Deepwater Horizon and Nuclear and Radiological Incidents: Common Challenges and Solutions
White paper analyzes Deepwater Horizon response, identifies approaches for radiological or nuclear emergency planning
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill shares many of the same challenges associated with a radiological incident like the one considered in the Empire 09 exercise or even a much larger nuclear incident. By analyzing experiences during Deepwater Horizon, these challenges can be identified by the interagency in advance of a radiological or nuclear emergency and solutions made available.
In the white paper Deepwater Horizon and Nuclear and Radiological Incidents: Common Challenges and Solutions (PDF, 462KB), ORISE examines the following three aspects of the Deepwater Horizon response:
- Establishing and staffing a unified command structure: The demands of the Deepwater Horizon incident challenged the traditional response construct envisioned in the National Contingency Plan, the National Incident Management System and the National Response Framework. The magnitude of the Deepwater Horizon incident required a multi-layered organizational structure and created shortages of qualified personnel with key technical and incident management experience.
- Managing external and political influences: The Deepwater Horizon incident was unprecedented in terms of political interest and external influences. Political involvement in resource allocation, operations and decision-making, coupled with a lack of trained and qualified personnel to control messaging, created new incident management challenges, including deviations from traditional decision-making processes and structures.
- Managing the scientific and technical aspects of the response: There was an unprecedented demand for scientific and technical expertise, data and information during Deepwater Horizon. For example, there was great interest in the flow rate of oil from the wellhead, which required interpretation.
ORISE identifies how these challenges would present in the event of a nuclear or radiological incident, with examples drawn from Empire 09, a 2009 U.S. Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration sponsored Full-Scale Exercise to demonstrate effective management of the response to a domestic radiological dispersion device incident in an urban environment. Recommendations are made for considering training and process improvements that would mitigate these challenges in future responses.
Download the ORISE white paper Deepwater Horizon and Nuclear and Radiological Incidents: Common Challenges and Solutions
Director, National Security and Emergency Management