“U.S. nuclear energy facilities are operating safely. That was the case prior to Greg Jaczko’s tenure as Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman. It was the case during his tenure as NRC chairman, as acknowledged by the NRC’s special Fukushima response task force and evidenced by a multitude of safety and performance indicators. It is still the case today, particularly as every U.S. nuclear energy facility adds yet another layer of safety by implementing lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident.
“The greatest safety improvement to protect against extreme events, regardless of their cause, comes from the FLEX response strategy that the industry began implementing last year. The heart of this effort is adding more portable, backup safety equipment at each reactor. More than 1,500 pieces of equipment have been acquired or ordered, including portable generators, diesel-driven pumps and satellite phones. The additional portable equipment will provide power and water to maintain key safety functions in the absence of AC power and heat transfer capability from permanently installed safety systems. These functions are reactor core cooling, used fuel pool cooling and containment integrity.
“In addition to new equipment being placed at all U.S. reactors, the industry is developing regional response centers in Memphis and Phoenix that will serve as dispatch points for additional equipment and resources. The regional response centers will be capable of delivering another full set of portable safety equipment, radiation protection equipment, electrical generators, pumps and other emergency response equipment to an affected site within 24 hours after an extreme event.
“The nuclear energy industry’s approach to safety includes a continuous focus on operational procedures, extensive training, and sharing of lessons learned among the highly professional men and women who personify our facilities’ world-class safety culture.
“Beyond the steps that the industry is taking, the NRC carries out its safety oversight mission with a staff of 4,000 employees and an annual budget of approximately $1 billion.
“It is imperative that we continue to operate at exemplary levels of safety to maintain the far-reaching benefits of nuclear energy. Nuclear power plants generate one-fifth of America’s total electricity supply and nearly two-thirds of the carbon-free supply. Beyond their around-the-clock production of large amounts of electricity, nuclear energy facilities help maintain electric grid stability, play a major role in meeting clean air requirements, anchor the local tax base with high-paying jobs, provide electric price stability for homes and businesses alike, and support fuel diversity.”