All nations with nuclear energy programs share the same goals of protection of the public health and safety along with the efficient operation of their commercial reactors, implemented in accordance with their own policies, laws and regulations. Never more so than since the accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi site three and a half years ago.
Recent reports from both Bloomberg News and Reuters have shed new light on differences in approaches to enhancing safety at nuclear power plants in the international community. With that in mind, I’d like to take a closer look at the post-Fukushima actions the U.S. industry has taken to make plants that are already safe even safer.
Each U.S. plant site is procuring additional equipment such as portable pumps and generators to perform key safety functions if off-site electrical supplies and several backup power sources for permanently installed safety systems are lost due to natural and/or manmade causes. Key actions also include improved training of plant personnel and off-site emergency plans to respond safely to extreme events. In the event that additional back-up equipment is needed, the U.S. industry has put in place two national response centers which can supply this equipment to any nuclear plant site in the U.S. within 24 hours.
The U.S. is also in the process of re-analyzing natural challenges to the plants, including earthquakes and flooding, and making provisions for safe responses to events greater in magnitude for which the plants were originally designed.
The U.S. plants most like those at Fukushima are also installing reliable containment vents that will maintain the integrity of the reactor containment even if the nuclear core is damaged. And, the industry is cooperating with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to determine the optimal vent filtration method using a performance-based approach that focuses the response to a severe accident on those actions best able to manage the accident and mitigate potential radiation releases.
There are multiple methods for ensuring safety. The U.S. is greatly enhancing its ability to handle challenges to the plants no matter what causes them. Despite diplomatic differences, the U.S. and European community share a common goal: protection of the public and the environment.