Surry nuclear plant to test sirens, wireless alerts next week

Published 10:18 am Wednesday, June 1, 2022

With the transition to wireless alerts still delayed, Dominion Energy’s Surry Nuclear Power Station has scheduled its quarterly test of the plant’s warning sirens for Wednesday, June 8.

Two days earlier, on June 6, Dominion will test the Surry plant’s new wireless alert infrastructure at noon and again at 12:25 p.m.

Dominion had planned to retire the 71 sirens located in Isle of Wight and Surry counties, and on the Peninsula, by March, and replace them with wireless alerts that would come to every cellphone within a 10-mile radius in the event of an emergency at the plant.

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According to a press release by Virginia’s Department of Emergency Management, those plans are still on hold three months later pending approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The June 6 test message will only be received only by phones that have been opted in to receive system test messages. The test message will read “This is a Wireless Emergency Alert Test. No actions are required.” In an actual emergency, everyone with alerts enabled on compatible phones would receive the wireless alert, even if they haven’t opted in to receive test messages.

The June 8 siren test is scheduled for 11:10 a.m. At the scheduled time, the sirens will produce a steady three-minute tone. In an actual emergency, nearby residents would hear four separate three-minute tones separated by a one-minute silent interval.

The cell phone alert technology, developed by FEMA, is the same as what’s currently used to send Amber Alerts and severe weather warnings. The new system, once online, will use GPS targeting to reach residents and visitors alike — provided their phone is on, capable of receiving messages and near one of the designated cell towers. The alerts will also deliver real-time information on the nature of the emergency and whether evacuation is warranted.

The Surry nuclear plant has been operating since the early 1970s. Last year, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved Dominion’s request to continue operating the plant into the 2050s.