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Radiation Emergencies
Emergency Response:

Coordinating the Federal Response

Ready to Respond

Ensuring that users of radiological materials in the United States follow strict safety procedures is just the first step towards eliminating the possibility of a radiological emergency in our country. Radioactive fallout from an accident in another country, such as occurred at Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986, or Fukushima, Japan in 2011, may also pose a threat to the United States.

If radioactivity originating in a foreign country poses actual, potential, or perceived radiological consequences in the United States, its territories, or possessions, EPA coordinates the federal response. The foreign source could be a nuclear power plan accident (for example, Fukushima), a space craft reentry (such as the Soviet Cosmos satellite reentries), or radioactive fallout from atmospheric testing of nuclear devices.

EPA also coordinates the federal response for emergencies involving domestic sources of radiation that are not regulated by the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or Agreement States, such as radioactive materials that pose a hazard at Superfund sites.

In these situations, EPA performs the major coordination and leadership functions that begin at initial notification of an emergency and end when all federal agencies complete their activities. Under the National Contingency Plan, EPA can choose the most appropriate role for it to take in a given situation. In general, that role may range from leading the response to providing technical advice and support to another organization. In some situations, state or local governments, the site or facility owner/operator, or another federal agency may have the necessary expertise and capability to lead the response. EPA also has the authority to order a facility to cleanup hazardous materials and to oversee and monitor emergency response by others.

Under the National Response Framework, EPA may undertake many of the following emergency response activities:

As the Coordinating Federal Agency, EPA suggests ways in which the local, state, and federal agencies can most effectively integrate their actions to protect the public, minimize immediate hazards, and gather information about the emergency.

EPA continues to improve its capabilities to effectively respond to radiological emergencies. EPA staff also work with other federal agencies and s tate and local officials to enhance their capabilities to protect public health and the environment in the event of a radiological incident. Whether a satellite reentry, a space shuttle launch emergency, a nuclear reactor power plant incident or some other radiological accident, EPA stands ready to respond.

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