Skip to main content

CNO Summit Diary: Dateline, Japan: Following history in the advance of safe nuclear operations

Often, I travel most modestly on behalf of the U.S. nuclear industry -- like say up and back to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for public meetings, some 7 miles from NEI's offices in Northwest Washington. But about a month ago, as word began circulating in the office about a sizable contingent (almost all) of our nation's chief nuclear officers traveling to Japan to meet with their Japanese CNO counterparts, NEI communications leadership saw a clear role to try and capture the historic visit in words and images. And tweets, of course.

My bosses picked me to tag along with the CNOs (almost 30 of them), as a bit of an embedded reporter. I've a daunting task in that regard. 

To be sure, this is a historic visit; nothing of its kind has been undertaken before in the history of commercial nuclear operations in the U.S. For the first time, the chief nuclear officers from the U.S. and Japan will meet together to discuss lessons learned from a severe accident: specifically, actions at Japanese plants during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami as well as steps companies in both countries are taking to enhance safety at nearly 150 reactors total.

And of course, we've a remarkable backdrop for this trip: news reports the past few weeks have been voluminous -- and, in must be noted, hyperbolic -- related to accounts of TEPCO's management of contaminated water at the Fukushima site. What is actually true is that one water tank on the site developed a leak, it was subsequently stopped, and the remaining water in the leaking tank was transferred. Additionally, the contaminated areas around the affected tanks have been treated, and radiation and tank water levels are being continuously monitored. There has been no threat to public safety. I'm confident the American traveling contingent will return home in a week's time with a great deal more information about conditions at Fukushima Daiichi and Daini.        

The idea for this spectacular summit really goes to Randy Edington, the chief nuclear officer of Arizona Public Service's Palo Verde nuclear plant. Randy visited Fukushima back in January, and he was so moved by the implications of the accident that he made it his mission to persuade his CNO colleagues to come over to Japan together, to experience what he experienced. It's a powerful statement I think of the U.S. nuclear industry's commitment to safety and continuous learning that we have just about every American CNO on this trip. 
Tokyo at night.
Credit for the enormous logistics necessary to pull off such a visit goes to the Atlanta-based Institute of Nuclear Power Operations. INPO shared Randy's view of the imperative of seeing, firsthand, the consequences of the Fukushima accident, discussing the U.S. response to the event, and interacting with the Japanese CNOs to convey, quite personally, our ongoing commitment to helping. INPO has dispatched an impressive team of talented videographers to chronicle the trip as a legacy and teaching moment. I'll be working closely with them.      

I feel most fortunate to have been selected to travel to Japan with our CNOs, and to aggregate as much content on the ground here as possible, and share it with you. We have plans to publish still and video images, on Facebook and the blog here, and on Twitter (@NEI_media and @N_E_I) I'll share my experience with the hashtag #CNOsummit. But the communications product I'm most excited about is a series of digital diaries I've asked a handful of my companion CNOs to keep for me. A fair number of them are traveling with iPads, and I thought it could be terrifically illuminating to have them construct something akin to digital postcards of their experience, and share them with you. Look for those in the days ahead.

A part of me is intimidated by a communications challenge obviously unlike anything I've ever attempted before, one which seems massive in scope and technical care and delicacy. But I'm keeping the best possible company, working alongside men and women of marvelous commitment and ability. I'm looking forward to bringing you their story.      


jimwg said…
I hope you folks contact and give moral air support to the beleagued few Japanese pro-nuclear blogs over there! They'd be a nice on-the-spot nuke news resource for us and nuclear orgs here as well!

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Anonymous said…
Thanks for making the trip. One thing I think we should try to plant the seeds of whenever we can is to suggest that what happened to Daiichi is not so much an "accident" as a facility damaged by a natural event. The plant functioned as designed. It shut down as planned and was in a safe, stable condition until natural forces beyond those reasonably planned for caused further damage. It is as wrong to call this an "accident" as it is to say the cities and towns flooded by the tsunami were "accidents". That may seem like arguing semantics, but calling things "accidents" when they really aren't leads to incorrect perceptions of causation and risk.

Popular posts from this blog

A Billion Miles Under Nuclear Energy (Updated)

And the winner is…Cassini-Huygens, in triple overtime.

The spaceship conceived in 1982 and launched fifteen years later, will crash into Saturn on September 15, after a mission of 19 years and 355 days, powered by the audacity and technical prowess of scientists and engineers from 17 different countries, and 72 pounds of plutonium.

The mission was so successful that it was extended three times; it was intended to last only until 2008.

Since April, the ship has been continuing to orbit Saturn, swinging through the 1,500-mile gap between the planet and its rings, an area not previously explored. This is a good maneuver for a spaceship nearing the end of its mission, since colliding with a rock could end things early.

Cassini will dive a little deeper and plunge toward Saturn’s surface, where it will transmit data until it burns up in the planet’s atmosphere. The radio signal will arrive here early Friday morning, Eastern time. A NASA video explains.

In the years since Cassini has launc…

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.


The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.

What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

Why Nuclear Plant Closures Are a Crisis for Small Town USA

Nuclear plants occupy an unusual spot in the towns where they operate: integral but so much in the background that they may seem almost invisible. But when they close, it can be like the earth shifting underfoot., the Gannett newspaper that covers the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, took a look around at the experience of towns where reactors have closed, because the Indian Point reactors in Buchanan are scheduled to be shut down under an agreement with Gov. Mario Cuomo.

From sea to shining sea, it was dismal. It wasn’t just the plant employees who were hurt. The losses of hundreds of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in payrolls and millions in property taxes depressed whole towns and surrounding areas. For example:

Vernon, Vermont, home to Vermont Yankee for more than 40 years, had to cut its municipal budget in half. The town closed its police department and let the county take over; the youth sports teams lost their volunteer coaches, and Vernon Elementary School lost th…