Skip to main content

Industry Presents New Strategy to Increase Safety, Address NRC’s Post-Fukushima Recommendations

The industry will present a strategy to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission today on how it plans to enhance safety at the nation’s 67 plant sites to better equip them for unexpected events. The strategy—known as the “diverse and flexible mitigation capability,” or FLEX—addresses many of the recommendations set forth by the NRC’s Fukushima task force and takes into account some of the early lessons from the Fukushima accident on the need to maintain key safety functions amid conditions where electricity may be lost, back-up equipment could be damaged, and several reactors may be involved.

NEI’s Adrian Heymer, executive director for Fukushima regulatory response, held a media briefing Wednesday to explain the FLEX approach:
FLEX is a set of portable equipment that is located in diverse locations around the plant. We think there needs to be more than one set of equipment at diverse locations that can be quickly deployed and connected to provide injection and power supplies for instrumentation. What you want to do is inject water so that you keep the reactor [and spent fuel pools] cool. At the same time you want to know what is going on in the reactor—so it’s instrumentation for monitoring, for which you need power supplies.
FLEX will include equipment such as additional pumps, generators, batteries and chargers that will be located in diverse locations—for instance, on the east and west sides of the plant site. The equipment will be commercial-grade, but with program controls—which are still being defined—so that the equipment will be tested with results being subject to NRC oversight.


The strategy is “flexible” in that it does not dictate that permanent equipment be installed, but rather that the plant sites prepare portable equipment that could be used for any catastrophic event. The New York Times’ Matthew Wald explains:
A clear problem at Fukushima, he [Heymer] said, was that the tsunami was bigger than what the plant was designed for. If the operators had taken an approach based on specific hazards, he said, “instead of having a meter high barrier, they might have had a 10-meter high barrier,” although the actual tsunami was 14 to 15 meters high. The institute’s approach would be to take some general precautions rather than depend on the commission’s regular approach of determining probability before deciding what steps are needed.
Thus, the FLEX approach allows the industry to more quickly address high-priority safety concerns ahead of NRC regulations, which Heymer said could take time to implement due to the administrative analyses and technical reviews that would be involved:
Eventually there would be, we think, a rulemaking that would go in parallel. But this is a way of installing and achieving additional mitigation contingency in a shorter period of time. So, you get the same benefit, but rather than going through the normal process we try to expedite it by just getting on and installing the equipment and having a rulemaking to go in parallel.
In a blog post yesterday, the NRC acknowledged the industry’s FLEX plan as a step in the right direction:
The NRC staff believes this approach is a reasonable starting point, although more work is needed on defining these strategies. We also must ensure the NRC can inspect how plants put the strategies in place and that we can hold plants accountable for keeping those strategies ready and available.
The bottom line is that we believe these combined developments may enhance the agency’s approach to implementing the recommendations.
The FLEX approach is just one part of a larger industry response to the events at Fukushima. Heymer said that the FLEX strategy would allow for at least three days of keeping the nuclear fuel cool, and that regional response centers are also being pursued as yet another line of defense against a catastrophic event. As the various levels of safety enhancements are added, the industry plans to train and test its plant workers regularly so that they are well-equipped for emergency situations.

The FLEX concept is based on how the industry responded to the events of 9/11, in which additional security precautions—such as portable generators, water pumps, hoses and batteries—were put in place to mitigate against “beyond design-basis events,” or unlikely events that are considered outside the scope of what a plant should be designed or regulated to withstand.

Please note, this story was also cross-posted at NEI's Safety First microsite.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Design Team Pictures the Future of Nuclear Energy

For more than 100 years, the shape and location of human settlements has been defined in large part by energy and water. Cities grew up near natural resources like hydropower, and near water for agricultural, industrial and household use.

So what would the world look like with a new generation of small nuclear reactors that could provide abundant, clean energy for electricity, water pumping and desalination and industrial processes?

Hard to say with precision, but Third Way, the non-partisan think tank, asked the design team at the Washington, D.C. office of Gensler & Associates, an architecture and interior design firm that specializes in sustainable projects like a complex that houses the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The talented designers saw a blooming desert and a cozy arctic village, an old urban mill re-purposed as an energy producer, a data center that integrates solar panels on its sprawling flat roofs, a naval base and a humming transit hub.

In the converted mill, high temperat…

Seeing the Light on Nuclear Energy

If you think that there is plenty of electricity, that the air is clean enough and that nuclear power is a just one among many options for meeting human needs, then you are probably over-focused on the United States or Western Europe. Even then, you’d be wrong.

That’s the idea at the heart of a new book, “Seeing the Light: The Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century,” by Scott L. Montgomery, a geoscientist and energy expert, and Thomas Graham Jr., a retired ambassador and arms control expert.


Billions of people live in energy poverty, they write, and even those who don’t, those who live in places where there is always an electric outlet or a light switch handy, we need to unmake the last 200 years of energy history, and move to non-carbon sources. Energy is integral to our lives but the authors cite a World Health Organization estimate that more than 6.5 million people die each year from air pollution.  In addition, they say, the global climate is heading for ruinous instability. E…

Sneak Peek

There's an invisible force powering and propelling our way of life.
It's all around us. You can't feel it. Smell it. Or taste it.
But it's there all the same. And if you look close enough, you can see all the amazing and wondrous things it does.
It not only powers our cities and towns.
And all the high-tech things we love.
It gives us the power to invent.
To explore.
To discover.
To create advanced technologies.
This invisible force creates jobs out of thin air.
It adds billions to our economy.
It's on even when we're not.
And stays on no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.
This invisible force takes us to the outer reaches of outer space.
And to the very depths of our oceans.
It brings us together. And it makes us better.
And most importantly, it has the power to do all this in our lifetime while barely leaving a trace.
Some people might say it's kind of unbelievable.
They wonder, what is this new power that does all these extraordinary things?