National Nuclear Security Administration

NNSA sits in on international exercise with an extra challenge

August 31, 2018

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The observer group watching a vehicle pass through a radiation-screening station during the exercise.
The observer group watching a vehicle pass through a radiation-screening station.
Japanese Minister of the Environment Tadahiko Ito greeting the observer group at a temporary evacuation center during the exercise.
Japanese Minister of the Environment Tadahiko Ito greeting the observer group at a temporary evacuation center.

NNSA emergency response experts had a front-row seat to Japan’s annual full-scale Nuclear Disaster Preparedness Drill, held August 25 to 26 near Kyoto.

The drill involved the Ohi and Takahama nuclear plants of the Kansai Electric Power Company. The stations are a little over eight miles apart in Fukui prefecture. This is the first time the nation has held an exercise involving two sites simultaneously for the annual drill.

The scenario involved an earthquake causing loss of external power for Ohi station, with the ensuing loss of cooling water creating a general emergency. Meanwhile, at the Takahama station, transmission lines fail and the subsequent loss of external power leads to failure of water injection and a general emergency, as well.

David Bowman, Deputy Associate Administrator for Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation, led the U.S. delegation for the exercise. The group included NNSA’s Office of Emergency Operations, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Homeland Security.

They were joined by representatives from the International Atomic Energy Agency, Nuclear Energy Agency, and representatives from France, Germany, Canada, and Indonesia. The group met with Japanese State Minister of the Environment Tadahiko Ito and the governor of Fukui, Issei Nishikawa. 

Reporters interview NNSA’s Charles L. Hopkins III, Associate Administrator and Deputy Under Secretary for Emergency Operations.
Reporters interview NNSA’s Charles L. Hopkins III, Associate Administrator and Deputy Under Secretary for Emergency Operations.

“The exchange of methodology and training between our teams and our international partners is extremely valuable. Both sides came away with new ideas and broader perspectives on emergency response,” said Charles L. Hopkins III, Associate Administrator and Deputy Under Secretary for Emergency Operations.

The U.S. delegation witnessed the evacuation of residents needing special care, toured a nursing home and community center equipped with air-filtration systems for sheltering in place, and visited both the Ohi power plant and an offsite center where response teams conducted operations.

At the offsite center, they observed Japan’s prime minister giving a press conference and discussing the situation with governors, prefecture decision makers, and response teams via video conference.

Japanese public safety team members plan out an evacuation route in the offsite center during the exercise.
Japanese public safety team members plan out an evacuation route in the offsite center.