Former NRC Chairman Dale Klein was justified in criticizing an anti-nuclear panel’s comparison of the potential of an accident at nuclear energy facilities in New York and Massachusetts with the 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi. “Comparing the accident at Fukushima Daiichi to a hypothetical accident at Indian Point or Pilgrim is intellectually dishonest and resembles the classic fear mongering intended to create unnecessary anxiety," Klein said. "Comparing the US nuclear power plants to those that have not added new safety systems and procedures is simply wrong.”
As the former Chairman points out, the U.S. and Japanese nuclear industries have very different approaches to nuclear safety. The differences developed over several decades and are profound. Below is a comparison of some of the key safety factors.
|REGULATORY STRUCTURE||NRC is a single, transparent, independent federal agency.||Had four agencies with overlapping authorities. Two promoted the industry. An independent safety regulator was formed post-Fukushima.|
|PLANT OPERATIONS COMMAND & CONTROL||All decisions rest with the on-duty, federally licensed senior reactor operators.||For some key safety-related decisions, plant operators seek the approval of government officials.|
|REACTOR OPERATOR LICENSING||All reactor operators are individually licensed by the NRC and must fully requalify every two years to maintain their license.||Only shift supervisors are licensed by regulator. Others are certified by company.|
|CONTROL ROOM SIMULATORS||All reactor operators are required to be trained and tested on a full-scale replica simulator that is identical to their facility’s control room.||Replica simulators are not required.|
|SAFETY CULTURE||Industrywide safety culture program encourages all workers to be engaged in safety and to freely report safety concerns.||No established safety culture program.|
|INDUSTRY SELF-POLICING||Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (est.1980) continuously monitors industry safety and presses for continuous improvement.||An entity modeled after INPO is being formed post-Fukushima.|
|POST 9/11 ACTIONS||Enhanced security and added safety equipment to mitigate effects of extreme events such as large fires, explosions and aircraft impact.||No significant post 9/11 protective actions.|
|EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS||Comprehensive, federally mandated emergency response plans require quarterly, full-scale drills and biennial graded drills involving local, state and federal authorities.||Emergency planning well below U.S. standards. No required or graded emergency drill protocols.|
For more information on how the U.S. nuclear industry differs from Japan's, watch this video featuring NEI's Tony Pietrangelo.