FEMA to conduct emergency drill at Pa. nuclear power plant

An emergency preparedness test at a nuclear power plant 80 miles from Philadelphia will be conducted by federal authorities sometime next week.

The drill will evaluate Pennsylvania's ability to react to a problem at Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station southwest of Philadelphia near the state's border with Maryland, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said in a statement Monday.

The FEMA test coincides with a final approval announced Monday by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a proposed expansion of Peach Bottom's maximum reactor power level by nearly 450 megawatts to 3,951.

“These drills are held every other year to evaluate government’s ability to protect public health and safety,” said MaryAnn Tierney, regional administrator for FEMA Region III.  “We will assess state and local emergency response capabilities within the 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone as well as the adjacent support jurisdictions.”

FEMA will then send its evaluation of the emergency response to the NRC for use in its licensing decisions. The final report will be available about four months from the date of the test next week. In the NRC's final approval issued today for a proposed expansion of the plant's capacity, the agency said no environmental-impact assessment would be performed.

"The proposed action will not have a significant effect on the quality of the human environment because, amending the licenses with the higher maximum reactor power level, will not result in any significant radiological or non-radiological impacts," the NRC said in its findings.

FEMA will present preliminary findings of the exercise at a public meeting, scheduled for 11 a.m., Friday, April 11, at the Homewood Suites, 200 Granite Run Dr. Lancaster, PA 17601. Speakers will include representatives from FEMA, the NRC, and Pennsylvania.

For more information about the test and its oversight, go to FEMA.gov/Radiological-Emergency-Preparedness-Program.

Peach Bottom is co-owned by Exelon Corporation and Public Service Electric and Gas of New Jersey and operated by Exelon. It began commercial operation in 1974, according to York County's website.

Contact Brian X. McCrone at 215-854-2267 or bmccrone@philly.com. Follow @brianxmccrone on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; BreakingNewsDesk@philly.com. Follow @phillynews on Twitter.