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EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS in INDIAN NUCLEAR POWER REACTORS. By. Dr. M. C. ABANI. Senior Specialist, National Disaster Management Authority Ex. Head, Radiation Safety Systems Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre Email:[email protected] (Lecture at INS Summit 29-09-2011). VISION.

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Senior Specialist, National Disaster Management Authority

Ex. Head, Radiation Safety Systems Division,

Bhabha Atomic Research Centre

Email:[email protected]

(Lecture at INS Summit 29-09-2011)


Our National Vision is to prevent nuclear and radiological emergencies, which are essentially man-made in nature. However, in rare cases of their occurrence, due to natural or man-made factors beyond human control, such emergencies will be so managed through certain pre-planned and established structural and non-structural measures by the various stakeholders, as to minimise risks to health, life, livelihood, property and environment.


National Disaster Management Authority

Paradigm Shift in Approach to DM

  • From the earlier reactive approach wherein focus was primarily on response and relief to now on prevention, mitigation and preparedness. Now it is Proactive and Holistic approach.

  • Primary objective: Mainstreaming of DM into the Development Process.

  • Create a Culture & ethos of Preparedness & Prevention across the country


i) Outstanding Safety Records at Nuclear Facilities

  • About 140 major radiation related accidents, that have taken place worldwide during the period 1960 to 2005, resulted in about 150 fatalities attributable to radiation – a number which is quite small, though not desirable,compared to the yearly fatalities of more than 5000 in coal mines accidents or 1.2 million deaths in automobile accidents.

  • ii) Public Perception Not Commensurate with Ground Reality

  • Inspite of such outstanding safety records, due to lack of awareness, education and dissemination of authentic and credible information, any small accident in nuclear facility is most often linked by the public erroneously though, only to the events like that at Hiroshima and Nagasaki or Chernobyl.



iii)Nuclear and Radiological Emergency/Disaster – Possible Scenario

  • Due to inherent safety culture, the best safety practices and standards followed and effective regulation by the AERB, chances of a nuclear/radiological emergency arising in a nuclear/radiation facility are extremely low. However, nuclear emergency can still arise due to factors beyond the control of the operating agencies e.g., human error, system failure, sabotage, earthquake, tsunami, cyclone, flood, etc that may still lead to an on-site or an off-site emergency.



It is said that the safety margins in reactor design are so large that an aeroplane designed on such safety margins will never be able to fly.


Objectives of the National Guidelines:

  • To formulate the National Guidelines which, when converted into Action Plans and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) by the concerned stakeholders at various levels of administration, will assist to “prevent the occurrence of such emergencies” in a holistic way, without diluting the actions on the other components of DM continuum. This will call for:

    • either strengthening of the existing nuclear/radiological DM framework;

    • or establishing of new framework wherever not existing

  • To get ready in advance proactively, with a view to “ensure a fast, effective and caring response capability” to cope with any nuclear or radiological scenario in a seamless coordination at various levels of administration.



Objectives of the National Guidelines:

(iii) Various pre-planned and established structural as well as non-structural measures spelt out in the guidelines will lead to:

  • Prevent, to the extent possible, the occurrence of such events leading to severe deterministic health effects on the workers and the public or risk to the environment and to.

  • Limit, to the extent practicable, the occurrence of stochastic health effects on members of public.



  • To achieve these goals, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) with the help of experts from the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), NPCIL, Armed forces and DRDO has prepared the National Guidelines to handle both nuclear and radiological emergencies in public domain.

    Genesis of the Present Guidelines:

  • These National Guidelines prepared and released after the concurrence of DAE as well as AERB.



A Possible Emergency Scenario:

An accident taking place in any nuclear facility of the nuclear fuel cycle, including the nuclear reactor, or in a facility using radioactive sources, leading to a large scale release of radioactivity in the environment. Examples are accidents at TMI, Chernobyl, Fukushima etc.



Four Pronged Strategy for a Holistic Management viz:

(i) The framework to be supported on prominent mainstays like prevention, mitigation,

compliance of regulatory requirements, preparedness, response etc where prevention is assigned highest priority;

(ii) The existing legal framework to be strengthened through various legal and regulatory means, wherever required;




Four Pronged Strategy for a Holistic Management viz:

(iii) The framework is to be institutionalized through:

  • Creation of NDMA at National Level, under Chairmanship of the Prime Minister of India;

  • Creation of State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs), under the Chairmanship of Chief Ministers;

  • Creation of Districts Disaster Management Authorities (DDMAs), under the Chairmanship of District Collectors/Magistrates, with elected representative as the Co-Chairpersons.

  • Local authorities to also deal with mitigation, preparedness and response.

    (iv) The framework will be implemented by strengthening the existing action plans, or by preparing new action plans, wherever required, at national, state and district levels.



Disaster Strikes

  • 3 C’s the Golden Rule of Reactor Safety emergency

  • Controlling the reactor power

  • Cooling the fuel

  • Containing the release of radioactivity into the public domain

  • There is no threat to public safety as long as 3C’s are controlled

  • the 3C’s are essential under all operating

  • conditions:

  • - at all power levels

  • - during normal operation, shutdown or upset

  • Containment emergency

  • Last line of defence against releases

  • If CONTROL and COOLING fail, resulting in fuel failures, public safety depends

  • absolutely on CONTAINMENT integrity

  • For the purpose of the assessment of the situation emergencies are classified as

  • IN-PLANT EMERGENCY – confined to the plant area.

  • 2. ON-SITE EMERGENCY – spread to outside plant perimeter fence and poses hazards to other facilities nearby. Exclusion distance 1.6 Km.

  • 3. OFF-SITE EMERGENCY - magnitude of emergency is such that it is likely to affect areas beyond 1.6 km exclusion distance in public domain.

  • EXCLUSION ZONE - Radius of 1.6 Kms

  • STERILISED ZONE - Radius of 5 Kms

  • EMERGENCY PLANNING ZONE (EPZ) – Radius of 16 Kms

ZONING CONCEPTS AROUND THE INDIAN emergencies are classified as




5 Kms


16 Kms

NUCLEAR & RADIOLOGICAL EMERGENCIES emergencies are classified as

1. Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB): PRESENT STATUS

AERB is the Nuclear Regulatory Authority in the country which, as per the Atomic Energy Act (1962), has the mandate for:

(i) Issuance of licenses to nuclear and radiological facilities and

(ii) Ensuring compliance with the applicable standards and codes.

  • It does not permit operation of a new or existing nuclear power plant or a radiation facility, until the preparedness plans are in place for the postulated emergency scenarios.



  • Prevention Assigned Highest Priority at NPP

    • by adopting the best available technologies and practices to build and operate all engineered systems, during the entire lifecycle of the facilities with strict compliance with the regulatory framework of AERB and

    • by following the defence-in-depth approach to build all safety systems based on diverse working principles with adequate redundancy.

All Indian nuclear power plants have

the 5 levels of defence incorporated.



2.1Physical Protection against Terrorist Attack and Sabotage in Nuclear Facilities

  • Elaborate physical protection systems and in-built structural barriers and safety systems of the nuclear facilities reduce such vulnerability. However, emergency scenario arising from terrorist activity or sabotage activity by disgruntled elements can not be totally ruled out.


NUCLEAR & RADIOLOGICAL EMERGENCIES emergencies are classified as

Defence in Depth Concept


Barriers to Release of Radioactivity

Fig. Safety Barriers emergencies are classified as

(Not to Scale)

The concept of multiple barriers is explained in pictorial form. Normal activities of the public continue as usual beyond the sterilized zone without any restrictions.



  • Emergency Preparedness for Nuclear Facilities emergencies are classified as

  • In case of the nuclear facilities, a proper emergency plan should be prepared which is able to provide a reasonable assurance that appropriate measures will be taken to prevent damage to the MAN, MACHINE and the ENVIRONMENT.The emergency preparedness plan should comprise of the following actions:

  • A quick and reliable monitoring methodology to detect the onset of an emergency situation.

  • Rapid and continuous assessment of the accident situation as it proceeds.

  • Should be able to respond quickly and mobilise resources at a short notice.

  • Prior intimation to be provided to the members of the public likely to be affected.

  • contd.

v) Procedure for communicating to the various First Responders viz., Fire fighting, Police, Medical, Civil Defence and other agencies.

vi) Identification of the conditions which may lead to intervention.

vii) Intervention levels for the protective action.

viii) Iodine prophylaxis.

ix) Action levels for withdrawal and substitution of specific supplies of food and drinking water, for temporary relocation of the exposed persons.

x) Initiation of the countermeasures at the earliest.

xi) Assistance to the affected group of people- providing, shelter, food, water, clothes and medical help.

Initiation of the recovery phase at the proper time.

NUCLEAR & RADIOLOGICAL EMERGENCIES Responders viz., Fire fighting, Police, Medical, Civil Defence and other agencies.-PRESENT STATUS

High Level of Emergency Preparedness

  • Based on severity of the emergencies, detailed emergency response plans are in place at all the nuclear facilities and are functional during entire life time of facility.

  • To cope with an off-site emergency, if any, detailed response plans are put in place by the Collector of the concerned district in coordination with the plant authorities;

  • Additional monitoring and response support coverage is being enhanced through Emergency Response Centers (ERCs);

  • The Crisis Management Group (CMG) of DAE activates the emergency response and coordinates with other agencies for any nuclear/radiological emergencies.

NUCLEAR & RADIOLOGICAL EMERGENCIES – Responders viz., Fire fighting, Police, Medical, Civil Defence and other agencies.GAP ANALYSIS

Present System Needs Strengthening in the Areas of:

(State Governments have major role to play in many of these activities)

Specialised Responseinadequate to cope with any major nuclear/radiological event.

Trainers to Train the First Responders, (senior staff members of para-military forces) trained by BARC & NPCIL so far and the training facilities need considerable augmentation.

Induction of Civil Defence Personnel, Home Guards and Police Forceas the first responders, in addition to the specially trained teams of NDRF, will be useful

Civil–Military Co-ordination to be comprehensively developed so that the services of the select groups of armed forces may be called for, to augment the coping capability of the civil administration,. during any major nuclear accident.

NUCLEAR & RADIOLOGICAL EMERGENCIES – Responders viz., Fire fighting, Police, Medical, Civil Defence and other agencies.GAP ANALYSIS

  • Present System Needs Strengthening in the Areas of:

  • Intervention Levels (for Rescue and Relief Operation by the first responders) and Action Levels (for Control of contaminated Food Consumption in the affected area) should be made available.

  • Development of GIS-based Emergency Preparedness needed for effective response to any emergency.

  • Additional Emergency Response Centres (ERCs), over and above the BARC network, to cope with the radiological emergencies in the area.

  • Augmentation of Inventory of Monitoring Instruments & Personal Protective Gear for the first responders.


NUCLEAR & RADIOLOGICAL EMERGENCIES – Responders viz., Fire fighting, Police, Medical, Civil Defence and other agencies.GAP ANALYSIS

  • Present System Needs Strengthening in the Areas of:

  • Dedicated & Reliable Communication Network (e.g., National Disaster Communication Network), with adequate diversity and redundancy with special emphasis on the last-mile connectivity during emergency.

  • Possible Places of Shelters and Provision of Hygiene Facilities in vulnerable areas and nearby towns are to identified and plans for their conversion to shelters, with proper hygiene, within reasonable time-frame are to be kept ready.

  • Alternate Sources of Food & Water have to be identified in advance and included in the plan (to avoid contaminated food and water).


NUCLEAR & RADIOLOGICAL EMERGENCIES – Responders viz., Fire fighting, Police, Medical, Civil Defence and other agencies.GAP ANALYSIS

  • Present System Needs Strengthening in the Areas of:

  • Network of Adequate Transport Vehicles and Good Motorable Roadsalong the evacuation routes.

  • Trained Medical Professionals, (theirnumbers and capability to work under radiation environment and to treat radiation injuries)and the medical facilities are highly inadequate to handle large scale radiation injury cases in the country.

  • Community Development

  • - Due to the fact that one cannot see, feel or smell the presence of radiation, coupled with lack of credible and authentic information on radiation and radiation emergencies, even a minor nuclear incident is invariably linked with sad memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – a fact that has been further aggravated by the wide publicity given to nuclear reactor accidents at TMI and Chernobyl.


NUCLEAR & RADIOLOGICAL EMERGENCIES Responders viz., Fire fighting, Police, Medical, Civil Defence and other agencies.

  • Training, Mock Drills and Emergency Exercises

  • Quality of preparedness to be ensured through regular training of the various first responders by the CBRN-trained NDRF trainers and the administrative personnel to be ensured. The QRMT/MFR team will form part of the regular mock drill/simulation exercise/table top exercise.


  • COUNTERMEASURES: A number of countermeasures are available Responders viz., Fire fighting, Police, Medical, Civil Defence and other agencies.

  • Sheltering

  • Radio-protective Prophylaxis

  • Respiratory Protection

  • Body Protection

  • Evacuation

  • Personal Decontamination

  • Control of Access

  • Food Control

  • Relocation, and

  • Decontamination of Areas.

Fukushima Accidents : Impact on Indian Nuclear Power Programme

  • Even if power generation in nuclear power plant is shut down, due to any reason, there is continued generation of considerable amount of heat (known as decay heat), produced by decay of radioactive fission products).

    • The amount of such decay heat is 7% of the thermal power (at which the NPP was operating before it tripped and it decays as follows.

Fukushima Accidents : Impact on Indian Nuclear Power Programme

  • Prevention of Nuclear Accidents

  • Highest Priority for Structural Integrity of NPPs against Natural Hazards and Defence-in-Depth for Design of Safe Systems for Reactor Shutdown.

  • The chances of accidents in NPP are made very small (unlike the natural disaster which cannot be prevented at the present level of S&T). It is achieved by

  • ensuring structural integrity of the Reactor Building and Plant Equipment & Machineries to withstand maximum credible forces of natural hazards (like earthquakes, cyclone with storm surges, Tsunami etc).

  • (ii) Proper Site Selection of NPP to a place with low impacts from natural hazards.

Fukushima Accidents : Impact on Indian Nuclear Power Programme

  • (iii) Adopting best available technologies for fabrication / manufacturing, with near defect free equipment / machinery through state-of-the-art inspection methods and

  • (iv) Operation with qualified personnels during various phases of the life time of the reactor (who have been specially trained using simulators to handle each of the postulated design basis accidents (DBAs).

  • (v) Incorporating Shutdown Systems based on diverse principles with adequate redundancy.

  • By postulating various accident scenarios in the plant and incorporating fast acting safety systems (that contains neutron poisons to capture the neutrons from the system)for safe shut down of the reactor against each of these accident scenarios.

  • Existing NPPs are designed to cope with certain Design Basis Accidents (DBAs). In newer generation of NPPs the design should be able to cope with some postulated Beyond Design Basis Accidents (BDBAs) that can lead to off-site emergencies.

Fukushima Accidents : Impact on Indian Nuclear Power Programme

  • Integrity against Seismic Hazard (for both Coastal and in-land NPPs)

  • In India, the nearest tectonic fault is Makran Fault in the west, which is about 900 km from Tarapur.

  • The eastern fault is in the Sumatra region is about 1300 km from Kalpakkam.

  • All power plants in India are in zone II and II except Narora which is zone IV. A Fukushima type of incident in India is almost ruled out.

Fukushima Accidents : Impact on Indian Nuclear Power Programme

  • Integrity against Tsunami Hazard (for Coastal NPPs)

  • Tsunami Hazard is very crucial for deciding NPP location and layout of the plant equipment and machineries so that damages to plant / plant equipment and machineries due to inundation by Tsunami waves is totally avoided, (particularly the damages to all power sources viz Diesel – Class III; Uninterrupted Power System Class II and Battery Banks: Class I.

  • Recently in a meeting with NDMA, the Prime minister has directed that safety in our NPPs should be of world class. As a follow up of this-

  • NDMA proactively visited all the 6 NPP sites, participated in the mock drills and off-site emergency exercises, studied in detail and observed few things, viz

  • District Collector never was an active part of this exercise. Now he is the main stakeholder.

  • Participation of NDRF – a completely trained force in handling of Nuclear /Radiological Emergencies.

Strengthening Medical Preparedness and Response Mechanism and Radiological Emergencies

Due to the absence of any significant number of nuclear/radiation related incidents, there have been very few instances of radiation related injuries. However, it is essential that the medical community is educated and kept informed about the management of radiation injuries.Presently, there is no network of hospitals in the country which can handle radiation-induced injuries on a large scale. The establishment of such a network is essential for handling nuclear emergencies/disasters. There should also be a dedicated and reliable communication facility among hospitals so that, whenever required, they can pool their resources.

Pre-Hospital Preparedness and Radiological Emergencies

  • For a large scale nuclear emergency, a preparedness plan will be drawn up by the concerned district administration. The medical preparedness will also be an important component of such a plan. The medical preparedness plans at the incident site and at the hospital will be integrated to have effective coordination. The chief medical officer of the district will be responsible for all medical matters.

    Quick Reaction Medical Teams (QRMTs) / Medical First Responders (MFRs)

  • The district health authorities will constitute quick reaction medical teams for pre-hospital care. The team consisting of RSOs, medical doctors, nurses and paramedical staff would be equipped with monitoring instruments/equipment, protective gear, decontamination agents and other material. Critical care van with resuscitation and life support systems will be part of QRMT/MFR.

Hospital Preparedness and Radiological Emergencies

  • The tertiary (state and national level) institutions identified in vulnerable areas would have, in addition, facilities such as Radiation Injury Treatment Centre, bone marrow transplantation and stem cell harvesting facilities, genetic lab, molecular lab, immunology lab and facilities to treat mass casualties arising from nuclear war/major accidents in nuclear facilities.

Medical Response following Accidents in a Nuclear Facility and Radiological Emergencies – Decontamination, Triage

  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the concerned state Health Department will activate their respective emergency support action plans to mobilise additional human and material resources. All communication channels and networks prepared for such purpose will be activated;

  • decontamination, triage, administration of de-corporating agents at the site, basic and advanced life support and transportation to the identified hospitals;

  • Patients will be put through necessary triage. and Radiological Emergencies – Decontamination, Triage

  • All individuals will be decontaminated before treatment. However, critical patients may not wait for decontamination and may have to be provided treatment;

  • Those in need of specialised treatment will be shifted to the Radiation Injury Treatment Centres.

  • Contaminated articles will be disposed of following the guidelines of hospital waste management rules.

Similarly with other types of disasters and Radiological Emergencies – Decontamination, Triage

It is important to understand that there may be many other emergency situations like Earthquake, Famine, Flood, Tsunami, Landslide, Riots, a Large scale terrorist attack, Spread of epidemics, etc. Many of the controlled measures suggested here will be relevant even in case of these other calamities. Therefore Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for a nuclear emergency should be a subset of another detailed SOP which should include all the disasters.

Dissimilarity with other types of disasters and Radiological Emergencies – Decontamination, Triage

It is important to understand that this situation is not like a flood type of situation where once the water recedes people can be sent back to their homes. In this case the level of contaminated may be so high that it may take years or even decades, before people can be sent back to their respective homes. Even after 25 years of accident large population of Chernobyl have not been able to return to their homes.

Also in this case relief and rescue teams are also exposed to radiation dose which may be detrimental to their health, if not controlled. Such situation is not there for other natural disasters.

CONCLUSIONS and Radiological Emergencies – Decontamination, Triage

The various actions and steps discussed should be taken at the earliest i.e. during normal time to ensure that an effective emergency preparedness and response system against a nuclear emergency is in place. It includes steps to be taken by the various Ministries and State Govts in terms of establishing trained man power and material resources. All these systems should be kept in a state of readiness and rehearsed periodically.

Once it is known that a system to meet this type of emergency situation is in place, will definitely keep the morale of people very high.

Thank and Radiological Emergencies – Decontamination, Triage