LEBO (KSNT)- Nuclear energy can sometimes lead to “nuclear accidents.” That’s why Kansas emergency management officials at the Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Plant are prepped for the highest-level disaster.
“General emergency… the most severe level of classification… a loss of several safety systems that could lead to radioactive material being released outside the plant… that level is where we expect a lot of interaction with the state and county,” said Joshua Bousum, Emergency Planning Manager for Wolf Creek & Evergy. “In the history of U.S. nuclear power emergency preparedness, that level has never been reached.”
“In order to reach this level, you’d have to have multiple systems failing, and failing to operate at the same time… the likelihoods are very, very, very, low,” Bousum explained. “There’s always two to three layers to every safety system to prevent reaching these higher levels.”
Kansas Capitol Bureau got an inside look at Wolf Creek’s Emergency Operations Facility. According to Bousum, it’s ‘all hands-on deck’ when it comes to addressing emergency situations.
Nuclear emergency levels range from the least severe, which is a “Notification of Unusual Event (NOUE),” to the most severe, which is a “General Emergency.”
In the case of a General Emergency, which has the potential for uncontrolled releases of radioactive material, Wolf Creek officials activate their emergency management plan.
Their facility is equipped with an operations room that seats more than a dozen state and local officials.
Bousum said “frequent” press conferences are hosted in the “Media Room,” where round-the-clock updates from government officials are broadcasted to the public.
“They’ll put out a general status of event… status of response…,” Bousum explained.
There’s also a “Public Inquiry” room, where a communications team would be stationed to field questions.
“Those that are answering your questions… taking phone calls… rumor control…,” Bousum said.
Technical failures, human error, and natural disasters can all lead to nuclear accidents.
According to energy officials, the highest-level emergency they’ve reached at Wolf Creek’s plant is an “Alert.” That’s the second-most severe level.
According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), an emergency classified as an “Alert” would be an event that could substantially degrade the plant safety; or, a security event that could threaten site personnel, or damage to site equipment is in progress. Any offsite releases of radioactive material that could occur are expected to be minimal.
It’s extremely rare for a “General Emergency” to occur, according to energy officials. However, if it did occur, it would require a specialized team for dose monitoring and other protective actions.
“They will also focus on monitoring the status of the facility… monitoring the status of any radiological release… and communicating that with the state and county, in case we need to elevate the event level…make another protective action recommendation… based on evacuations or sheltering…,” Bousum said.
For a full list of the NRC’s emergency classifications, click here.
Wolf Creek Generating Station’s emergency preparedness plan for 2023 is included below.