34th CST Soldiers take part in nuclear power plant exercise

Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard's Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team operate an air sampler Feb. 10, 2015, in Chester, Va., support of a a full-scale exercise conducted by Dominion Virginia Power and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management at the Surry Power Station. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard’s Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team operate an air sampler Feb. 10, 2015, in Chester, Va., support of a a full-scale exercise conducted by Dominion Virginia Power and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management at the Surry Power Station. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

CHESTER, Va. — Soldiers from the Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team took part in a full-scale exercise conducted by Dominion Virginia Power and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management at the Surry Power Station Feb. 10, 2015, to test preparedness and response procedures involving plant security. The Virginia Guard Soldiers augmented field teams from the Virginia Department of Health simulating collecting air samples in Chester, Va.

According to Ryan Paris, a staging area coordinator for the exercise and radiation safety specialist with the Va. Department of Health, part of the exercise is to simulate taking air samples as they would be taken if there was some type of radiation release from the plant.

“In the event of an actual radiological release, these teams would go out and sample the air to see what’s happening, then we would take those results to determine exactly what protective action, like evacuation or shelter in place, we would need to take for the public.”

Soldiers from the 34th CST augmented field sampling teams from the department of health.

“The Soldiers of the 34th CST give us another field team and lets us take advantage of their exceptional training and equipment,” Paris said. “For example, they have much more experience using personal protective equipment than we do.”

The 34th CST is federally resourced, trained and sustained and operates under the control of state leadership. The Adjutant General of Virginia may employ the 34th CST to support the state response under the direction of the governor or to support another state’s response under a supported governor.

The unit can identify chemical, biological, and radiological substances, assess current and projected consequences, advise an incident commander on response measures and assist with requests for additional state support.

The training scenarios for the 34th CST often involve response to a chemical or biological hazard, but those skills are easily transferable to a radiological hazard, explained Capt. Nicholas Burr, science officer for the 34th CST. Personnel from the CST have significant training and experience in the chain of custody procedures used for the collecting and processing of samples for scenarios like the one used in this exercise, he said. The exercise also provided another opportunity for the 34th CST personnel to conduct inter-agency operations.

According to VDEM, the annual exercise involved Dominion Virginia Power personnel and more than two dozen local, state and federal agencies and involved localities within the emergency planning zone of the power station, including the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson and Williamsburg, and the counties of Charles City, Isle of Wight, James City, New Kent, Surry and York. Other participating organizations include the Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Health, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Coast Guard, local fire and rescue squads, and other local emergency responders.