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Diplomatic Differences Don’t Alter Shared Goals in International Nuclear Safety

Dale Klein
The following is a post by Dale Klein, former Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and now Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at The University of Texas System.

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.

Comments

Dear Mr. Klein,
I am a news writer from the Russian International Information Agency "RIA Novosti" and am currently working on the issue of the changes to the Convention on Nuclear Safety proposed by Switzerland in order to prevent explosions like on Fukushima plant.

I would be deeply grateful if You could provide our agency with a brief personal commentary on the issue, that would be an indeed precious material.

Here are several questions that You could answer, but also please feel free to comment on any aspect You find interesting.

- What are the main reasons for US opposition to the Swiss initiative?
- What will be the approximate losses for the US nuclear plants if the changes are adopted?
- In Your opinion, how realistic are the changes that Switzerland proposes? How expensive could the implementation be?
- How necessary are these changes in what concerns public safety?
- Will the changes be adopted? Will the US take further steps to bloc with Russia that also opposes the Swiss proposals?

I appreciate Your time and consideration.
If You would like to have a phone conversation instead of writing in e-mail, please let me know by answering to this letter.

Kind regards,
Anastasia Levchenko
Anonymous said…
Dear Mrs. Levchenko,

Could you contact me please at:
jeandaniel.praz@eda.admin.ch
Ellie Austin said…
The right question is: "What is the main reason for the Swiss initiative?" Such reason is not the safety of nuclear power plants, but the desire to stop the development of nuclear industry, which is not in the plans of the US and Russia. The Swiss proposal is attacking even the latest reactor designs, with numerous redundant safety features. It would create an undue burden on the nuclear industry. There is no chance that the initiative would be adopted. The proposal is not made in good faith, technically unsound, unnecessary and unfeasible. Yes, the US will take further steps to block with any country, including Russia, to protect its interests.

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