NNSA's Radiological Assistance Program (RAP) is the nation's premier first-response resource in assessing an emergency situation and advising decision-makers on further steps to take to evaluate and minimize the hazards of a radiological incident. RAP provides resources (trained personnel and equipment) to evaluate, assess, advise, isotopically identify, search for, and assist in the mitigation of actual or perceived nuclear or radiological hazards. The RAP is implemented on a regional basis, with coordination between the emergency response elements of state, local, and federal agencies. Regional coordination is intended to provide a timely response capability and to foster a working relationship between NNSA and the response elements of the states, tribes, and local agencies within the region.
The RAP mission is to provide first response radiological assistance to protect the health and safety of the general public and the environment. They assist federal, state, tribal, and local agencies in the detection, identification, analysis, and response to events involving the release of radiological materials in the environment. The primary responsibility for the incident remains with the owner of the radioactive material.
Additionally, RAP provides emergency response training assistance to federal, state, tribal, and local agencies through the Weapons of Mass Destruction First Responder Training Program. RAP coordinates and conducts outreach activities with other federal agencies and state, local, and tribal governments to the degree practical, including initial interface with these entities for joint participation in drills, exercises, and support for domestic preparedness. RAP’s unique qualifications make it an integral partner in the success of the National Domestic Preparedness Program.
Steps in the RAP Emergency Response
An emergency request for the RAP may come from any government or private organization. Requests may come directly to NNSA's Headquarters Emergency Operations Center. Upon direction from NNSA headquarters, the RAP team will deploy to the location to arrive within six hours of activation. RAP personnel will:
- locate and identify radiological materials;
- evaluate data and provide risk assessments;
- provide advice and make recommendations to protect personnel, property and subsequent reentry into a facility;
- translate complex technical data into information that the public can easily understand; and
- provide 24-hour communications for technical support and advice.
The assistance provided by RAP teams does not preempt state, local, or tribal authority. NNSA cooperates with and acknowledges the primacy of the state, local, and tribal government relative to the safety and health of the public. The RAP's mission is complete when no further assistance is necessary at the incident site or when state, local and tribal agencies are capable of handling the incident on their own.
RAP is capable of providing assistance involving an accidental or intentional radiological incident. RAP support ranges from giving technical information or advice over the telephone, to sending highly trained people, and state-of-the-art equipment to the accident site to help identify and minimize any radiological hazards.
The United States is divided into nine RAP regions:
- Washington, DC; RAP Region 0
- Brookhaven, NY; RAP Region 1
- Oak Ridge, TN; RAP Region 2
- Savannah River, SC; RAP Region 3
- Albuquerque, NM; RAP Region 4
- Chicago, IL; RAP Region 5
- Idaho Falls, ID; RAP Region 6
- Oakland, CA; RAP Region 7
- Richland, WA; RAP Region 8
Each region has a minimum of three RAP teams. Teams can coordinate with one another when assistance is necessary. Each RAP team consists of six to eight team members, which includes an NNSA team lead, a team captain, and health physics support personnel. The NNSA team lead is a government employee, while the remainder of the team is government and contractor support personnel.
RAP teams are comprised of NNSA federal and contractor personnel specifically trained to perform nuclear and radiological response activities. RAP teams consist of volunteer members who perform radiological support activities as part of their formal employment within NNSA's and the Department of Energy's national laboratories. They are trained to provide initial assistance in the mitigation of immediate radiation hazards. As a matter of routine, RAP teams would not be involved in recovery and cleanup operations. RAP’s highly trained teams have access to the most advanced radiation detection and protection equipment available. RAP team capabilities and resources include portable field radiation monitoring instrumentation for alpha, beta, gamma, and neutron detection, in addition to generators, mobile laboratories, air samplers, decontamination equipment, communications, and personnel protective equipment to support the response.