Friday, September 13, 2013

CNO Summit Diary: PG&E's Ed Halpin on the Lessons From Fukushima

Ed Halpin, SVP & CNO of PG&E
Ed Halpin, Senior Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer at PG&E, was in Japan this week with virtually all of his American colleagues as part of the U.S.-Japan CNO Summit. He shared this diary entry with us after reflecting on what he saw at Fukushima Daiichi earlier this week. Be sure to follow all the updates from Japan on Twitter using the #CNOSummit hash tag.

As nuclear operators, we have earned a special trust from the communities we serve. My time here reaffirms my belief that the U.S. nuclear industry must always maintain its strong focus on safe operations, intensive training programs, effective peer-review processes, and the continued sharing of lessons-learned across the nation and throughout the world. The U.S. industry has always relied on redundant layers of safety in operating its facilities and is making exceptional gains in implementing a program known as "FLEX" to further enhance safety in the face of extreme natural events.

"FLEX" addresses the major challenges encountered at the Fukushima Daiichi power station following the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami: the loss of power to maintain effective reactor fuel cooling. The strategy focuses on providing an uninterrupted supply of electricity and cooling water to protect critical plant safety systems at all times and ensuring that every U.S. nuclear energy facility can respond safely to extreme events, no matter what the cause.

My belief is that mandating more modifications or changing our design requirements based on the worst potential natural disasters and assuming conditions that are highly improbable will only complicate our response to such an event. Certainly we need to close out the more important issues that are currently on the table and in keeping with our industry "Path to Excellence." Even more importantly, we need to continue to emphasize a strong operational focus with rigorous, realistic training. We must be able to implement our FLEX strategies blindfolded across every operating crew and our emergency response teams and training have got to be exemplary. These actions honor the trust we have earned from our communities and customers and keep us focused on our primary goal - safety.

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