In regards to the recent emergency siren testing, The Etownian reminds students, faculty and staff at Elizabethtown College that an emergency response plan is in place in case any disaster happens at Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station, or TMI, in Dauphin County, Pa.
TMI is a civilian nuclear power plant located south of Harrisburg on Three Mile Island in the Susquehanna River. It has two separate units, TMI-1 and TMI-2, which are both pressurized water reactors. TMI is widely known because it was the site of the most significant accident in the history of United States commercial nuclear energy.
On March 28, 1979, TMI-2 suffered a partial meltdown which resulted in the release of moderate amounts of radioactive gases and radioactive iodine into the surrounding environment. A pilot-operated relief valve in the primary system of the reactor was stuck open, allowing nuclear reactor coolant to escape.
Plant operators initially failed to recognize the situation, and the scope and details of the accident were not clear for several days. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) evaluated the problem and authorized the release of 40,000 gallons of radioactive waste water into the Susquehanna River, an unpopular decision.
The NRC reported that the accident resulted in no deaths or injuries to plant workers or members of surrounding communities, and it rated the incident a five, “Accident With Wider Consequences,” on the seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale.
On Monday, Jan. 30, 2012, Exelon Nuclear tested new sirens at TMI as part of a comprehensive emergency preparedness program. Over the next three months, tests will be repeatedly conducted because all of the station’s emergency sirens in the 10 miles around TMI are being replaced.
The siren substitution started in October 2011 and includes over 400 sirens total. All of the new sirens are battery-powered to ensure reliance during blackout conditions.
The College’s crisis plan, called the Radiological Emergency Response Plan for Incidents at TMI, is under the authority of the Etown College President and is in accordance with the provisions of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Services Code and the Lancaster County Radiological Emergency Response Plan. According to the plan itself, “the primary emphasis of the plan is to assure orderly and safe transfer of individuals located in the Emergency Planning Zone [EPZ] to a point outside the area where they may be properly released or transferred to mass care facilities.”
The EPZ consists of an area of about a 10 miles radius of TMI. It includes Conewago Township, Derry Township, Highspire Borough, Hummelstown Borough, Londonderry Township, Lower Swatara Township, Middletown Borough, Paxtang Borough, Royalton Borough, South Hanover Township, Steelton Borough, Swatara Township, the city of Harrisburg south of Interstate-83 and Lower Paxton Township as far north as Union Deposit Road and Nyes Road to and including Red Top Road to the township line.
If there is an incident at the TMI facility, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, in coordination with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, is responsible for deciding evacuations and school closing operations. The President of the College is authorized to initiate the response plan in coordination with the County Emergency Management Coordinator. The plan states that “college supplies, equipment and facilities will be used for the welfare of the students and staff. To the degree possible, a record will be maintained for accountability when the emergency has terminated.”
In the case of evacuation, Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster will serve as a temporary host institution for any and all students who require initial housing during and immediately after an incident. Students, faculty and staff without transportation and especially individuals whose homes are located in the EPZ will be transferred to F&M.
EC Alert, the College’s communications system for sharing important information about situations that affect the safety of the campus community, will be used during any TMI incident. This system allows the College to send messages to campus email addresses, external email addresses, on and off-campus telephones and text-enabled devices. Phone calls come from the College’s emergency hotline, 717-361-1988, text messages come from 23177 or 63079 and emails come from ECALERT@etown.edu.
The Elizabethtown College Emergency Management Group (EMG) provides periodic updates to the plan and specific training for staff and faculty.