U.S. nuclear facilities meet deadline for ordering new safety equipment

Bolstering the ability of U.S. nuclear energy facilities to respond safely to extreme events, the industry has met its March 31 deadline for ordering additional on-site portable equipment to be used in emergencies.

The equipment would be used if other systems that comprise a facility’s multi-layered safety strategy are compromised. The additional equipment—some of which already has been positioned at plant sites—is a key element of the industry’s FLEX strategy developed in response to Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi accident in March 2011.

This equipment is part of a commitment by all U.S. companies operating nuclear energy facilities to begin implementing the “flexible and diverse” (FLEX) response strategy by ordering or entering into contract for a plant-specific list of emergency equipment. Each nuclear power plant has multiple safety systems designed specifically for that facility. This initiative provides an additional layer of safety as part of a nuclear power plant’s response capability to extreme natural events.

Every company met the deadline, said Tony Pietrangelo, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s senior vice president and chief nuclear officer. Equipment that has been acquired or ordered includes: diesel-driven pumps, air-driven pumps for flood equipment, sump pumps, hoses, electric generators, battery chargers, electrical switchgear, fittings, cables, fire trucks and satellite communications gear. It also includes support materials for emergency responders.

The portable equipment will provide additional means of power and water to maintain three key safety functions in the absence of electrical power and heat transfer capability from permanently installed safety systems: reactor core cooling, used fuel pool cooling and containment integrity.

The new equipment will be stored at diverse locations and protected to ensure that it can be used, if necessary, following extreme natural phenomena such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes or tornadoes that are applicable to a specific site.

“The nuclear industry is responding to the lessons learned from Fukushima with actions that provide the greatest safety benefit in the quickest amount of time,” Pietrangelo said. “Procurement of this equipment strengthens every facility’s ability to respond to and mitigate the impact of extreme events, no matter what causes them.”

The FLEX approach builds upon the enhanced safety and preparedness capabilities added in response to potential threats after Sept. 11, 2001. Those enhancements included portable equipment that support key safety functions in the event of large fires and explosions.

Nuclear energy facilities operating in 31 states supply electricity to one of every five U.S. homes and businesses.