Preparedness & Recovery

Off-Site Facility to Aid Emergency Response at Nuclear Power Station

The $6 million emergency operations facility is near an Ohio nuclear power station and will remain unstaffed until an emergency hits.

by News Staff / October 24, 2012
Photo courtesy of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Nuclear Regulatory Commission

A $6 million emergency operations facility opened Oct. 23 in Lindsey, Ohio. The 12,000 square foot facility, built by FirstEnergy Corp., will remain unstaffed until an emergency hits. A problem at the nearby Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Carroll Township or a train derailment near the courthouse in Port Clinton could cause dozens of state, local, federal and FirstEnergy workers to flood the facility.

“It’s safer to have a meeting location and response facility that is 15.4 miles away,” said Jim Vetter, the quality assurance manager at Davis-Besse, The Blade reported. It’s also required by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, he added, that such a facility be located 10 to 25 miles from every nuclear power plant.

Officials seem to be ready to use the new building for any number of emergency scenarios. The facility is equipped with phones, intercoms, radios, printing and plotting equipment, and more than 100 computer monitors. The facility also has detailed procedures for handling various scenarios, The News-Messenger reported. Everyone would have a job in the event of an emergency, down to the person in charge of walking around to update dry-erase boards. "This helps eliminate the threat of human error," Ottawa County Commissioner Steve Arndt said.

The facility, which replaced a smaller center in Davis-Besse, is equipped with multiple power sources, including a diesel power generator, and redundant lines of communications built to withstand harsh weather, FirstEnergy spokesperson Jennifer Young said. The facility has a dose assessment center that monitors wind speed and direction, radioactivity levels and real-time data from the power plant. There is a conference room for U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials and a communications room for staying in contact with the media, safety officials and other agencies.

The emergency center cannot control the Davis-Besse power plant, but there are direct communications lines between them. A large room in the facility houses a technical support center that duplicates a similar center at the power plant used to monitor operations.

This is the third center of this type constructed by FirstEnergy, with the other two located near nuclear power plants in Pennsylvania. All three plants are similar in layout and appearance, right down to the color of the walls, which is helpful for officials who travel between the facilities, Young said. “If we needed to pull people in from our other facilities, they will be familiar with the layout and equipment.”

Aside from emergency use, the facility will be used occasionally for meetings, training exercises and drills, with the first drill scheduled for Nov. 1.