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State Officials Conduct Nuclear Crisis Drill

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Dresden Nuclear Power Plant

Dresden nuclear power plant in Morris, Ill. (Credit: CBS)

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JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) – The radiation crisis in Japan has Illinois state officials watching closely. Illinois actually has the most nuclear reactors in the country and they generate half of the state’s power.

CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports that state officials conducted an emergency drill on Wednesday to test their readiness for a nuclear crisis here.

From talking on the phone to studying maps, top emergency officials crammed into a mobile command center in Joliet with one mission in mind: make sure everyone is safe in the midst of a simulated crisis at the Dresden nuclear power plant in Morris.

It was just an emergency drill, but no one was taking it lightly; not after seeing the chaos at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant.

Illinois Emergency Management Agency Interim Director Joe Klinger said his team is watching Japan closely and will learn from the tragedy.

Asked what they have learned so far from the crisis in Japan, Klinger said, “it’s too early really tell, it would be speculative on my part.”

“I mean, we obviously don’t have the tsunami threat that they have over there. But we can always learn. We think we’re really good, but we can always be better,” Klinger added.

He said that all six nuclear plants in Illinois must be tested every two years.

In this instance, while the drill was playing out inside the plant in Morris, teams in Joliet worked on an evacuation plan.

“There’s great potential for inefficiencies, because if it’s not coordinated, you have people going in wrong direction,” Klinger said.

The command center for the drill was located outside of the Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet.

State officials made a strategic decision to keep their personnel outise of the 10-mile radius around the Dresden plant.

In the end, Klinger said Illinois residents have nothing to fear.

“We’re confident in our abilities right now. We think we’re the best on the technical side,” Klinger said. “We actually remotely monitor what’s happening in each of the control rooms; 1,000 different points in each of the control rooms. Nobody else can do (that) in this country.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will evaluate Wednesday’s drill. A preliminary report should be out on Friday.

The drill was scheduled before the disaster in Japan.

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