EM Forum Presentation — October 26, 2011

U.S. Radiological Response to the 2011 Japan Earthquake

Steve Sugarman, MS, CHP, CHCM
Health Physics Project Manager
Radiation Emergency Assistance Center / Training Site (REAC/TS)

Steven M. Johnson
Regional Response Coordinator
DOE/NNSA Region 2 Radiological Assistance Program (RAP)

Amy Sebring
EIIP Moderator

This transcript contains references to slides which can be downloaded from http://www.emforum.org/vforum/DOE/RadResponse.pdf
The video recording of the live session is available at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm111026.wmv
The audio podcast is available at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm111026.mp3

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone and welcome once again to EMForum.org. I am Amy Sebring and will serve as your Moderator today. We are very glad you could join us.

Today’s topic is the U.S. Radiological Response to the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami which damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor leading to radiation leaks and triggering a 30 kilometer evacuation zone surrounding the plant. Today’s guests participated in the U.S. response, and will provide an overview of the support provided and some of the challenges faced by responders.

We are making a Live Meeting recording and an audio only MP3 version, which should be available later this afternoon. The text transcript will be posted early next week. If you are not on our mailing list, you can subscribe from our home page, and then you will get a notice when these materials are ready.

[Slide 1]

Now it is my pleasure to introduce today’s guests: Steve Sugarman serves as Health Physics Project Manager with the Radiation Emergency Assistance Center / Training Site (REAC/TS) where he is responsible for responding to calls for radiation emergency assistance and performing radiation dose assessments as part of the medical response. Steve also develops educational materials and teaches REAC/TS specialized continuing medical education courses.

Our second guest, Steve Johnson, serves as Regional Response Coordinator for the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration Region 2 Radiological Assistance Program emergency response asset. Steve also serves as RAP Team Leader and Senior Energy Official in support of the RAP, and as an Oak Ridge Office Emergency Operations Center Director.

Please see today’s Background Page for further biographical information and a number of links to relate to today’s topic.

Welcome to you both and thank you very much for joining us today. I now turn the floor over to Steve Sugarman to start us off please.


Steve Sugarman: Thank you and good afternoon. I’m Steve Sugarman, the health physics project manager at REAC/TS in Oak Ridge, Tennessee where our expertise is medical management of radiation incidents. I’ll talk a little bit about what we did in regards to the Fukushima incident.

[Slide 2]

First of all, to tell you a little bit about REAC/TS—we are a response asset of the Department of Energy, available 24 hours a day, and seven days a week. Our primary mission is radiation medicine and advice and consultation, health physics radiation dose assessment to help support the medical folks.

We have deployable emergency response teams consisting of a physician, health physicist, nurse paramedic who are available to respond as the situation may dictate.

[Slide 3]

In order for us to meet our DOE commitments we have to be able to deploy in the continental United States within four hours. If it is outside the continental United States, we deploy within six hours. Quite honestly, we usually come in way ahead of those numbers when it comes to a potential deployment, but those are the standards to which we are held.

We do a lot of international collaboration. We are a collaboration center with the World Health Organization and a member of their Radiation Emergency Medical Preparedness and Assistance Network, and we are also a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Response and Assistance Network.

We don’t just respond to domestic issues here in the United States, but we work the international community in response, policy setting and various things of that nature as well.

[Slide 4]

There are different types of courses we do at REAC/TS since radiation emergencies thankfully don’t happen a lot, we do a lot of training as well—continuing medical education courses, primarily. You can see on the screen a typical year at REAC/TS. We have eight three and one half day courses that we do geared toward emergency room folks.

We have two advanced radiation medicine courses for longer term care. We have three courses for physicists, and some pre-hospital courses, and specially designed courses as well. These courses are accredited by the ACCME. We do CME credit hours for physicians and nurses as well. We are funded by the Department of Energy. These courses are funded by DOE.

I’m not trying to sell anything. These are your tax dollars at work. If you are interested, please go to our website and see what is available to learn a little bit more about how to respond to these types of incidents.

[Slide 5]

One of assets that we have here at REAC/TS that really comes into play in incidents of this magnitude is cytogenetic biodosimetry. Cytogenetic biodosimetry is looking at chromosomal aberrations that are caused by radiation injury. If you look up in this section of the screen, you can see a dicentric chromosome, and that is a chromosome with two centromeres—those two little pinch points of that chromosome.

It is a very unique marker of radiation damage. We can take lymphocytes, stimulate them to divide, a cytogeneticist looks for this aberration. The number of aberrations per number of cells will give us the dose as it relates to a dose curve. REAC/TS has the only commercial cytogenetic biodosimetry lab certified in the United States that I am aware of right now.

The military has another biodosimetry lab but these are in fairly short supply, but again, very important in helping to monitor radiation doses or verify dose estimates.

[Slide 6]

What are we here to talk about? What happened? March 11, 2011, a magnitude nine earthquake struck the epicenter near the island of Honshu, Japan. This earthquake, about an hour later, resulted in a tsunami getting to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant—about a 13 to 15 meter wave. In U.S. units, that is about 40-50 feet.

It hit the retaining walls around the nuclear power plant which were about six meters high (about 20 feet), so this wave dwarfed those retaining walls. There were six units at this plant. One, two and three were operational. Four, five and six were down for maintenance in various stages. The reactors that were operating shut down. They did what they were supposed to do—they scrammed.

The control rods dropped down into the reactors and the reaction stopped. The problem came from the high water that came over the wall. It affected the auxiliary power systems, primarily the diesel generators that were their last line of defense. They couldn’t get the power back up to the reactor. That is what made the news.

[Slide 7]

Here you can see some pictures of where this was. If you’re bad at geography like I am you can see where Japan is, where the earthquake struck, some pictures of the plant and the water rushing in as well. You can see this was a fairly major issue at this location.

[Slide 8]

REAC/TS received the first call due to this accident on March 11. At that point in time we went operational. Our director, Dr. Albert Wiley and myself manned this response for REAC/TS for the first couple of weeks after this. We responded to over 200 calls for assistance in the first couple of weeks. These came from government, the public, the media—over 500 emails were generated early on in this response as well.

We got hit pretty hard and pretty quickly for our area of expertise, which is a very small niche.

[Slide 9]

We provided advice to many different people—members of the general public, the media, occupational health positions. Doctors were asking us questions about people they had deployed there. We have relief organizations that want to deploy there—what do we do?

Corporate management, primarily for U.S. companies that had people in Japan—of course, DOD, DOE, the alphabet soup of U.S. governmental organizations, and Japanese government public health officials—of course, obviously this was domestically and international where these calls came from.

[Slide 10]

What were the questions from the United States government? Primarily it was assistance on radionuclide contamination screening methods—the primary radioisotope of concern, at least early on, was iodine 131 so that is what we primarily concentrated on. We were looking at early screening methods—what could we do to determine primarily if there was a problem, or not a problem, in particular instances we were being asked.

We developed some rapid screening criteria. We had a lot of questions on the medical use of KI, which is potassium iodide; when and how to use it, and if it was even needed. Later on we had questions on the medical use and availability of a drug called Prussian Blue, which is a drug primarily used for intake of cesium which is another predominant radioisotope that is involved in nuclear power generation.

[Slide 11]

What were the typical questions we got? Is it safe for me to be in Japan? Is it safe for my family or friends to be there? Do I need to take potassium iodide? We had one caller from state of Texas who said they had just taken a pill—do they need to take another one? The answer was no. Where do I get it? Does my company need to evacuate? How can they be screened to rule out contamination?

If you look at these questions, they are all basically the same question based on being afraid and having concerns about what was going on and was it safe for people who were there.

[Slide 12]

The typical guidance we gave them was to follow public health guidance. The media was there giving what the public health officials were saying, they’ve got programs in place to communicate guidance to the people. We felt it was appropriate for people to follow what that guidance is. It is hard to sit here on the other side of the world second-guessing what the Japanese public health officials were saying.

We said to take what the media in Japan is telling you as the public health guidance, and follow that. When talking to physicians, we provided diagnoses and treatment guidelines that were published by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), NCRP (National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements), the CDC, FDA, and NRC, and also what we have published in a pocket guide that is available under REAC/TS website.

There was no real or significant potential for acute health effects outside the exclusion area we saw, particularly within the United States. We have not seen anything to lead us to believe there were acute health effects associated with this particular incident. One thing we did have to tell people was to make sure to consult with a physician before doing anything that was not advised by public health officials.

People wanted to take things into their own hands and make their own decisions, and drugs shouldn’t be taken without a consultation with a physician first.

[Slide 13]

What were our observations? Calls were received at all hours. Japan is on a twelve hour time difference, so morning there was night for us. We had to be available for that and adjust our schedules accordingly to deal with this.

Not surprisingly, there was a general fear of radiation among the public. The public includes the medical response community—physicians, nurses, emergency planners and emergency responders—they were out there and in a lot of cases they didn’t have a lot more knowledge about radioactive materials than other members of the general public.

There was a general fear there that we had to address. A lot of questions that came to us were based on those fears and concerns dealing with radiation. We found there was a general need for education with regard to medical response to these types of incidents. The medical community needed it at all levels—federal, state levels, including within governmental agencies as well.

[Slide 14]

The media played a terribly important role in this. I think a lot of us, as we were going through the media—and this probably applies to really any emergency situation—people tend to get their news from internet type sources, newspaper, TV, and this type of thing. I know as I was reading through the internet trying to find things, there was so much there, and I was reading through the headlines.

Quite frankly, the headlines weren’t all the time necessarily accurate in what they were saying. They were there to get your attention. That played a huge role in shaping public opinion in what was going on. People would scan through, get some ideas and sort of think they had the facts, when in actuality they had the attention-getters. This played a huge role.

So the communication skills to be able to accurately and simply relay what is going on are essential. This applies when dealing with media. We spent a significant amount of time trying to shape our message in a way that was obviously truthful and understandable to anyone that may be receiving that message.

We didn’t want to just be technically correct, but we wanted to be understandable as well. This was to the public, interoffice, intergovernmental agencies, the media—everybody we dealt with.

[Slide 15]

To put all of this in a nutshell the majority of our response was based on dealing with public fear and concern, primarily within the United States, but somewhat internationally, about what happened as a result of this and what the health effects would be, and how to deal with those particular issues.

With that I have hit my allotted time here. Thank you for your attention, and I look forward to any of your questions.

[Slide 16]

Amy Sebring: Thank you. Now we turn it over to Steve Johnson.

Steve Johnson: Thank you, Amy. It is a pleasure to have an opportunity to talk to you this afternoon about what the Department of Energy’s emergency response assets role was with respect to the operation Fukushima Dai-ichi. That name was developed by the Department of Defense and utilized for missions that they are involved with.

What I want to talk about is to tell you about the partners that we participated with, the specific assets that played a role in the response from the National Nuclear Security Administration. What were the objectives for the operations? What were our roles and responsibilities of the various assets?

A timeline of the activities involved from the beginning to the termination of our involvement, and then, as Steve did, we’ll go through some lessons learned as we identified as an organization during our involvement.

[Slide 17]

What you see here is an example of what Steve mentioned a minute ago about a statement of the problem. The magnitude of the earthquake really—the Fukushima Daiichi plant would have been able to operate to some level of magnitude after the earthquake, but the tsunami is the one that really got them when they lost their backup power and the water came into various locations of the complex.

There is also another power plant, Fukushima Dai-ni. The Department of Energy’s assets had very little involvement, if any, in that complex, but they certainly had issues that they are probably today continuing to deal with. They weren’t to the magnitude of issues that Dai-ichi experiences. I just wanted to point that piece out.

[Slide 18]

Our partners, as you can see here, were many. The Department of State was primarily the lead effort for the United States, but certainly the Department of Defense because of their multiple installations, bases over in Japan had a significant role to play. DOE and NNSA, obviously—the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had a significant role to play because of the reactor safety issues.

The Advisory Team for Environment, Food and Health, which is a sub-component of FRMAC (the Federal Radiological Monitoring Assessment Center)—individuals from that entity also had a role to play.

Other agencies within the U.S. that factored into the response in some way were the Environmental Protection Agency. They were considered to be the lead for U.S. domestic monitoring. Even the DOE assisted in that effort by having some fixed monitoring sites that were located in the Pacific Northwest Laboratory in Washington and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. The data was collected by our fixed monitoring sites and then provided to the EPA.

In addition to that, the Department of Commerce, via NOAA (the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) assisted in trying to develop some oceanic plume modeling capabilities in Japan.

The DOE was considered to be and imported by the President as the lead for consequence management, while the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was considered to be the lead for response efforts for the nuclear power plant reactor status in coordination with the government of Japan and the agencies you see on the right of this slide. These were many of the agencies we interfaced with at some point in time during our involvement in the event. Certainly a couple were significant role-players in this response—METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) as well as the Administration of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). That entity did a lot with the monitoring activities during the event.

[Slide 19]

With respect to the assets that the DOE and National Nuclear Security Administration manages, this wagon wheel shows you those assets. Those colored red would be more likely to be involved with ‘crisis’ type issues. Those colored blue would be involved in ‘consequence’ management events.

At the seven o’clock position, the Radiological Assistance Program (RAP) is multi-colored because we have the ability to either support a crisis response situation or a consequence management event. The Federal Radiological Monitoring Assessment Center, which is referred to—we only utilize that term for continental United States events, however there were numerous personnel from that asset that deployed to Japan in support of the event.

We didn’t call it a FRMAC event—we called it a consequence management event because it occurred internationally. As Steve said, REAC/TS had a significant involvement in trying to calm fears and addressing concerns of various medical facilities, businesses, and citizens who inquired as to what actions they should take.

The Aerial Measuring System, which is an aerial asset capability that we utilize—either a fixed wing aircraft or a rotary wing aircraft—we did not deploy the aircraft, but the equipment that goes inside an aircraft and did significant overflights, as you’ll learn about in just a few minutes.

The National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center (NARAC) which manages the ARAC modeling capability was significantly involved in running various models and doing numerous analyses during the time we supported the situation. The Radiological Assistance Program personnel augmented those personnel from the FRMAC asset and deployed over and functioned in various capacities as either scientists or health physics monitoring personnel during our deployment.

[Slide 20]

Operation Tomodachi Objectives: We were basically there to assist the State Department. As I mentioned, they were the overall lead in coordination with the President. We tried to help them develop criteria for advice on American citizens on what protective actions and evacuations guidelines should be. Consistent with that, we also helped the DOD do the same thing because the military had the responsibility for what I call HADR, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief ops for the departure and return of military dependents.

They did a voluntary evacuation of dependents in Japan. They were allowed to go pretty much anywhere they wanted to go in the United States. They were evacuated either by boat or aircraft. We had to help them to decide when the appropriate time was to return was based on the current status of things. We also played a significant role in partnering with the government in Japan in coordination with the State Department in doing guidelines for protection of their public citizens, Japan’s citizens, who were impacted by the releases that were ongoing.

[Slide 21, 22]

Coordination & Advice: That was one of our responsibilities. We partnered with the United States Forces Japan (USFJ) and had numerous meetings on a daily basis to discuss aerial measuring systems operations because they were the ones who flew the aircraft that did our missions when the weather cooperated each day.

Radiological consequent management advice for the US Ambassador and the USFJ we provided—we conducted planning and operations and assessments on a continuing basis with those ministries I mentioned on a previous slide. We also did field expedient early warning system deployment while the reactors were considered unstable, which was generally the entire time we were involved in this response.

That particular deployment consisted of detection equipment we put in vehicles that we put in stationary locations that helped identify and measure dose rates at that particular location and we were able to telemetry that information back to our command posts. These activities were critical in helping decision makers make more informed and better decisions with respect to the people who they had the responsibility to protect.

[Slide 23]

Transitioning over to the DOE Timeline and how we got involved—as Steve mentioned, several assets got involved on the first day of the event basically. We’ll talk about how things evolved for each of the assets.

On the 11th, the Nuclear Incident Team which is located in Washington, D.C. and is co-located (we have a separate room) with the 24 hour notification center—they got turned on. It is basically a team that becomes activated and manages all the assets that are deployed or at least activated to support a situation.

We also identified our individual who became part of the DART (Disaster Assistance Response Team) that would deploy to Tokyo in a couple of days, as you’ll see in a minute. NARAC turned on that day and began running ARAC models with various scenarios and then the Consequence Management Home Team, which was at Remote Sensing Laboratory and utilizes experts from Sandia National Lab and Lawrence Livermore National Labs—they were activated.

That is basically a home team of health physicists and scientists that can develop products. They are a think tank and they can do a lot of analyses of various data that is incoming from a particular event. As Steve said, REAC/TS was activated on that day as well.

[Slide 24]

On the 14th, we received direction from the White House to deploy the CMRT that had AMS capability. If you recall, I said we did not deploy any aircraft but did deploy pods of equipment that could fit on military aircraft. These individuals or teams deployed via military airlift to Yokota Air Base.

It consisted of a non-standard team that was designed to autonomously handle any of the missions we might be asked to do when the workload came up quickly. We had to be flexible, but we were also designed to be able to conduct two simultaneous AMS missions daily and two ground monitoring missions daily.

For various reasons that did not always occur, but we were at least set up to do that. We also deployed personnel and equipment with that team that could address logistical issues—as you might imagine there were many of those—and to deal with communications equipment maintenance and our documentation of the event—activities we were involved with.

[Slide 25]

On the 16th, we arrived in the Yokota Air Base and flew our first AMS flight. On the 17th, we got our first data from the AMS and we did our first field monitoring mission with our HPs. The LNO (Liaison Officer) was deployed to specific command in Honolulu to support the military at their request.

Basically what LNOs are—and we do this on a periodic basis for any event—we will deploy liaison officers to either emergency operation centers or other agencies that are involved with the event so that they understand what activities DOE is doing and we can explain some of the data that is being generated.

We also typically deploy, in the states for example, LNOs to a state’s operation center or a local community emergency operation center for the same reason.

On the 22nd, the initial data was published on the DOE website. Some of you may have logged onto the DOE website periodically during the situation to get a feel for what was going on. They would do briefing slides periodically to give those individuals updates on the situation.

[Slide 26]

Aerial monitoring activities were conducted on a UH1 helicopter or a C12 fixed wing aircraft depending on the areas that were going to be flown on a particular day,. We did up to three flights a day. Generally speaking, that occurred rarely because of weather conditions. In March, it snows in Japan and the winds were bad and the fog was bad at times. Weather varied between rain, snow, fog and wind such that three flights per day occurred on a rare basis.

The flights were done both by DOE using military aircraft and military personnel as well as the government of Japan. For obvious reasons, we did this to map out the ground deposition around the nuclear power plant complex. We tried to do that around about an 80 km distance to help decision makers make more informed decisions about various things.

[Slide 27]

Ground Monitoring: We did mobile mapping, in-situ and exposure rate data collection, both air and soil samples—numerous ones of those—contamination swipes—those were done by the military. They have bases there, ships at sea, aircraft involved in flying missions, so the government of Japan, DOD and DOE were the main entities doing ground monitoring data.

For obvious reasons, to help calibrate our aerial measurements was the primary reason you always want to find what the isotope mix was—and that was a challenge to say the least—to characterize any inhalation components associated with integrated dose, and then assess the vertical and horizontal migration of deposited material. Those of you who are modelers would better appreciate that than I.

[Slide 28]

Assessments: What did we find? We found no significant impact to the United States. The impact to individuals was minimal over there, thankfully. We determined that radiation levels decreased from our first arrival around the 12th or 13th—that first week—after that first week radiation levels were pretty stable, at least measurement-wise.

No measurable deposit of radioactive material occurred after the 19th. The dose rates at the US bases and facilities, which were our primary locations of support, measured below 32 micro rem per hour, which is the level with no known health effects. Agricultural monitoring and possible interventions we expect to be required for several hundred square kilometers surrounding the site.

I’m sure they are still doing that as we speak today because I know there are still exclusion zones around the nuclear power plant that go out several kilometers.

[Slide 29]

What did we do? We flew more than 85 flights, over 500 flight hours, between the fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft. That is just the DOE side of the house, not the government of Japan. The daily monitoring activities we conducted at the embassy in Tokyo and various military installations around Japan to make sure we could validate the aerial measurements that occurred—over 600 air samples and over 100 in-situ spectra were taken, and over 141 soil samples were accumulated.

Many of these soil samples went to Japanese labs, but a lot of them were shipped to DOE labs—Lawrence Livermore and Savannah River Site analyzed a number of samples sent back from Japan.

[Slide 30]

The data we collected was a joint effort between the U.S. and Japan. As I mentioned, MEXT, one of the primary agencies for collecting data along with US Forces Japan, were the primary data collectors. We collected data from the fixed wing and the helicopter flights at altitudes ranging from 150 to 700 meters for basically the entire month of April.

Exposure rates averaged over area of 300 meters to 1500 meters in diameter. There was no data near the town of Inawashiro because of the mountainous terrain and we could not access it easily with our aircraft. Cesium deposition was determined from aerial and ground based measurements, and the ratio of cesium 137 to 134 was uniform across the survey region.

We did not take any data over the nuclear power plant regions for obvious reasons, because of the situation being quite unstable for the entire time we were there. The survey boundary we chose was based on many preliminary measurements that were taken regarding the deposition.

[Slide 31]

These next slides represent examples of exposure rate measurements at various time periods. This one happens to be between the 26th and 28th of March. You can see that all of these show exposure rate at one meter.

[Slide 32]

The next slide shows at the ten or eleven o’clock position if you consider that first inner circle as a clock, you can see the primary levels of contamination were identified. That stayed pretty consistent for obvious reasons—that is the direction the wind was blowing at the time of release, unfortunately. The majority of the time, actually, the winds blew out towards the water.

They did vary daily. For the most part, the primary direction of the winds was toward the water, but unfortunately not at the time of the release.

[Slide 33]

You’ll see in each of the slides that the area of impact slightly decreases each time period from the decay. This is from the first of part of April to the middle of April.

[Slide 34]

This is from the middle of April to the end of April. There is a slight change and I suspect the decay levels have gone down further since the April time frame since it has been four or five months since that time. It gives you a feeling.

These are plots that we ran, but I can tell you that ARAC ran so many models that I would have hated to be the printers that printed that off and had to display those in various locations. There were a lot of decision makers wanting various copies of maps so they could look at them—not just on a computer screen, but in person.

[Slide 35]

What of the end state? That was an interesting challenge in and of itself in that trying to decide when to back out of a situation. The situation was really not known that well. It was still unstable. We just knew based on the equipment we were using that the situation didn’t seem to be getting significantly worse. We just didn’t know the status of the reactors.

The government of Japan and US Forces Japan continued monitoring activities as needed. We did a lot of training with the Japanese to help them understand how to use some of our aerial measuring equipment that we left with them. They have laboratory analysis capabilities, so I’m sure they are continuing to do that on an ongoing basis.

We do continue to provide some support with our Consequence Management Home Team personnel as they periodically talk to them on the phone or email them information that they would like them to analyze further.

[Slide 36]

I want to transition to lessons learned or what I might say are successes and challenges. This particular response was the first time a full complement of DOE assets from a Consequence Management capability had deployed to such a large scale nuclear emergency. We had deployed some of them but not to the degree with did this time.

DOE performed on-the-fly analyses to deal with multiple ongoing releases, unknown source terms, challenging terrain and non-technical pressures. That would primarily be political pressures, as you can appreciate. They were significant. I can’t underestimate that point.

Scientists developed customized products for the military on a continuing basis. We were embedded with the Japanese to create joint data products. It didn’t start out that way, but as time went on the relationships grew nicely and they started to work together a lot better.

Steve mentioned a number of challenges. Communication was a challenge. We had interpreters, but it was a challenge. It took time for the relationship to grow. Social differences exist, as you might expect between the U.S. and Japan in how they do and see things, so we had to adjust and be flexible. As time went on, the relationships were significantly improved and the operation became smoother as they dealt with various things.

[Slide 37]

Liaison Officers proved important. They had liaison officers at military bases in Japan, at the embassy, and at PACOM, that proved beneficial. We validated that in this response. It was the first time the Nuclear Incident Team, which is co-located where the 24 hour notification center is located in D.C.—it was the first time they had coordinated with the White House and Senior DOE management during a radiation/nuclear emergency.

You might appreciate that you have extreme difficulty in drills and exercises to get senior management to participate. But in something like this, they came out of the woodwork to participate so it was a challenge for the NIT to coordinate with those entities for the event. It was a good experience for them and we learned a lot from that.

We used the same vehicle each day which allowed us some operational efficiencies from a standpoint of utilizing equipment and being able to store it overnight.

[Slide 38]

One of the most challenging things for us, as I transition to challenges, was the unknown reactor status source term along with the chronic releases that continued to occur. In my involvement in it, we changed the source term. We thought we understood a lot more than I think we really did associated with the reactor status itself.

As time went on, we were fortunate that the situation didn’t worsen based on what we now know. Certainly we sent detection equipment out there that we would have been able to identify that very quickly. Trying to develop an operations plan when you don’t have that information is extremely challenging.

Extended operations challenged several of our resource components. We have never had a deployment that lasted that long. Some individuals made two different trips to Japan. We tried to keep deployments between two or three weeks in nature. Certainly, you can appreciate if you are going to go that far in distance for your deployment you want to stay an amount of time where it makes sense.

Information tracking, data management and prioritization was extremely challenging as well. We had so much information coming in and so much data to be analyzed and sorted we got a look at some different ways to manage data because we became overwhelmed in that arena.

There was no mechanism to fund a foreign consequence management mission. That is something the U.S. government—this doesn’t just relate to DOE in general, but any agency that supported that response. This wasn’t a very good way to address expenditures that occurred in support of that response.

[Slide 39]

There was no formal policy for coordinating the interagency roles and responsibilities concerning all the various activities that occurred—whether it was monitoring, product development—you had various organizations wanting to do this or that, so you had duplication of effort in some cases. You may have had contradictions in data product development, or at least in the results, depending on what their input was into the product they developed.

There was also a poor expectation for quality and timeliness of data products developed and delivered to various customers. Part of that, I think, is contributed toward, at least within DOE, when we execute drills or exercises we provide data in a timeframe that I think is unreasonable. Either we create it prior to the exercise occurring, or because we don’t go to the level of effort of analyzing it to come up with a particular answer the decision makers need because we realize it is a drill or exercise.

When we have a real event such as this with the significance and importance of this event, we took a lot more time to make sure we were doing it right. We had created a false sense of security by drills and exercises conducted in the past. The customers expected the turnaround time to be much faster than it turned out to be.

Re-evaluating the process for packaging, shipping, and tracking samples—I think we thought we had a pretty good process in place, but we found out that certainly doing it internationally had some challenges we had not appreciated until we went through the process.

Situational awareness within DOE/NNSA—Steve mentioned this as well—the time change difference between the various locations—we had people in Hawaii, and Japan, all three time zones of the U.S. that were involved in this. Maintaining situational awareness was challenging, making sure we knew what everybody was doing.

[Slide 40]

DOE was considered the lead for consequence management activities and the NIT was considered the one-stop shop for DOE involvement in general. Unfortunately, we have to work on that internally in house. NIT did not always know what DOE components outside of the emergency response assets were doing.

Other entities within DOE had a lot of other involvement in supporting this event. We took robots over there, we sent other reactor experts to Japan to help try to analyze the situation. Unfortunately, there was not a very good central coordinating point of information flow for the NIT so they could understand the big picture.

Resource coordination by the private sector with interagency and intra-agency needs to be improved. Many commercial entities from within the United States and other countries offered their support to the government of Japan. Understandably so, they had a lot of expertise and knowledge to provide. It was beneficial.

Unfortunately, they did that independently, and a lot of times there were duplications of efforts. There were supplies and resources being provided that already existed. If the central coordinating point wasn’t aware of that, they might have requested that resource not knowing that it had already arrived or was en route.

With something of the magnitude of this response, you can appreciate that is going to occur. You try to minimize it the best you can, but certainly that is a challenge. This ends my presentation. I’ll turn it back over to Amy.

[Slide 41]

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much, Steve and Steve. That is an excellent picture of what you all were doing. Now, to proceed to our Q&A and audience comments.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Jordan Nelms: How were your in-country operations organized and coordinated? Did you implement an organizational structure along the lines of ICS with the use of IAPs?

Steve Johnson: I do not believe that incident action plans (IAPs), in fact I’m certain the IAPs were not used in the ICS format. I do not have the reasons why that did not occur, however my belief is that because the operation was international, maybe Japan wasn’t comfortable with that. Since I was not personally in Japan, I don’t know why that specifically was not done. Certainly the magnitude of the event and the various organizations that participated might have contributed to that not being done as well.

Stephen Payne: For Steve Sugarman - Are the I-131 screening procedures available via the REACTS web site?

Steve Sugarman: The screening procedures themselves are not. We did some rapid screening things just to help some people make some very early early decisions. On the REAC/TS website in the pocket guide, there are potassium iodide administration guidelines that are radiation dose based. You can find those there. The screening guidelines were so rule of thumb, we did not publish those.

William R. Cumming: Was the US response self-initiated or requested by the Government of Japan and who led the White House involvement?

Steve Johnson: It was requested by the government of Japan through the U.S. embassy in Japan. The way the process works, as I understand it, is the government of Japan sends a request to the U.S. embassy in Japan, who in turn coordinates with the Department of State in the U.S. and the Department of State is the lead to all the other agencies that might be expected to have a role with that response. All direction for any assets being deployed, whether that be DOE or other government agencies, has to be coordinated through the Department of State. You have to get all the appropriate paperwork in place before you depart.

Avagene Moore: Mr. Sugarman - No doubt there is a general lack of knowledge of the basics of the radiation topic among our citizens and apparently physicians need help as well. If you could be king for a day based on your experience about the type of questions asked after this incident, what means would you use to educate the public about the hazards of radiation?

Steve Sugarman: I just kind of like the idea of being king for a day. I think when it comes to educating the public we have to start making this a long-term goal. A colleague and I were just talking today. Radiation wasn’t really known about until 1895, and up until 1945, with the exception of medicine, it was more of a toy. Going to fluoroscopy and watching your toes wiggle in your shoes and this type stuff.

In 1945, the opinion of radiation sort of changed. Twenty years after that, it was "duck and cover" and even today you see Spiderman and the Hulk, which are mutations. That has really engrained things in our heads a lot. Prior to really educating people, you have to get them past their general fears and make them willing to listen to what the facts are.

If I were king for a day, I would speed up that timeframe so that I could get our kids educated so that future generations don’t have the same phobias and when these types of incidents occur, they can objectively listen to recommendations that are being given by public health or other officials.

My response to that it is going to take some time and we have to recognize the true problem and get to it step by step.

Amy Sebring: In doing your communications during the incident, do you make a point to relate—these numbers are very unfamiliar to anyone other than scientists—to normal background levels?

Steve Sugarman: When I do it, I try to approach it three or four different ways and then look at the audience or who I am speaking to, an individual or a group, and see what their responses are. In some cases I may tell a person they have received 1750 millirem of dose and that number is big and intimidating.

I may approach that person and say that for me, as a radiation worker, can receive 5000 millirem every year, and knowing what I’m talking about, I think that is a very acceptable risk for me. That puts that number in relation.

Some people will look at that and say, "But you choose to get 5000 millirem a year. I did not choose this 1750 millirem." So when communicating you have to have multiple plans of attack for how to address an issue. People’s risk assessment is very individual.

I ride a motorcycle, and not being the sharpest knife in the drawer, if Tennessee did not have a helmet law, I’m not sure I’d wear a helmet. But every time I get in a car I put on a seatbelt. That is my individual way of looking at it. I don’t think many of you would look at it the same way.

We have to address those differences and look in different ways to communicate the same point to many different people. You have to have multiple toys in your pocket to pull out.

Isabel McCurdy: Are there radioactive concerns for the oncoming contaminated debris coming to our respective coastlines in Canada and USA from this incident?

Steve Johnson: Not that I’m aware of. I will tell you that sure, waters did get contaminated significantly at least at the entrance location from the nuclear power plants. But again dilution helps that in a significant way. I am not aware of any impacts identified by the EPA associated with the U.S. and territories. Steve would you agree?

Steve Sugarman: I agree. I have not seen any numbers that would make me think that there would be any significant risk associated with anything from the plume, in the water or the air. A friend of mine detected the iodine in Pennsylvania. What that is, I think, is more of a testament to our ability detect minute levels than to the risk they actually pose.


Amy Sebring: We have run out of time. We did not get to all the questions but most of them. Time to wrap. On behalf of Avagene and myself and all our participants today, thank you very much Steve and Steve. We appreciate your taking the time to be with us and share this information.

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