The Alternative Emergency Management centers at nuclear power plants
In depth - March 12, 2024

The Alternative Emergency Management centers at nuclear power plants

As part of the strategy for responding to potential accidents at nuclear power plants, these sites have an annex building known as the Alternative Emergency Management Center (CAGE  in Spanish). These buildings are fully dedicated and equipped to mitigate critical situations.

What is the CAGE?

The CAGE is designed as an alternative site for managing very severe emergency situations that could potentially occur at a nuclear power plant, and provide support to the control room and the plant during emergency conditions. Its main function is to coordinate the response to unexpected events such as radioactive leaks, failures in the cooling system or any other situation that could compromise the safety of the plant and its surroundings.

The building that houses the CAGE is designed according to appropriate criteria to maintain its functions in extreme situations, as indicated by the various action plans developed by nuclear safety and security organizations. In Spain, every nuclear power plant has a CAGE, and their construction has followed the guidelines of the European Post-Fukushima Action Plan.

The CAGE is conceived as an alternative center for managing very severe emergency situations that could occur at a nuclear power plant, providing support to the control room and the plant

The CAGEs are equipped with advanced technologies and redundant communication systems, and managed by highly trained personnel.

The Alternative Emergency Management centers at nuclear power plants
The CAGE building at the Vandellós II Nuclear Power Plant (Photo ANAV)

Key features

  1. Advanced technological infrastructure
    The CAGEs are equipped with monitoring systems that allow emergency operators to obtain real-time information on the status of the plant, the radiation levels and other critical variables. This helps to assess the severity of the situation and make informed decisions.
  2. Redundant communication
    The CAGEs have multiple communication channels, including landlines, satellite links and high-frequency radio systems. Thanks to this redundancy, emergency services can stay in touch even in adverse conditions.
  3. Specialized training
    The personnel that operate the CAGEs receive extensive training in crisis management and nuclear safety procedures. They are prepared to handle diverse scenarios, maintain composure and make effective decisions under pressure.
  4. Multidisciplinary coordination
    CAGEs are multidisciplinary coordination centers integrating various Government agencies, regulatory bodies, emergency response teams and nuclear safety experts. This collaboration ensures a coherent and coordinated response in crisis situations.

The CAGEs are robust, reliable sites from which the emergency organization and personnel can perform all their functions

How does the CAGE work during an emergency?

When a CAGE is activated, an established protocol is initiated to assess the situation, implement mitigation measures and communicate relevant information to the stakeholders. The personnel at the CAGE work closely with nuclear plant staff and external authorities to ensure an effective response and minimize risks to the population and the environment.

When a CAGE is activated, an established protocol is initiated to assess the situation, implement mitigation measures and communicate relevant information to the stakeholders

These buildings can accommodate 70 to 120 people in a confined environment, depending on the size of the nuclear power plant. They have 72-hour autonomy and are designed according to the requirements of the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN).

The composition of the CAGE

The CAGE building is composed of several rooms and areas, including:

  • An emergency entrance, an airlock, an emergency exit and an entrance for regular operation
  • A communications room
  • A room for the Technical Support Center
  • A Meeting room
  • Dormitories
  • A common area for meals and rest
  • A machinery room and an area for emergency power generators
  • A firefighters' room
  • A laboratory designed for tasks such as analyzing samples from the environment
  • Changing room, storage area, office
  • A decontamination room
  • A medical services room

The CAGEs have decontamination areas, medical services, a chemical laboratory, radiological control, a breathable air bottle filling station and personnel rest areas

The Alternative Emergency Management centers at nuclear power plants
Personnel carrying out tests at the Communications Room in Vandellós II (Photo: ANAV)

In summary, the Alternative Emergency Management Centers are essential components of the nuclear safety infrastructure. Their capacity to coordinate effective responses to emergencies significantly contributes to protecting the public, the environment and the integrity of nuclear sites. The continuous development and improvement of CAGE buildings reinforce the nuclear industry's commitment to safety and preparedness for adverse situations.

Sources:

ANAV, CSN, CNAT, IDOM

Header photo: Model of the Vandellós II CAGE building (Photo: IDOM)

  • Newsletter

    Subscribe to our newsletter and we will keep you up to date with the latest news in the nuclear field.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.