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The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the US Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued internal guidance on March 30 regarding potential discussions with licensees and offsite response organizations (OROs) related to the postponement and rescheduling of radiological emergency preparedness (REP) exercises due to the worsening coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The guidance provides that, although licensees and their respective OROs have the lead in scheduling and conducting REP exercises and may postpone and/or reschedule those exercises without prior approval from either the NRC or FEMA, the regulators request that the licensees and OROs engage with their regional staffs as soon as reasonably possible for the necessary coordination regarding the rescheduling of those exercises.

The guidance also provides that, notwithstanding the fact that the regulators’ investigations and evaluation personnel are likely to become overburdened toward the end of 2020 as a consequence of the rescheduling of many REP exercises, licensees and OROs should not view that overburdening as affecting otherwise mutually agreeable dates on which to conduct those exercises. Indeed, NRC and FEMA agree that “[i]t may become necessary for licensees and OROs to seek exemptions from conducting their exercises prior to the end of CY2020” and that they will consider such requests on a case-by-case basis.

Finally, the guidance advises that agency decisions should be supportive and flexible enough to not create undue burden or hardship on local communities and that “both the NRC and FEMA will be supportive as our stakeholders are making critical and difficult decisions about how to prioritize their time and resources during this National public health emergency.”


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