Operating Alvin W Vogtle Nuclear Plant includes the responsibility of adopting plans and procedures in the event of an emergency.
A team of people works daily to coordinate agencies between four counties and two states.
An annual “Media Day” is an opportunity to explain how the partnership between emergency management agencies, county and state departments and South Carolina agencies work in the event of an emergency. This year it was held December 13 at the Joint Information Center in Waynesboro.
There are four classifications of emergency pertaining to the plant. Notification of an Unusual Event (NOUE) is the least serious. It means there is a minor problem at Plant Vogtle that does not pose any danger to the public. No action should be taken by citizens unless further instructed to respond.
An alert means an event has occurred that could reduce safety at the plant. There should still be no threat to the public.
Residents living in affected areas should be prepared to take whatever action is recommended by state and local government during a Site Area Emergency alert. Updates will be found on local tv and radio stations.
A General Emergency means radioactive material may be released outside the plant site. Sirens will be sounded and information will be distributed by local tv and radio stations.
There are also hostile actionbased events. Instead of evacuating, residents would be asked to shelter in place.
“These are not things that would ever be subjective,” Tickle said. “If something were to occur at the Plant, it is spelled out in very clear terms.”
During an emergency, highly technical information must be translated in a way that the general public can understand it. The Joint Information Center in Waynesboro is designed to hold press briefings onsite. A joint Information System also allows for online briefings as well.
Public Information Officer Burke County EMA Amylia Lester encourages Burke County residents and business owners to sign up for Code Red Alerts, a notification system available on the Burke County government website. There is also a link available on the EMA Facebook page.
“Alerts may be sent out during natural disasters or other types of emergencies, like one at Plant Vogtle,” Lester said and mentioned that if someone moves, they must update their information in order to receive notifications. “We don’t just use it for radiological events, it automatically sends weather alerts. We use the system for various things, not just radiological emergencies.”
There are individual zones mapped out around Plant Vogtle. During an emergency situation, the Emergency Operations Center located in Burke County will let people know if they are in a zone that needs to evacuate. The Burke County High School is used as a reception center where people are monitored for radiation.
There is an Emergency Preparedness page on the Southern Nuclear website. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NCR) has a public information site as well. The Nuclear Energy Institute is a good place for background information .
There are monitors throughout the Plant Vogtle site that check daily radiation levels.
Unit 1 (commissioned in 1987) and Unit 2 (commissioned in 1989) are licensed until 2047 and 2049 respectively. Approximately 900 employees, work on the operating sides of Unit 1 and Unit 2. The number of employees will increase with the commission of Units 3 and 4. Unit 3 is expected to be commissioned during the first quarter of 2023.