Radiological Safety Program

Provides Ohio EPA staff with radiological technical advice and the Ohio Utility Radiological Safety Board with environmental expertise.

Ohio EPA maintains a team of environmental responders who go to the Ohio and county emergency operations centers to staff technical advisory and support positions. These people have trained in radiation protection for the public and environmental health issues that would result from a nuclear plant accident. In addition, Ohio EPA maintains a Radiation Assessment Team (RAT) that takes environmental samples. The Agency Health Physicist also works closely with the Interagency Radiological Emergency Planning (IREP) committee and the Ohio Utility Radiological Safety Board (URSB).



Utility Radiological Safety Board (URSB)

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s purpose is to maintain a safe and healthy environment for the population of Ohio. To support the goals of the Utility Radiological Safety Board (URSB), Ohio EPA's Radiological Safety Program collects and monitors performance trends of monthly, annual, and special operating reports on air, water, and hazardous waste generation from the nuclear plants. A synopsis is presented to the URSB on a quarterly basis. The Agency has one full-time staff Health Physicist and 25 other employees who devote a portion of their time to the activities supported by the Board and for emergencies. Each one contributes their particular expertise to the work of the Board, as it is needed. 

Radiological Assessment Team

Ohio EPA created the Radiation Assessment Team (RAT) more than 25 years ago after the Three Mile Island nuclear plant accident. Currently, operations of the RAT are funded by a grant from First Energy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC). Personnel salaries for this activity, equipment, supplies and training are part of this grant. This team is a direct result of a requirement by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that Nuclear Power Plants must have a state contingency plan for a potential release of radioactive material from any of the three facilities potentially affecting Ohio. The RAT is administered by DERR, Central Office, and is comprised of multi-divisional volunteers from affected District Offices; NEDO, NWDO, SEDO, and CO. Equipment and survey meters are stored and maintained at the Groveport Field Facility.

Ohio EPA requirements and commitment are outlined in the Ohio Plan for Response to Radiation Emergencies at Commercial Nuclear Power Plants. The RAT is responsible for assessing the environmental impact from a radiological release by sampling various environmental media including; soil, sediment, surface water, ground water, vegetation and snow. The RAT has developed numerous radiological sampling procedures and has purchased the instrumentation and equipment required to do the job. In addition, Ohio EPA has responsibilities involving solid waste and drinking water issues. These activities are outlined in a response plan with all state agencies involved. 

Interface with Federal Government

The Radiological Program at Ohio EPA interfaces with many government entities. In the state, Ohio EPA is a member of the Utility Radiological Safety Board (URSB), an Ohio Board charged with overview of nuclear utility plant operations, safety, and public impact in Ohio. The URSB examines current conditions at the nuclear plants, tracks the operating history, and acts as a consolidated point of entry to the state government for citizen input and requests for utility information.

The Radiological Program reviews Federal documents applicable to nuclear power in Ohio. These documents include; the Federal Register, the Code of Federal Regulations, U.S. EPA publications, Department of Homeland Security, FEMA guidance and rules, and NRC publications and reports. Ohio EPA coordinates its comments and actions on these items with the other URSB and federal agencies as appropriate.

The Reactor Oversight Process (ROP) is a quarterly review by the NRC for every nuclear power plant. These reviews give an overall view of plant performance and allow regulators and other interested parties to plan any actions specific to plant safety. It is found on the NRC web site at Reactor Oversight.

The ROP reports for the nuclear plants around Ohio are: Beaver Valley I and Beaver Valley II, Davis-Besse, and Perry are operated by the First Energy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) which is based in Ohio.
Fermi II is operated by the Detroit Edison Company.

The Four Plants that Affect Ohio Planning

There are two nuclear power plants in Ohio for which the State has primary contingency planning concerns. There are also two power reactors in Pennsylvania and one in Michigan that Ohio includes as part of contingency planning issues. The map below shows these locations and has links to the limited information provided by these plants for public access. To access these files click on the plant name below the picture. Some of these links will take you to a search engine for the latest information.

The red circles on the map indicate the planning zones around each nuclear plant. The smaller circle indicates the Evacuation Planning Zone and extends 10 miles from the plant. This evacuation zone is based on a study of possible plant accidents and is designed to protect the population in the area from over exposure to radioactive contamination. The counties shaded dark gray in the map have developed extensive emergency plans in case of a plant accident and practice these plans in conjunction with the State on a two year cycle.

The larger circles indicate the Ingestion Planning Zone and these extend 50 miles from the plant. This distance is based on the likely distance from the plant where agriculture and food production may be impacted by contamination. The actions in these areas are determined by the State and are practiced in a full scale exercise every 6 years. It may be noted that although the Fermi plant does not have an evacuation Zone in Ohio, the Ingestion Zone extends into Ohio and there are plans in place if there was an accident at the Fermi plant.

In the event of a nuclear plant emergency, a representative from Ohio EPA would respond to the state Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and coordinate the sampling teams in the field with the technical evaluation staff that protect public health and safety. Ohio EPA's position is to direct and track the state monitoring teams in case there is a release of radioactivity, and later to direct environmental sampling to confirm initial computer projections and health advisories issued by the State. The Division of Drinking and Ground Waters also sends a representative to the State EOC to serve as an advisor to both the State and local governments on questions involving public drinking water supplies.

The Radiological Assessment Team (RAT) is coordinated by Ohio EPA representatives in the state EOC. The RAT is tasked with taking environmental samples around a nuclear power plant after an emergency. These samples are used by the State to determine the actual impact on an area. Some samples will be to confirm there is no contamination and some will be looking to determine the extent of contamination if there was a release from the plant during the emergency. The RAT is made up of representatives from the different Ohio EPA program offices that are involved in waste, water, air and normal environmental sampling. In addition to their normal duties and sampling activities, they have semiannual group training exercises directed at maintaining their knowledge and expertise in radiological sampling.

Under the National Contingency Plan, the RAT is one of the State groups that would respond to a terrorist action involving radioactive material. The type of sampling the RAT is trained to perform in a nuclear power plant accident is the same as what would be required to determine the area of impact in the event of a dirty bomb or other radiological threat. 

Ohio EPA Oversight of the Nuclear Plants

Ohio EPA is the environmental member of the Utility Radiological Safety Board (URSB), which was established by Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 4937. To support the goals of the URSB, monthly, annual, and special operating reports on air, water, and hazardous waste generation from the nuclear plants in Ohio are collected by Ohio EPA. These reports are evaluated for indications of, and trends in, environmental compliance and broad operating patterns that may affect safety. Ohio EPA's URSB staff reports this information on a monthly basis and a synopsis is prepared for the URSB meetings on a quarterly basis. In addition, information from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) site that tracks Reactor Status and Event Reports is included. The types of reports received directly by Ohio EPA are explained below. Reported violations of these permits are included in the monthly report and can be found in that Resource Section.

Water Discharges

Ohio EPA receives and evaluates the monthly wastewater discharge reports submitted under National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits administered by Ohio EPA. These permits establish limits on discharges of: hydrocarbons, metals, treatment chemicals, dissolved oxygen, and waste heat from the plant process effluent out falls.

Violations of the NPDES permits by the nuclear plants are infrequent, maybe happening once or twice a year. They are normally for a pH or water treatment chemical, such as chlorine, violation.

Air Emissions

The only routine air emissions associated with the operation of a nuclear power plant are the periodic release of radioactive gases removed from the primary coolant. These gases pass through a series of filters and storage devices to remove most of the radioactivity through normal decay. These emissions are regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) instead of the State.

The only Ohio EPA air permits issued to the Davis-Besse or Perry nuclear plants are for emissions during testing of the emergency diesel generators (EDGs), and the startup boilers which are not used during normal operations. The EDGs provide power to operate plant equipment in case the normal plant power supply is lost.

Because there are no conventional air pollution sources in normal operation at nuclear power plants, no greenhouse gasses are released by these plants by the generation of electric power.

Air emission violations by nuclear plants are extremely uncommon. Those that do occur are usually a smoke report from testing the diesel generators during their normal maintenance.

Solid and Hazardous Waste

Both the Davis-Besse and the Perry plant have a hazardous waste generator identification number. Any facility generating more than 200 pounds of hazardous waste a month must register and obtain this identification number. Hazardous waste is not radioactive waste, that is a different category.

A generator's identification number allows the plant to store and manifest hazardous waste for shipment and disposal offsite. Holders of a hazardous waste generator's identification number must submit an annual report each calendar year to Ohio EPA’s Division of Materials and Waste Management by March 1 of the following year. These reports detail the types of waste generated and the quantities involved. These reports also list where each waste is sent for treatment, storage or disposal.

Hazardous waste violations are infrequent at nuclear power plants.

Nuclear power plants have many of the hazardous wastes normally associated with industrial processes, such as; sludges, cleaners and oils. The plants also have radioactive wastes which are also defined as hazardous in OAC 3745 Sections 50 and 51. These are called mixed wastes. Mixed wastes must be sent to a special disposal facility permitted to handle mixed wastes.

Low level radioactive wastes (LLRW) are non-chemical hazards contaminated with radioactive material, but not other specific radioactive waste. LLRW is currently treated by compacting for temporary storage until a LLRW repository is ready to accept the material. The generation of LLRW from nuclear plants has been decreasing in both volume produced and total radioactivity. This is occurring primarily due to improvement in radiological work practices involving tools and disposable supplies and by increasing costs of LLRW waste disposal.

Community Right-To-Know

Under State and Federal Law, any releases of oil, a hazardous substance, or a hazardous waste in excess of the "reportable quantity" must be reported. Under Section 3750.06 of the Ohio Revised Code, any release of a hazardous waste in excess of one pound must be reported if there is a detectable quantity sent off the site. There have been no right-to-know release reports made by the Ohio nuclear plants.

Under Section 3750.08 of the Ohio Revised Code any industry that stores more than 10,000 pounds of a hazardous material must file a chemical inventory form. This form must be updated and filed by March 1 each year with the state, county, and local fire department. These forms are used in the chemical emergency planning process.

Davis-Besse and Perry have filed the required annual chemical inventory reports.

Water Quality Monitoring and Drinking Water

The Beaver Valley Power Station is located on the Ohio River just east of the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. Both the Davis-Besse and Perry Nuclear Power Plants are located adjacent to Lake Erie. In Michigan the Fermi II plant is located next to Lake Erie near the city of Monroe.

National drinking water standards have been established to ensure that our drinking water does not contain unhealthy levels of contaminants. Contamination standards for inorganic chemicals, volatile organic chemicals, pesticides and herbicides are expressed as maximum contaminant limits (MCL). Public water providers must test their water regularly and submit the results to Ohio EPA. Each year, public water providers have to test their raw and finished water for 83 substances. The level of radioactivity is part of these tests.

There have been no MCL exceedances at the power plant systems or in waters downstream from the power plants. 

Other Agency Services

The Health Physicist provides technical expertise to other divisions of Ohio EPA when they encounter rules or issues involving radioactive material, such as in drinking water and hazardous waste regulations, or site specific cleanup standards.