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Fukushima Five Years Later: SAFER Response Within 24 Hours to Any US Reactor

Michael Pacilio
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 from Michael Pacilio, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Exelon Generation.

After the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s acceptance of the industry’s FLEX strategy, the industry immediately began development of a three-phased approach to mitigating beyond-design-basis events.

In phase one, companies would use permanently installed equipment as an initial means of responding to a serious event. The phase two concept drove the acquisition and storage of portable equipment at each nuclear plant site to enhance the station’s coping strategies. Finally, phase three drove the enhancement of existing inter-utility support agreements and the development of independent, national response centers that house portable safety equipment that can be delivered to any nuclear plant site in America within 24 hours.

The nuclear industry jointly established an implementation plan for phase three. Led by the Institute for Nuclear Power Operations, inter-utility memorandums of understanding were updated to reflect the need to maintain an inventory of on-site, portable equipment that could be moved from site to site as required. The memorandums also re-enforced personnel support among utilities in need of specific expertise.

This pump delivers 5,000 gallons of water per minute at a pressure of 150 psi.
Through a proposal review and interview process, an industry team competitively selected an organization to procure, house and maintain additional portable safety equipment. The Strategic Alliance for FLEX Emergency Response (SAFER) team, comprised of the Pooled Equipment Inventory Co. and Areva Inc., was selected to manage the project.

The industry determined bounding operational requirements for common equipment and industrywide standards were established for common pump connections and electrical cable connections. Simultaneously, the SAFER organization developed strategies for storage, maintenance and movement of equipment to nuclear plants and created site-specific response playbooks to be used as a common reference for all parties involved in an event response.

Ultimately, national SAFER response centers were established in Memphis, Tennessee and Phoenix, Arizona. The industry signed a contract with FedEx Custom Critical for the movement of equipment from either center to an affected site by road or air. Five complete sets of generic equipment—a robust mix of portable pumps, generators and supporting equipment—are maintained at each center. Additionally, equivalent sets of site-specific equipment were procured for each center.

Transportation of equipment from the centers to facilities in need have been assured by contracts with five commercial helicopter companies as well as utility specific agreements with state Air National Guard units and an overarching letter of agreement established between the NRC and the Department of Defense for use of military helicopters. Any combination of these could be used to support local airlift of equipment if a site becomes isolated from roads during an event.

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