Wednesday, July 13, 2011

NRC’s 90 Day Report from the Fukushima Task Force

image Today, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission published its Fukushima task force’s Recommendations for Enhancing Reactor Safety in the 21st Century (pdf). This is a significant report because it sets the stage for what’s to come over the next few years to enhance nuclear safety. Here are a few nuggets from our press release on the report:

The task force report confirms the safety of U.S. nuclear energy facilities and recommends actions to enhance U.S. nuclear plant readiness to safely manage severe events.

The task force report does not cite significant data from the Fukushima accident to support many of its recommendations. Given the mammoth challenge it faced in gathering and evaluating the still-incomplete information from Japan, the agency should seek broader engagement with stakeholders on the task force report to ensure that its decisions are informed by the best information possible.

The industry reiterates our commitment to make nuclear plant safety our top priority. Even as the NRC and industry separately have taken steps to identify additional layers of protection to enhance nuclear plant safety, the NRC and many of our nation’s leaders have recognized that U.S. reactors are safe.

Besides what NEI has to say, here are a few nuggets from the NRC report to mention:

The current regulatory approach, and more importantly, the resultant plant capabilities allow the Task Force to conclude that a sequence of events like the Fukushima accident is unlikely to occur in the United States and some appropriate mitigation measures have been implemented, reducing the likelihood of core damage and radiological releases. Therefore, continued operation and continued licensing activities do not pose an imminent risk to public health and safety. p. vii

The primary responsibility for safety rests with the licensees, and the NRC holds licensees accountable for meeting regulatory requirements. p. 19

This [proposed] framework, by itself, would not create requirements nor eliminate any current requirements. It would provide a more coherent structure within the regulations to facilitate Commission decisions relating to what issues should be subject to NRC requirements and what those requirements ought to be. p. 21

As discussed earlier, the Task Force believes the voluntary industry initiatives could play a useful and valuable role in the suggested framework. p. 21

In a new regulatory framework, risk assessment and defense-in-depth would be combined more formally. p. 21

And here’s a valuable nugget on new plant designs:

By nature of their passive designs and inherent 72-hour coping capability for core, containment, and spent fuel pool cooling with no operator action required, the ESBWR and AP1000 designs have many of the design features and attributes necessary to address the Task Force recommendations. The Task Force supports completing those design certification rulemaking activities without delay. p. 71

Good to hear. For more on the industry’s perspective, see our Chief Nuclear Officer, Tony Pietrangelo, in an interview with Reuters Insider.

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