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Nuclear Energy Institute
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US Nuclear Energy Industry Intensifies Efforts to Solidify Readiness for Extreme Events

WASHINGTON, D.C.—As the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission considers possible regulatory changes to reflect lessons learned from the events at Fukushima Daichii, the U.S. nuclear energy industry continues to take independent action to ensure the safety and security of nuclear power plants across the country.

Since the March 11 tsunami and earthquake that crippled the Japanese power plant, U.S. companies are taking the following steps to safeguard nuclear energy facilities:

  • Verifying that all critical safety components, procedures and staffing are in place and functioning to prevent damage from earthquakes, flooding or large fires. All U.S. companies have completed inspections of systems that protect nuclear energy facilities against these extreme events. Necessary changes to these systems are being undertaken by individual companies where warranted. Facilities in Nebraska and the Southeast this summer demonstrated their ability to withstand record flooding and severe tornadoes respectively.
  • Taking near-term precautions to ensure that storage pools for used nuclear fuel rods are protected at all times, including adding backup sources of cooling water for the 40-foot-deep pools. The industry is acting on additional guidance to all nuclear plant operators to triple-check multiple safety measures for fuel storage pools, including the processes for monitoring the level of cooling water over the fuel.
  • Continuing to assess the effectiveness of reactor operator fundamentals and training programs. Nuclear plant operators spend every fifth week in simulator training in a room that is an exact replica of the plant’s control room. 
  • Assessing each facility’s ability to maintain vital safety systems and protect the reactor even if a plant loses all AC power for 24 hours. Additional portable equipment could be used to supplement safety equipment added after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. These are site-specific measures that would enhance a plant’s capability to mitigate an extended loss of AC power.
  • Evaluating near-term changes to guidelines that operators use to manage severe accidents, as well as broader emergency operating procedures based on lessons learned from the Japanese accident.
  • Completing a detailed evaluation of the Fukushima Daiichi events so that the facts of the event and Tokyo Electric Power’s responses can be appropriately understood. Fukushima-related improvements at America’s nuclear energy facilities should be guided by a complete understanding of the events at each of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors, said Tony Pietrangelo, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s senior vice president and chief nuclear officer.
  • Evaluating regional staging of key backup equipment and supplies to provide a centralized, rapid-response capability that would be available to all nuclear energy facilities.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its staff on the identification and implementation of actions and practices that will make U.S. nuclear energy facilities even safer than they are today,” Pietrangelo said. “In the meantime, we continue to take actions identified by our industry to ensure that we are fully prepared for extreme events, regardless of their origin.”

In the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi accident, U.S. nuclear power plant operators launched a unified program of inspections to reconfirm the safety and emergency response systems and programs at the 104 reactors that produce one-fifth of U.S. electricity supplies. The industry has also established the Fukushima Response Steering Committee to coordinate response activities throughout the nuclear energy industry. The high-level committee, which includes representatives from the Nuclear Energy Institute, Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, Electric Power Research Institute, senior electric utility executives and reactor vendors, will continue to seek and apply lessons learned from Japan as more information becomes available.