Surry nuclear plant completes transition to wireless alerts

Published 5:14 pm Monday, February 6, 2023

Effective Feb. 1, people living within 10 miles of Dominion Energy’s Surry County nuclear power plant will no longer hear quarterly tests of the plant’s warning sirens.

More than a year after announcing the change, the Surry Power Station has completed its transition to wireless alerts that will come to every cellphone in a 10-mile radius of the plant.

In addition to the wireless alerts, the Surry Power Station will use the Emergency Alert System to notify television and radio broadcasters. Both technologies – collectively referred to as the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, or IPAWS – are identical to what is currently used to send Amber Alerts and severe weather warnings.

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Quarterly siren tests will be replaced by frequent tests of IPAWS by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. According to a Department of Emergency Management press release, the alerts have several advantages over the sirens, including the ability to offer real-time information on an emergency instead of just a siren sound.

In addition to IPAWS, residential and business phones will be called, and plans remain in place to notify people at recreational areas such as parks and waterways.

The transition has taken several years and was approved late last year by both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“As technology changes, it is important that we take advantage of new opportunities especially when it comes to ensuring the health and safety of the public,” said state Department of Emergency Management Coordinator Shawn Talmadge. “Those working behind the scenes to make this transition happen have gone through several rounds of planning, surveys, and research to ensure that this system is optimal for notifying the public of an emergency at these nuclear power stations. Unlike the sirens which simply make a noise, the alerts will direct you on what protective actions to take so you understand what to do to ensure you and your family are safe.”

“Protecting the health and safety of the public is central to everything we do at Dominion Energy,” said Dan Stoddard, Dominion’s senior vice president, chief nuclear officer and president of Contracted Assets. “We are excited about the transition to this new and improved technology for alerting the public in the extremely unlikely situation of an event at one of our nuclear stations. This transition is the culmination of years of detailed planning and assessment, in close collaboration with local, state and federal officials. I am proud of our team for their work, and deeply appreciative of the dedicated public servants who helped make this possible.”