Radioactive materials are used in the Commonwealth for medical diagnosis and treatment, electric power generation, national defense, and in academic and industrial settings. Allowing the possession and use of radioactive materials for these purposes is strictly regulated, and in addition to licenses or registrations, people are required to have special training in procedures for the safe use and control of radioactive materials. This is because some radioactive materials that are not used properly can pose unacceptable risks to people and the environment. Careful planning and design help minimize these risks, but even the best preparation is not enough to entirely prevent the possibility of accidents. That is why all people authorized to possess and use radioactive materials must have emergency plans and procedures in place for responding to an accident that could possibly involve any of the radioactive materials they are authorized to possess and use. Following September 11, 2001, the Agency began expanding its scope of emergency planning activities to include additional provisions for preventing and responding to deliberate acts of terrorism that could involve nuclear/radiological materials.
Most accidents and events that involve radioactive materials can be successfully managed with little or no risk to the people directly involved, but the range of possible scenarios from an accident or intentional act of terrorism is very complex, and a large number of local, state and federal organizations could be called upon to respond to a severe accident at a nuclear power plant or an intentional act of terrorism. To maintain the Agency's technical training and response capabilities, the Planning Section annually reviews, updates and provides training on written plans and procedures that identify the roles, responsibilities and appropriate steps to be taken by individuals qualified to protect people from harmful effects of radiation.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) routinely perform comprehensive evaluations of the Agency's technical leadership role in nuclear power plant drills and exercises to test the effectiveness of its integration and coordination with other local, state and federal agencies; and, the NRC performs in-depth reviews of the Agency's responses to actual accidents, incidents and events. The results of these graded evaluations and integrated comprehensive reviews have repeatedly confirmed that the technical assessments and professional judgments made by the Agency are consistent with the highest standards for protecting people from unnecessary radiation exposure.