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Radiation Emergencies
Emergency Response:

Ready to Respond: EPA's Radiological Emergency Preparedness and Response Programs

Ready to Respond
Brochure
EPA 520/1-91-027

This brochure explains EPA's role in preparing for and responding to emergencies.

Overview

We use radioactive materials for medical diagnosis and treatments, defense activities, electric power generation, and industrial processes. There are some risks, however, when using radioactive materials for these beneficial activities. Careful planning and design help minimize these risks, but even the best planning and design is not enough to prevent accidents completely. We must be prepared. The accident at Three Mile Island in 1979 made this need clear.

The accident at Three Mile Island left many Americans wondering, "Who protects the public in a nuclear emergency?" President Carter answered by charting a plan for Federal agencies to work with state and local governments in responding to peacetime radiological emergencies. Approved in 1985 and revised in 1996, the Federal Radiological Emergency Response Plan (FRERP) assigns roles to several Federal agencies that contribute to an emergency response, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The FRERP assigns a Lead Federal Agency responsibility for protecting the public and the environment at the site of an accident, while assigning the State responsibility for protecting the public and the environment beyond the accident site. Other Federal agencies assist the Lead Federal Agency and the State as needed.

EPA's three major responsibilities in the FRERP flow from the Agency's overall mission: to protect human health and the environment. EPA establishes guidelines for protecting the public from radiation exposure, such as when to evacuate or relocate citizens. EPA also monitors and assesses radioactivity in the environment from an accident to define the extent of exposure from that accident. In addition, as the Lead Federal Agency, EPA coordinates the Federal response to an emergency if a nuclear accident occurs in a foreign country or if a domestic emergency involves unregulated material.

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