HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the state departments of Environmental Protection and Health are working with federal partners to monitor the situation at Japan’s damaged nuclear reactors.
“We receive regular updates from federal agencies that are working closely with the Japanese authorities,” said PEMA Director Glenn M. Cannon. “At this point, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has given us no indication that radiation from Japan poses a threat to Pennsylvania residents.”
The Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Radiation Protection is maintaining close communications with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC, regarding the worsening situation in Japan.
Although little, if any, radioactive material is expected to reach the continental U.S., DEP has an extensive environmental surveillance program in place around Pennsylvania’s five nuclear power plant sites that would be able to detect if any radioactivity from Japan reached the state.
The NRC requires that U.S. nuclear power plants be designed and built to withstand the most severe natural phenomena historically reported for each specific site and surrounding area, such as earthquakes and even tsunamis.
The best way for residents to stay safe is to stay informed and monitor local media, Cannon said. If necessary, health and emergency management officials would alert the public as to what action they should take.
“While there is no imminent threat to Pennsylvania, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan serve as vivid reminders that everyone should take steps to learn what to do in an emergency, be it a fire, flood, nuclear incident or a chemical spill,” Cannon said. “Visit ReadyPA.org to learn how you and your family can be better prepared.”
ReadyPA is a state campaign that encourages citizens to take three basic steps before an emergency or natural disaster:
• Be Informed: know what threats Pennsylvania and your community face.
• Be Prepared: have an emergency kit with at least three days’ worth of essentials at your home, including food, one gallon of water per person per day, medications and specialized items such as baby or pet supplies. Create an emergency plan so family members know where to meet if everyone is separated when an incident occurs.
• Be Involved: Pennsylvanians have a long history of helping one another in times of need. Specialized training and volunteer opportunities are available so citizens can help others in their community in a disaster.
Information such as checklists for emergency kits and templates for emergency plans, as well as other information and volunteer opportunities, is available at www.ReadyPA.org or by calling 1-888-9-READYPA (1-888-973-2397).
While evacuation is always the best way to protect human health during a large release of radioactivity, potassium iodide, or KI, provides another layer of protection. KI tablets help protect the thyroid gland from harmful radiation but should only be taken under direction from state health officials or the governor.
Pennsylvanians should not take potassium iodide in response to the current radiological events in Japan, health officials said.
As part of its ongoing preparedness efforts, the Pennsylvania Department of Health offers free KI tablets to residents that live, work or go to school within a ten-mile radius of a nuclear power plant. Those residents can pick up free potassium iodide during normal business hours at state and/or county health department offices located near nuclear facilities. A list of offices is available at www.health.state.pa.us or by calling 1-877-PA-HEALTH.
Pennsylvania is required by federal law to have emergency response plans for each of the five nuclear power plants in the state: Beaver Valley Power Station, Beaver County; Limerick Generating Station, Montgomery County; Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, Lancaster County; Susquehanna Steam Electric Station, Luzerne County; and Three Mile Island, Dauphin County. Each facility along with state and local emergency response partners must practice those plans during a federally-evaluated exercise every two years.