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Nuclear Plant Safety Changes Proposed

NRC discusses lessons learned from Japan meltdown

Washington, DC
Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission today heard the results of a task force report prompted by the meltdown of the Fukushima reactor in Japan.  The report looks at what lessons can be learned from that accident and how the U.S. nuclear power industry should react to prevent a similar incident here.

In a speech yesterday, NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said that while the NRC believes there is "no imminent threat (of an incident)...no one believes that what happened in Japan would be acceptable in this country."

The report says that while U.S. nuclear facilities are generally safe, the proposed rules changes address "the level of protection that is regarded as adequate”  in case there is a series of natural disasters or other low-probability events like the ones that caused a meltdown in Japan this past March.  The task force found the current system to be  "a patchwork of regulatory requirements."

The task force made twelve safety recommendations, including:

  • Requiring plants to assess the potential for earthquakes and floods and act on any new information
  • Ensuring reactors can operate with no electric power for at least 8 hours
  • Installing earthquake-ready equipment
  • Requiring enhanced emergency plans be in place for natural disasters
  • Modifying the design of certain reactor types

Chairman Jaczko said that he would like the NRC to decide within 90 days how to proceed with the task force recommendations and that the nuclear industry would have five years to implement any new regulations that result from this process.

Updated: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 at 3:49pm (ET)

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