The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has authorized its staff to issue immediately effective Orders to U.S. commercial nuclear reactors. This action begins implementation of several recommendations for enhancing safety at U.S. reactors based on lessons learned from the accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
“The Commission has taken a significant step forward on our post-Fukushima efforts,” said NRC Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko. “These Orders reflect a tremendous effort on the part of the NRC staff to produce this comprehensive package in an expedited manner. As always, I continue to be thoroughly impressed by the staff’s dedication. Of course, there’s still a great deal of work ahead of us.”
Two of the Orders apply to every U.S. commercial nuclear power plant, including those under construction and the recently licensed new Vogtle reactors. The first Order requires the plants to better protect safety equipment installed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and to obtain sufficient equipment to support all reactors at a given site simultaneously. The second Order requires the plants to install enhanced equipment for monitoring water levels in each plant’s spent fuel pool.
The third Order applies only to U.S. boiling-water reactors that have “Mark I” or “Mark II” containment structures. These reactors must improve venting systems (or for the Mark II plants, install new systems) that help prevent or mitigate core damage in the event of a serious accident. Plants have until Dec. 31, 2016, to complete modifications and requirements of all three Orders.
The NRC will also issue a detailed information request to every operating U.S. commercial nuclear power plant, and certain parts will apply to reactors currently under construction or recently licensed. The request covers several topics, including:
• Re-analyzing earthquake and flooding risks using the latest available information;
• Conducting earthquake and flooding hazard “walkdowns,” where skilled engineers closely examine a plant’s ability to meet current requirements;
• Assessing the ability of a plant’s current communications systems and equipment to perform under conditions of onsite and offsite damage and prolonged loss of all alternating current (ac) electrical power; and • Assessing plant staffing levels needed to fill emergency positions in response to events simultaneously affecting all reactors at a given site. Each section of the request includes schedules for plants to provide the relevant information to the NRC. The Orders and information request will be available on the NRC’s website. These actions address what the NRC determined to be the highest-priority recommendations from the agency’s Japan Near-Term Task Force. The Task Force issued its report in July 2011. The NRC staff continues to examine how to best address the remaining Task Force recommendations, as well as additional topics raised during the early implementation effort. ###