Radiological Emergency Response Laws
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A number of statutes provide EPA with the authority and responsibility to respond to emergencies.
On this page:
- Public Health Service Act
- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
- Stafford Act
Public Health Service Act
1944 - as amended in '57, '58, '60, '76 (42 USC 201 et seq.)
The PHSA provides EPA the authority to monitor environmental radiation levels and provide technical assistance to states and other federal agencies in planning for and responding to radiological emergencies.
The PHSA provides EPA with the authority to conduct a range of radiation protection activities:
- collect, analyze, and interpret data on environmental radiation levels
- research the environmental and human health effects of exposure to radiation
- develop protective action guides
- provide training and technical assistance to the states. It also provides the authority to develop and implement a plan to effectively provide personnel, equipment, medical supplies, or other federal resources in responding to health emergencies.
1980 - Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act as amended, 1986, 1990 (42 USC 9601 et seq.)
CERCLA (commonly known as Superfund) creates a tax on the chemical and petroleum industries and provides broad federal authority to respond directly to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances, pollutants, and contaminants that may endanger public health or the environment. CERCLA also authorizes and directs EPA to carry out a program of training and evaluation of training needs in the procedures for the handling and removal of hazardous substances.
CERCLA applies to hazardous substances defined by other environmental laws. For example, since the Clean Air Act amendments list radionuclides as hazardous substances, they are covered by CERCLA.
CERCLA authorizes two kinds of response actions:
- short-term removal actions, which address actual or threatened releases requiring prompt response to protect human health or the environment at any site
- long-term remedial actions which address actual or threatened releases that are serious, but not immediately life threatening. (EPA conducts long-term remedial response actions only at sites on the National Priority List, commonly known as Superfund sites.)
These response actions are conducted in accordance with the concept of operations contained in the NCP (40 CFR Part 300).
While the above is a general description of how CERCLA works, response actions are handled somewhat differently at federal and federally licensed sites. This reflects the division of radiation protection responsibilities among various federal agencies. For example:
- The Department of Defense and the Department of Energy coordinate response actions at their sites.
- Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations—rather than CERCLA regulations—govern response actions at some NRC-licensed facilities. (Nuclear Regulatory Commission-licensed facilities that are covered by the Price Anderson Amendments (Section 170) of the AEA).
The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act was enacted to support state and local governments and their citizens when their resources are overwhelmed by the effects of a disaster. The law establishes the process for requesting and obtaining a Presidential disaster declaration, defines the type and scope of assistance available under the Stafford Act, and sets the conditions for obtaining assistance.
Full text of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act