Terrorism exercise continues in Metro East area
SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced a major exercise will begin today to test the state’s preparedness for responding to a nuclear power plant accident. The exercise takes place at the Braidwood Nuclear Power Station in Grundy County. Preliminary activities for the Braidwood Ingestion Pathway exercise began Monday with interviews at local schools, a demonstration of the state’s ability to assist a hospital with a radiologically-contaminated patient, and the establishment of a reception center, where evacuees would be received and screened for radioactive contamination before going to a shelter for registration and assistance.
This is the second large scale exercise this week putting local, state and federal officials to the test. An exercise in the Metro East area that began Friday and concludes today tested the state’s ability to respond to large-scale emergencies and for the first time included a mass evacuation and sheltering component.
“If disaster ever strikes Illinois – whether it’s a terrorist attack, a pandemic flu outbreak or an accident at a nuclear power plant – we need to make sure we have emergency plans in place to keep people safe,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “That’s what these exercises are about – seeing what works and what doesn’t and making improvements so if a real disaster occurs, we’re ready.”
The accident scenario portion of the Illinois Plan for Radiological Accidents (IPRA) exercise starts today, with Exelon officials notifying the state of a simulated problem at the Braidwood nuclear power station. The State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Springfield, already activated to deal with the terrorist-scenario exercise in the Metro East area, will also begin focusing on the Braidwood situation. As it would in a real accident situation, the state will dispatch the Unified Area Command (UAC) and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency’s (IEMA) radiological assessment teams to the area. The UAC will coordinate state and local law enforcement to establish evacuation routes and ensure the orderly evacuation of people, if scenario events necessitate a mock evacuation. The radiological assessment teams, including mobile laboratories, will be dispatched to measure simulated radiation in the environment and provide data that will help the state develop protective action recommendations.
While most nuclear power plant exercises conclude once scenario issues are resolved, ingestion pathway exercises include a third day in which state and federal agencies coordinate on actions to protect the public from simulated radiation released during the accident portion of the exercise. Representatives from several state agencies will work with the radiological assessment teams to demonstrate coordination necessary to collect environmental and agricultural samples.
IEMA also will be testing a newly-developed tool for measuring radiation on the ground during this exercise. An Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) helicopter has been equipped with radiation-detecting instruments that use a Global Positioning System (GPS) onboard the helicopter to establish the location of radioactive deposition. During a real accident situation, data collected from the new detection device could be sent directly to decision-makers in Springfield to help develop actions that will protect the public from ingesting food items potentially contaminated during a radioactive release.
There are six operating nuclear power plants in Illinois and because each must demonstrate emergency preparedness every two years, the state participates in approximately three IPRA exercises each year. Once every five to six years, Illinois also must participate in a larger ingestion pathway exercise to demonstrate the state’s ability to collect and analyze environmental samples and make recommendations to the public for minimizing exposure to radioactive material through possible ingestion of contaminated foods.
The exercise will be evaluated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to determine if the state can demonstrate that it has procedures, equipment and personnel sufficient to ensure the safety of the public.
To additionally challenge emergency response personnel, a multi-day terrorism exercise that began on Friday concludes Tuesday in the Metro East area. The terrorist-scenario exercise based in the Metro East area began on Friday and concludes today with simulated efforts by the State Weapons of Mass Destruction Team (SWMDT) to take down a terrorist cell. The exercise has also included an evacuation and sheltering scenario, recovery and treatment of mock victims from a building collapse, and a test of the state’s ability to receive, stage and distribute emergency medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile.
More than 1,000 federal, state and local responders are participating in this major emergency response exercise. Earlier this year, a three-day exercise tested Illinois’ ability to respond to simultaneous major emergencies, including a pandemic flu outbreak and a terrorist attack in the Chicago metropolitan area. Last fall, Gov. Blagojevich directed the state to aggressively test the state’s preparedness plans after such plans in the Gulf Coast failed to safeguard people in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.