Why GAO Did This Study
On March 11, 2011, a tsunami severely damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan and led to the largest release of radiation since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Japanese authorities evacuated citizens within 19 miles of the plant. GAO was asked to examine issues related to emergency preparedness at nuclear power plants. This report examines (1) federal, licensees’, and local and state authorities’ responsibilities in radiological emergency preparedness, (2) the activities NRC and FEMA take to oversee licensee and local and state radiological emergency preparedness, and (3) NRC and FEMA requirements for informing the public on preparedness and NRC’s understanding of public awareness. GAO reviewed laws, regulations, and guidance; examined emergency plans from licensees and local and state authorities; visited four nuclear power plants; and interviewed federal, local and state, and industry officials.
What GAO Recommends
To better inform radiological emergency preparedness efforts, GAO recommends that NRC obtain information on public awareness and likely public response outside the 10- mile zone, and incorporate insights into guidance, as appropriate. NRC generally disagreed with GAO's finding, stating that its research shows public response outside the zone would generally have no significant impact on evacuations. GAO continues to believe that its recommendation could improve radiological emergency preparedness efforts and is consistent with NRC guidance.