Frequent Questions

What is EPA's role during a radiological emergency?

Incidents are managed at the local, state and Tribal level as much as possible. As incidents change in size, scope and complexity, the Federal government provides support based on scale of response needed. Upon request, EPA can provide support to state and local response agencies, or, depending on the situation, it can coordinate the Federal response. For example, depending on the nature of the situation, EPA's Office of Radiation and Indoor Air may provide telephone consultation to the lead responder in one instance, while it may send the Radiological Emergency Response Team (RERT) and its mobile radiation monitoring equipment in another.

EPA's RERT is responsible for leading or assisting response efforts before, during, and following a radiological incident by:

  • Providing technical advice and assistance to prevent or minimize threats to public health and the environment.
  • Providing advice on protective measures to ensure public health and safety.
  • Providing assessments of dose and impact of any release on public health and the environment.
  • Performing monitoring, sampling, laboratory analyses and data assessments to assess and characterize environmental impacts.
  • Providing technical advice and assistance for containment, cleanup, restoration, and recovery following a radiological incident.

EPA is responsible for coordinating multi-agency Federal assistance after accidents involving radiological materials not regulated or owned by another federal agency. These materials may include lost radiation sources, sources of unknown origin, and naturally occurring materials such as radium. Along with this, EPA leads the U.S. response to foreign radiological events that have the potential to affect the United States or its territories. For example, EPA responded to the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, Ukraine by monitoring the radioactivity levels from fallout in the United States.

Learn more about how EPA responds to radiological emergencies. 

More details on how EPA responds can be found in the National Response Framework (NRF) and its Nuclear/Radiological Incident Annex.


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