March 1, 2015
In the U.S., current protective-action strategies to safeguard the public following a nuclear power accident have remained largely unchanged since their implementation in the early 1980s. In the past thirty years, new technologies have been introduced, allowing faster computations, better modeling of predicted radiological consequences, and improved accident mapping using geographic information systems (GIS). Utilizing these new technologies, we evaluate the efficacy of alternative strategies, called adaptive protective action zones (APAZs), that use site-specific and event-specific data to dynamically determine evacuation boundaries with simple heuristics in order to better inform protective action decisions (rather than relying on pre-event regulatory bright lines). Several candidate APAZs were developed and then compared to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s keyhole evacuation strategy (and full evacuation of the emergency planning zone). Two of the APAZs were better on average than existing NRC strategies at reducing either the radiological exposure, the population evacuated, or both. These APAZs are especially effective for larger radioactive plumes and at high population sites; one of them is better at reducing radiation exposure, while the other is better at reducing the size of the population evacuated.