Radiological Emergency Response Plan, United States Federal

Radiological Emergency Response Plan, United States Federal

The Federal Radiological Emergency Response Plan (FRERP) is a blueprint for the response of the United States federal government to a radiological emergency—that is, a crisis involving the release of nuclear radiation. Drafted by a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) committee in 1985, FRERP is an agreement among 17 federal agencies, key among which are FEMA, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the Departments of Energy and Defense, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Roots of the FRERP

From the time of its founding in 1970, EPA had responsibility for dealing with radiological emergencies, though an orchestrated federal response to such situations still lay many years in the future. In 1975, the General Services Administration (GSA) offered the first such plan, but the GSA, whose principal mission is the management of physical assets belonging to the government, was not the ideal agency to oversee emergency responses. Following the disaster at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant in 1979, President James E. Carter issued an executive order creating such an agency, FEMA.

In September 1980, Carter issued another executive order in which he called on FEMA to create a "national contingency plan" that would coordinate federal agencies' responsibilities and authorities in the event of a nuclear accident. FEMA in March 1982 established the Federal Radiological Preparedness Coordinating Committee, which consisted of representatives from federal agencies with responsibilities for responding to radiological emergencies. The purpose of the committee was to coordinate federal planning and preparedness activities, and to help state and local governments develop their own coordinated plans.

At the same time, FEMA directed the EPA to develop training for state and local officials in areas ranging from decision making to radiation dose assessment. The agency also tasked the Department of Energy (DOE) with putting in place systems for emergency radiation detection and measurement. FEMA also directed DOE to establish a federal radiological monitoring and assistance plan. Together with EPA, NRC, and other agencies, the DOE in the early 1980s developed the Federal Radiological Monitoring and Assessment Center (FRMAC) to implement the plan it developed. DOE maintains the FRMAC, but in the event of an emergency, EPA would assume control in the middle and latter phases of the crisis.

FRERP, other RERPs, and their evolution. The Federal Radiological Preparedness Coordinating Committee completed the FRERP in 1985, and in 1987 the EPA published its own RERP describing how it would support state and local agencies in the event of a radiological emergency. States have also developed their own RERPs. Following the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in what was then the Soviet Union (now Ukraine) in April 1986, the Federal Radiological Preparedness Coordinating Committee revised the FRERP to include a response to international radiological incidents that could affect the United States.

The revised plan also incorporated responses to smaller situations, such as lost radiation sources or lost radioactive material. EPA was made the lead federal agency in both international and lost-course incidents. In 1989, EPA responded to such a situation, when it was discovered that abandoned materials at the Radium Chemical Company facility in New York City presented a radiological hazard to the neighborhood.

During the 1980s, participating organizations took part in two full-field exercises to prepare for a radiological emergency. In June 1995, President William J. Clinton signed Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 39, which directed the response of federal agencies to terrorist attack. PDD 39 directed EPA to provide chemical and radiation-related technical support to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the event of a terrorist incident. Additional directives in 1998 led to a revision of the EPA RERP in 2000.



Congel, F. J. Criteria for Preparation and Evaluation of Radiological Emergency Response Plans and Preparedness in Support of Nuclear Power Plants: Criteria for Protective Action Recommendations For Severe Accidents: Draft Report for Interim Use and Comment. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission/Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1996.


Muhlebach, Richard. "What's Your Disaster Plan?" National Real Estate Investor 44, no. 8 (August 2002): 64.


EPA's Radiation Protection Program: Emergency Response. Environmental Protection Agency. < > (March 4, 2003).

Federal Radiological Emergency Response Plan. Florida Department of Community Affairs. < > (March 4, 2003).


Domestic Emergency Support Team, United States
Emergency Response Teams
Environmental Issues Impact on Security
EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)
FEMA (United States Federal Emergency Management Agency)
Nuclear Emergency Support Team, United States
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), United States

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