Skip to main content

NRC’s Post-Fukushima Review Adds Top Priority

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission this week released a staff paper that prioritizes the recommendations from the near-term post-Fukushima task force report into three tiers—or categories—of importance based on the potential to enhance safety at U.S. nuclear plants. As part of its Tier 1 recommendation, or actions that “should be started without unnecessary delay,” the NRC elevated the importance of implementing spent fuel pool instrumentation, or monitoring equipment, at U.S. nuclear energy facilities.

Why did the NRC elevate this issue? A Bloomberg article explains:

Improved cooling-pool equipment wasn’t listed as a concern warranting immediate NRC action in a Sept. 9 staff memo. Agency staff made it a priority after determining that resources exist to improve monitoring instruments, which aren’t often designed “to remain functional under accident conditions,” according to the report released today.

Moving the recommendation to the first tier does NOT indicate that current spent fuel pools are unsafe. In fact, the NRC has said that current operating nuclear plants “do not pose an imminent risk to public health and safety.” The re-prioritization of the issue likely comes from early lessons the NRC and industry have learned post-Fukushima on the need for remote monitoring of the pools.

In a September 26 letter to the NRC, which provides the industry’s position on the commission’s post-Fukushima recommendations, the industry shows how important it is for the NRC to act based on the facts from the accident.

The Fukushima spent fuel pools are an example of where facts have invalidated earlier conclusions. Shortly following the initial events, many believed that water levels in the pools—the Unit 4 pool, in particular—had fallen to the point that the spent fuel had overheated, failed and contributed to the accident. Now, with the benefit of visual inspections and samples from the four affected fuel pools, it is evident that the spent fuel rods did not experience major and significant failure.

The industry continues by saying that not having a clear understanding of the situation in a used fuel pool “could result in the diversion of needed resources away from more safety-significant activities.”

In learning this important lesson from Fukushima, the industry believes that:

Remote monitoring would enable operators to know when actions are needed to provide additional water to the pools. This recommendation is consistent with the action already taken by the industry on knowing the time until the pool will reach 200°F.

The industry fully supports the NRC’s decision to add the issue as a tier 1 priority in its near-term actions.

See NEI’s video to learn more about how spent fuel pools are designed and constructed to safely store used nuclear fuel.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Making Clouds for a Living

Donell Banks works at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 as a shift supervisor in Operations, but is in the process of transitioning to his newly appointed role as the daily work controls manager. He has been in the nuclear energy industry for about 11 years.

I love what I do because I have the unique opportunity to help shape the direction and influence the culture for the future of nuclear power in the United States. Every single day presents a new challenge, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As a shift supervisor, I was primarily responsible for managing the development of procedures and programs to support operation of the first new nuclear units in the United States in more than 30 years. As the daily work controls manager, I will be responsible for oversight of the execution and scheduling of daily work to ensure organizational readiness to operate the new units.

I envision a nuclear energy industry that leverages the technology of today to improve efficiency…

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

Nuclear: Energy for All Political Seasons

The electoral college will soon confirm a surprise election result, Donald Trump. However, in the electricity world, there are fewer surprises – physics and economics will continue to apply, and Republicans and Democrats are going to find a lot to like about nuclear energy over the next four years.

In a Trump administration, the carbon conversation is going to be less prominent. But the nuclear value proposition is still there. We bring steady jobs to rural areas, including in the Rust Belt, which put Donald Trump in office. Nuclear plants keep the surrounding communities vibrant.

We hold down electricity costs for the whole economy. We provide energy diversity, reducing the risk of disruption. We are a critical part of America’s industrial infrastructure, and the importance of infrastructure is something that President-Elect Trump has stressed.

One of our infrastructure challenges is natural gas pipelines, which have gotten more congested as extremely low gas prices have pulled m…