Trained and ready

EPD Environmental Radiation team members and partners at Plant Vogtle in Burke County. From left: Jeff Morrison (GEMA), Barty Simonton, Jim Hardeman, Kendall Kretchmar (SC Emergency Management Division), Liz Seale, Sean Hayes and two representatives from the Southern Nuclear Company.

 The likelihood of an emergency at any of Georgia’s nuclear power plants is considered extremely low. However, the state is prepared for the worst with a dedicated team at DNR’s Environmental Protection Division.

The EPD’s Environmental Radiation Program (ERP) is the first state agency alerted if a nuclear incident should occur.  The ERP is led by Jim Hardeman, who is respected in his field as one of the most knowledgeable radiation experts in the United States.

“We consider the responsibility of primary state responder to nuclear emergencies very seriously,” says Jim. “If such an emergency were to occur, we are ready to move immediately in communication with local officials, Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), the Governor’s Office, DNR and EPD leadership and other vital contacts in Georgia’s emergency plan.”

The ERP also manages two teams of highly trained field monitoring experts who would be dispatched to an affected area. An additional team partners with local officials to manage communications. Their training includes practice drills, simulated press briefings and an evaluation by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“While we hope and pray that the skills we train and practice will never be required in an actual response, the unfortunate events in Japan a year ago reinforce how important it is to maintain a high level of readiness,” says Jim. “We try to make exercises as realistic and challenging as possible to maintain our proficiency.”

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