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  • Taso Assignment 1 - GIS Applied

Eugen Taso       January 23 rd , 2009

UEP 232

Assignment #1

GIS Applications in Nuclear Power Emergency Response


The following information and GIS application analysis was obtained from:

2005 ESRI Homeland Security GIS Summit Presentations section on the ESRI website:

and from IEEE Xplore website: .

Note: It may be useful to add these resources to the course Wiki, but I could not find a way to do that.




Project name(s):

  1. The Utilization of Geographic Information Systems in Nuclear Energy Response in Pennsylvania
  2. State of the Art Techniques for Nuclear Emergency Planning Population Analysis

Researcher’s name or institution:  

  1. James F. Barnhart, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Radiation Protection (PA DEP PRB) – 2008 paper
  2. Rebecca L. Steinman, Advent Engineering Services, Ann Arbor , MI – 2002 paper

Type of study:

Regional Nuclear Emergency Response and Analysis Study

Data used:

Pennsylvania Albers Equal Area Conical Projection, 7.5 minute Digital Raster Graphics (DRG) and a Digital Orthophoto Quarter Quadrangle (DOQQ) from the US Geological Survey (USGS)

Where data came from:

Federal and State Sources

Geographic extent of the study area:   Commonwealth of PA , MI

Software and analytic methodology used:

ArcView 9.0 and 3.2 GIS software, RASCAL


The two studies cited are examples of using GIS to determine emergency response in case of a nuclear power plant disaster. While this assignment will focus on the first paper, which describes an application of GIS designed to deal with an emergency situation assessment in PA, the second paper, illustrating a number of nuclear power plant environmental, meteorological monitoring, or emergency planning activities using GIS is  mentioned in support of the application of GIS in nuclear emergency response uses.


The application in PA, named Risk Project , was developed by the PA DEP PRB in conjunction with the PA State University’s Environmental Resource Research Institute, and represents a tailored GIS application on ESRI ArcView 9.0 and 3.2 GIS software. It was designed in order to fulfill better data management of four functions of the nuclear emergency response section of PA DEP-BRP during a nuclear emergency drill or event. The analysis is used to geographically locate and place field teams in the event of an emergency or a drill, to collect field data, to track radioactive plume and conduct post emergency phase accident analysis.


The dataset and maps for the study were obtained from the Pennsylvania Albers Equal Area Conical Projection, including all the longitude and latitude measurements. The vector features are shape files, and include road, county, municipality, county and stream layers. The datum is 1983, and was chosen in order to be consistent with other features and image data throughout PA DEP. An additional vector of predetermined reference sites within each of PA’s nuclear power plant’s 10 mile Emergency Planning Zone was added to the analysis.


The images used in the Risk Project are obtained from the 7.5 minute Digital Raster Graphics (DRG) and a Digital Orthophoto Quarter Quadrangle (DOQQ) from the US Geological Survey (USGS). In addition, field teams can enter data in real time using a GPS onsite and sending the information directly to the command center, running Risk Project .  In addition, RASCAL, a GIS derivative, is used by the team to track the nuclear plume in case of an emergency.


The combination of base layer DRG and DOQQ images enhances the location aspect of the field teams, and is useful in determining visual determination landmarks such as churches, schools, baseball fields, shopping centers, and industrial facilities, which may not exist in the vector scheme. However, the large amount of data may pose a problem, as PA DEP BRP requirements are that the program should be run off a mobile laptop in emergency situations. However, the plume modeling overlay allows greater ability to visualize the plume’s width, and values as it relates to geography, topology and accessibility by roads. In GIS, this can be represented as isopleths, aiding in the visualization and presentation of the plume. In the event of a nuclear disaster, PA DEP BRP would request assistance from the US DOE to do a fixed wing flyover over the affected area to determine the plume deposition.


The application was tested extensively in August, 2004 in a drill at the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station near Berwick , PA. The test was successful and demonstrated the usefulness of the application, for creating GIS analysis of a potential disaster.


According to the study, the GIS application for nuclear disaster management saved the state of PA over $150,000 since images are all digital and easy to reproduce and easily updateable. Using GIS proved to be a useful tool in increasing clarity and efficiency of radiological spatial information flow in power plant emergency response exercises, both in the ingestion phase and the analysis phase. This could be used by other government agencies and other states for nuclear emergency response and analysis.


The project could not be achieved without mapping or GIS-like software. Since the basis of the work is done by mapping the plume, the affected areas and the extent of the radiation, spatial analysis is critical in determining how the response teams should behave and how the best approach can be taken in case of an emergency.


However, it would be nice to have a predetermined map of the state, with all the power plants located on the map, and a few scenarios preloaded in the system with the potential impact of a disaster. In case of a drill or an actual event, the real time data could be imputed (as described above) and then, in the analysis phase, compared to the scenarios, in order to be able to create more believable and workable situations for the future. These are both spatial and non-spatial issues. They are spatial because having a base map identifying the main nuclear plants in the US in the application would give an idea of the extent of a potential damage, and allow for quicker response management. They are also non-spatial, because, with a few pre-loaded scenarios, they could be applied anywhere, enhancing the efficiency of the software and analysis.


In fact, the second study addresses those concerns by outlining the basic steps necessary for estimating the emergency planning zone (EPZ) evacuation time. This of course could be useful if applied in the Risk Project software, as it would allow responders to see what is occurring in real time and compare it to projections, thus rending the response and analysis more effective.


Reference papers:










Fig. 1. Fermi 2 EPZ depicting NUREG-0654 0-2 mile, 2-5 mile, and 5-10 mile wind rose sectors and State of Michigan defined PAA boundaries (1-5)

Fig. 3. Fermi 2 EPZ Resident Population based on the 2000 US Census Summary File 1 [3]