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Radiation Emergencies
Emergency Response:

Response Experience: Summary

Emergency Preparedness
and Response

Over the years, EPA's Radiological Emergency Response Team (RERT) has responded to a variety of situations with the potential to require an emergency response. The table below presents the types of incidents to which RERT responds and some of the more significant incident response.

On this page:

Incident Description EPA Response
Monitoring of Radiation from Foreign Incidents
Tokaimura, Japan (1999) Worker error led to the transfer of an excessive quantity of enriched uranium into a precipitation tank, causing an uncontrolled, self-sustained nuclear reaction. EPA fully activated the nationwide RadNet system to monitor radioactivity in U.S. air and pasteurized milk, and found no increase in radioactivity levels.
Chernobyl (1986) Reactor No. 4 exploded and burned, emitting large quantities of radiation. EPA was the Lead Federal Agency, conducting monitoring and assessment in the U.S., and providing public information.
Chinese Atmospheric Nuclear Tests, 1976 The People’s Republic of China conducted two above-ground tests of nuclear weapons. EPA fully activated ERAMS—now called RadNet—to monitor radioactivity in air, precipitation, and pasteurized milk and monitored continuously until levels returned to background levels.
Monitoring of Radiation from Domestic Incidents
Los Alamos Fire (also known as the Cerro Grande Fire) (2000) The Bandolier National Monument fire in New Mexico spread into the Los Alamos National Laboratory reservation, threatening areas with historical radiological contamination. EPA set up low-volume air samplers and a mobile laboratory to monitor the air and ensure that no radiation was released.
Brush Fires at DOE Hanford Reservation (2000) Fires on the Reservation threatened to spread radioactivity to adjacent land. EPA performed off-site air monitoring during the emergency to monitor for radioactivity.
Three Mile Island (1979) A series of mechanical, electrical, and human failures led to the accidental release of radioactive vapor and water into the environment. EPA provided off-site monitoring and assessment, assistance to the Lead Federal Agency, NRC, long-term monitoring after the accident.
Preparing Contingency Plans
Galileo, Ulysses, Cassini, Mars Rovers, and New Horizons Launches (1989, 1990, 1997, 2003, 2006) On board radioisotope thermal generators required preparation for possible radiation incident during launches. EPA assisted NASA, the State of Florida, and DOE by developing contingency plans.
Cosmos Re-Entry (1978, 1988) Soviet satellites containing radioactive materials re-entered the atmosphere. EPA, DOE, and DOD developed contingency plans for possible re-entry over U.S. territory.
Cleaning Up Radioactively Contaminated Sites
Gulf Nuclear Response (2005) A a radioactive source manufacturing facility had large scale contamination of soil and materials. RERT surveyed and analyzed facilities for contamination. They provided guidance and technical assistance to contractors re-mediating these Superfund removal sites.
Preservation Aviation (2005) The company had improperly and dangerously stored over one million WWII-era radium dial aircraft gauge. RERT provided consultation and on-site assistance to EPA Region 9's clean-up operation and the development of a remediation plan.
Brookhaven National Laboratory (1997) A long-standing tritium leak and cobalt plumes contaminated a large area around the Laboratory. EPA's Region 2 assisted DOE in a major cleanup effort.
Ramp Industries (1994) This abandoned facility contained about 5,000 drums of chemical and radioactive waste. EPA's Region 8 supervised waste characterization and recommended disposal and decontamination options.
Bear Lake Site (1994) A home business for refurbishing radium aircraft dials had caused heavy radium contamination in and around the home. EPA relocated the family and attempted to decontaminate the home, but ultimately had to demolish it, dispose of possessions, and remove substantial quantities of soil.
Radium Chemical Company (1989) This abandoned property was so severely contaminated that a person at the site could exceed the annual dose limit in one hour. EPA used a remote-control apparatus to pack radioactive material in canisters, demolished buildings, and cleaned up the site.
Responding to Other Radiological Incidents
Royal Green Scrap Metal Recycling Facility (1997) An undetected americium sealed source was processed with scrap metal. EPA led a team that included DOE and NRC to recover the main part of the radioactive capsule;the remainder was safely contained in the scrap which was disposed of.

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