IIT’s S.Y. Chen Leads Team that Produced New U.S. Nuclear Incident Long-Term Recovery Guidelines

S.Y. Chen, director of the Master of Health Physics program, led the National Council on Radiation Protection & Measurements (NCRP) team that produced new U.S. guidelines for long-term recovery after a nuclear accident.

NCRP Report 175, “Decision Making for Late-Phase Recovery from Major Nuclear or Radiological Incidents,” coincides with the four-year anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear accident on March 11, 2011. As the anniversary is remembered, Japanese communities are still struggling to return to normal.

The report offers new national recovery guidelines after a catastrophic nuclear or radiological incident, including guidance on cleanup and restoration efforts, health, environment, psychological and other aspects. It’s the first report to look at long-term recovery efforts rather than on the immediate rescue response, filling a gap that existed in guidance for life after the initial rescue phase. It offers a new paradigm to organize the whole community in countering the catastrophe long after the disaster has occurred.

Key findings in the report include:
– Civilians will need to be trained on how to handle residual radioactive contamination and to prevent radiation exposures.
– Schoolyards and community access areas need to be cleaned first.
– Key infrastructure such as bridges, roads, and water systems will need to be identified, repaired and decontaminated quickly.
– The community will be the primary decision maker in long-term recovery efforts.

In addition to chairing the NCRP report, Chen has served on the NCRP Council for more than 15 years, and he worked at Argonne National Laboratory for more than 25 years.