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NEI Weekly Update on Fukushima Daiichi – 5/6/11

From NEI's Japan launch page:

Plant Status

  • Workers entered the Fukushima Daiichi reactor 1 building for the first time since March 11 and installed ventilation equipment that will remove radioactive particles from the air. The plan is to reduce the level of radiation to allow for installation of a permanent reactor cooling system. The planned system, to be integrated with components already in place, includes a heat exchanger to be installed near a reactor building entrance.
  • Japan is working with both China and South Korea to remove restrictions on Japanese food imports in those countries.
  • Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to bring 2,000 more workers to the Daiichi site. The plant work force now numbers 1,000. The new workers would replace those who have been on the job and are reaching their permissible limit of radiation exposure.
  • Overall, site radiation dose rates continue to stabilize or decrease. The most recent radiation readings reported at the plant site gates ranged from 4.6 millirem per hour to 1.8 millirem per hour.
  • According to media reports, the Japanese government has asked Chubu Electric Power Co. to shut down reactors at its Hamoka nuclear power plant, about 200 miles southwest of Tokyo. The government asked Chubu to implement safeguards against possible earthquakes and tsunamis.

Regulatory/Political Issues

  • The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will continue the licensing process for new nuclear energy plants as it reviews the current fleet of reactors following events at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said May 4 before a joint subcommittee hearing of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee. Much of the hearing focused on the NRC’s cancellation of work on the license application for the Yucca Mountain used fuel repository.
  • NEI, along with representatives from PPL Corp., FirstEnergy Corp. and Exelon, on May 4 briefed members of the Pennsylvania state legislature in Harrisburg on events in Japan.
  • NEI representatives on May 6 briefed the Task Force on Energy Supply of the National Conference of State Legislatures on Fukushima issues at the organization’s spring executive meeting in Boston.
  • The activist group Green Action released an international petition May 2 protesting the Japanese government’s April modifications of the radiation safety standard for schools near Fukushima.

Media Highlights

  • The New York Times published an article on May 2 in its Science section under the headline “Drumbeat of Nuclear Fallout Fear Doesn’t Resound With Experts.” Various authorities interviewed in the article explained that radiation fears beyond Japan’s borders “are unwarranted” and that “humans are bombarded by so much radiation from so many other sources, including natural ones, that the uptick from Japan disappears as a cause of concern (when) the big picture is considered.”
  • The Associated Press reported May 3 on a briefing by U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko to the policy group Public Citizen. “I suspect we will look at external flood risk” as part of the agency’s reviews of reactors in the United States in response to flooding issues at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, he said. (See Chairman Jaczko's prepared remarks.)
  • The Washington Post editorialized on April 30, in a piece headlined “A future for nuclear,” that the United States should keep nuclear energy “on the table” as an important low-carbon energy technology. “The only reason nuclear is attractive, some insist, is concern over global warming. Yet, even if that is the only cause, it is compelling,” The Post opined.
  • The E&E News publication Greenwire published an article on April 29 examining the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s post-Fukushima emergency status, which remains in effect. The article was headlined “NRC chairman’s ‘emergency’ status irks leading Senate Republican.

The Week Ahead

  • U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission briefing, 9:30 a.m., May 12 on the progress of the task force review of NRC processes and regulations following the events in Japan. The meeting will be webcast.
  • U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology joint subcommittee hearing on nuclear energy risk management, 10 a.m., May 13, 2318 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

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