Friday, March 11, 2016

Fukushima Five Years Later: The FLEX Strategy

David Heacock
This week is the fifth anniversary of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. To mark the event, we'll be sharing observations from leaders around the nuclear energy industry all week long on how the U.S. has absorbed lessons learned from the accident to make safe nuclear plants even safer. Today's contribution comes on the industry's FLEX strategy from David Heacock, President and Chief Executive Officer of Dominion Nuclear.

The U.S. nuclear industry is well on its way toward implementing a flexible mitigation approach for responding to any event that may exceed the robust design of the nation’s nuclear power plants. This FLEX strategy, the outcome of the U.S. industry’s response to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan, provides yet another layer of safety. This is in addition to the multiple back-up safety systems already available to protect the public and environment.

In effect, this strategy was demonstrated to successfully prevent damage to the reactor core at the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant, only a short distance from its sister plant, Daiichi.

FLEX strategies provide the greatest safety benefit of all the options that could be implemented in a short period of time to further ensure public safety from extreme natural events. Each site is equipped with portable equipment capable of providing electricity and pumping water to keep the nuclear core cool and stable. This equipment can be moved easily from protective storage buildings on the site to key locations in the plant to maintain reactor cooling until a longer-term solution is put in place. Two national response centers—in Memphis, Tennessee and Phoenix—provide additional FLEX equipment and resources that can be dispatched to any U.S. nuclear station within 24 hours.

More than half of the nation’s nuclear operators have implemented the FLEX strategy and the rest are making progress towards complying with this requirement in a timely manner.

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