Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 4, 2006

DHS releases guidelines for radiological response

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,Radiological & Nuclear Threats — by Christian Beckner on January 4, 2006

DHS today released draft guidance for radiological/nuclear incident response, available on the Federal Register at this link and discussed in this AP story.

I’ve quickly browsed through the guidelines, and they seem, at first impression, like a responsible and professional effort to aid federal, state, and local officials’ ability to respond to a radiological or nuclear attack.

But you wouldn’t know that from reading the AP story:

The government issued cleanup standards Tuesday for a “dirty bomb” terrorist attack that would in some cases be far less rigorous than what is required for Superfund sites, nuclear power plants and nuclear waste dumps.

But if you read the actual document, it clearly states that these are NOT cleanup standards; instead, they are guidelines for what actions should be taken during a crisis response situation in relation to various levels of radiation exposure:

These PAGs are not absolute standards and are not intended to define “safe” or “unsafe” levels of exposure or contamination. Rather, they represent the approximate levels at which the associated protective actions are recommended. This guidance may also be used by State and local decision makers, and provides flexibility to be more or less restrictive as deemed appropriate based on the unique characteristics of the incident and local considerations.

This guidance is not intended for use at site cleanups occurring under other statutory authorities such as EPA’s Superfund program, the NRC’s decommissioning program, or other Federal or State cleanup programs. In addition, the scope of this guidance does not include situations involving United States nuclear weapons accidents.

The AP reporter should have actually read the guidelines instead than taking the word of “anti-nuclear watchdog groups” as gospel truth.

Update (1/4): NPR has a solid piece on this issue this morning.

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