Home Emergency Management News Sequoyah Nuclear Power Plant Holds Practice Disaster Drill

Sequoyah Nuclear Power Plant Holds Practice Disaster Drill


Disaster Drill Held for TVAs Sequoyah Nuclear Power Plant

Numerous agencies across multiple jurisdictions and counties participated in a practice disaster drill on Wednesday at the Sequoyah Nuclear Power Plant, located in Hamilton County, Tennessee.  The Sequoyah Nuclear Plant is operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority and has two reactors that produce 1,160 megawatts of electricity each - powering 1.3 million homes.

The practice drill was an important exercise meant to identify areas that needed improvement so that corrective actions could be taken before the plant's graded drill, which is scheduled for September.

Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency

In Bradley County, where the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was activated for the drill, the drill also provided an opportunity for new participants to learn their roles within the disaster response plan and to also build interagency relationships to help foster coordination and cooperation in the event of real disaster.

Some of those represented in the EOC for the drill included the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency (CBCEMA), Bradley County Sheriff Department, Bradley County Health Department, Bradley County Fire/Rescue, Cleveland/Bradley County Auxiliary Communications Services, Cleveland City Fire Department, Cleveland City Police Department, Cleveland City Public Works, Bradley County Schools, Bradley County EMS, and private health care organizations.

Part of Bradley County's boundaries are situated within the 10-mile emergency planning zone for the nuclear plant. An emergency, such as a radiological release from the plant, would require the protection of the county's residents located within that area. Consequently, if an evacuation was ordered for locations within the 10-mile radius, nearly 14,000 people would be impacted, including a daycare and two schools.

Drill Scenario Includes Real-Life Injects

Last week's drill scenario involved a radiological release from the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant resulting in the evacuation of residents within a 2-mile radius of the plant, and a shelter in place for the remaining residents with the 5-mile emergency planning zone.

Numerous other issues were inserted into the scenario to mimic a real incident, such as traffic accidents, calls from concerned citizens, and requests for assistance should an evacuation occur in Bradley County. Part of the importance in this practice drill was to ensure smooth communication and coordination for these, and other responses, to adequately meet the various needs among the community and its members and to ensure it was done in a timely manner.

Preparations for Drill Participation

Preparations for the drill participation in Cleveland/Bradley County were coordinated by Jeff Gunther, the CBCEMA Fixed Nuclear Facilities Planner. Preparations included radiological monitoring equipment and emergency worker kit checks, evacuation route and evacuation signage checks, and numerous training sessions for more than 300 emergency workers, including city and county first responders, its auxiliary communications personnel, and members of the human services departments.

Representatives from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also participated in the Cleveland/Bradley County EOC during the drill.

Comments from both representatives were positive and highlighted the excellent direction and control of the incident as it applied to Cleveland/Bradley County, along with the outstanding cooperation and coordination among agencies involved.  

One of the things FEMA representative, Mike Doltrey, was most impressed with was the personal initiative that was demonstrated consistently when issues arose that affected individual departments. He noted how department representatives consistently took responsibility and actively engaged in seeing the task assigned, followed through, and resolved.  He noted that it was clear the county was well prepared.

Disaster Preparedness

Being prepared is important, as the county learned firsthand when it was faced with its own disaster in 2011 after five tornadoes touched down in various locations across the county, resulting in a federal disaster declaration. The tornadoes killed nine people and injured dozens more, and created a vast amount of debris that had to be removed.

According to the CBCEMA, participating in these drills gives the county and its first responders the opportunity to evaluate plans, hon skills, and practice procedures because they need to do it right.

As CBCEMA Director, Troy Spence often likes to say, "We can never be wrong" - in other words, we need to get it right the first time, every time, because in a real disaster, there are no do-overs, and the residents of the county are counting on us.

Overall, the drill was deemed a success in Bradley County, and members of the CBCEMA feel confident that should another disaster occur that impacts the county, they would be ready to respond in an effective and efficient manner.

Kimberly Arsenault Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.