA’s expertise in emergency operations and learn from our international partners. The exercise also complements NNSA’s commitment to working with the international community while delivering on President Obama’s nuclear security agenda.”
The exercise was conducted under the Joint Coordinating Committee for Radiation Effects Research, a bilateral government group representing agencies from the U.S. and the Russian Federation tasked with collaborating on emergency management issues and coordinating scientific research on the health effects of exposure to ionizing radiation in the Russian Federation from the production of nuclear weapons.
The Sayda-Bay facility includes a temporary storage pad for decommissioned submarine reactor compartments, said NNSA. Under the exercise scenario, it said, an aircraft crashes into the pad, resulting in a fire, the loss of integrity to one of the stored reactor compartments, and the release of radioactive materials to the atmosphere.
The resultant reaction to this emergency scenario involved both on-site and off-site response personnel, including participation by the Russian Federation’s Nuclear Energy State Corporation (ROSATOM), the Ministry for Civil Defense, Emergencies and Disaster Relief (EMERCOM), and Murmansk Oblast authorities, aid the agency. Both fire extinguishing and radiation dose rate measurement actions were demonstrated, as well as monitoring for contamination outside of the facility and the preparation of a detailed plan to decontaminate the Sayda-Bay facility, it said, adding that core issues of emergency response, including response team safety, notification, and communication were demonstrated throughout the exercise.
International observers included representatives from Finland, Norway, the U.S. and France.