NRC to be ready for bird flu

Dec. 6, 2006 at 2:58 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- U.S. nuclear officials have issued a plan to maintain safety regulations of nuclear plants if a bird flu pandemic hits the country.

Bird flu was perceived as a serious potential threat as it caused hundreds of human deaths and resulted in millions of animals dead or killed, although the transmission of the virus has waned.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission outlined its response if bird flu does materialize with an estimated 40 percent or more of the workforce being affected for a year to a year and a half.

"This is a plan that we hope we never have to implement," NRC Commissioner Jeffrey Merrifield said. "But it is prudent to plan ahead and anticipate what actions might be needed and what prioritization of activities must be done in order for the NRC to maintain its essential, core mission of protecting public health and safety."

The least important work would be set aside, with the remainder of the workforce allocated to ensuring safety compliance, incident responses and communication internally and with the public.

"The NRC will not allow operational safety or security to be jeopardized regardless of the pandemic situation," according to an NRC release.

The nuclear industry is devising its own emergency bird flu plan "and is discussing its efforts and potential needs with the NRC," the release said.

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