WASHINGTON, D.C.— The nuclear energy industry is adding another layer of safety and public protection by developing regional centers for critical equipment that could be needed to maintain safety in the event of an extreme event at America’s nuclear energy facilities.
All companies that operate nuclear energy facilities approved a contract to develop two regional response centers managed by Pooled Equipment Inventory Co.
The regional response centers will be located near Memphis and Phoenix and capable of delivering supplemental emergency equipment to any of America’s nuclear energy facilities within 24 hours, enabling them to safely manage a loss of electrical power and/or cooling water supply. The equipment and materials provided by the regional response centers supplement the additional portable equipment purchased at all 64 nuclear energy facilities that also can be utilized and shared during a site emergency.
Pooled Equipment Inventory Co. has been providing a shared inventory service to meet emergent equipment needs to the nuclear industry for more than 30 years. The company has established an alliance with AREVA to implement the regional response centers by expanding its capability to provide services that include emergency response planning, procurement and outage services.
“The regional response centers will further increase the industry’s preparedness for severe challenges, regardless of their causes,” said Tony Pietrangelo, NEI’s chief nuclear officer. “This is another example of the industry’s commitment to learn the lessons from the Fukushima accident in Japan and apply those lessons to enhance safety across the U.S. nuclear energy industry.
“The regional response centers will provide equipment that will enable all nuclear plant operators to protect their reactors and used fuel storage facilities as long as needed untilnormal power and cooling systems can be restored. Other measures include built-in safety systems at each reactor, the use of on-site portable emergency equipment added during the past 18 months, and the ability to attain backup emergency equipment from other nuclear energy facilities,” Pietrangelo said. “With this step, the nuclear energy industry’s multi-level safety protocol is at the highest level ever. Arguably, we have the most highly protected commercial nuclear energy industry in the world.”
The regional response centers will be capable of delivering another full set of portable safety equipment, radiation protection equipment, electrical generators, pumps and other emergency response equipment to an affected site within the first 24 hours after an extreme event.
Designated staging areas for equipment at U.S. nuclear power plants are close enough to allow the direct delivery of the equipment to the sites by land and/or air transport beginning at the 24 hour mark, but far enough away that they are less likely to be encumbered by the conditions that have initiated the emergency at the facility. Because they cannot be delivered by air, large diesel driven electrical generators will be stored at additional warehouses around the country, enabling ground delivery to the sites.
The regional response centers near Memphis and Phoenix are expected to be operational by August 2014. The startup cost, to be shared by all U.S. companies operating nuclear energy facilities, is approximately $40 million. The shared average annual cost thereafter will total about $4 million.
The industry’s response to an extreme natural event relies on a three-pronged strategy that includes:
- maintaining safety using installed plant equipment
- maintaining safety using a comprehensive set of on-site portable power and cooling equipment that is being acquired in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi accident
- maintaining safety using equipment that can be sent to an affected facility from off-site resources, including other U.S. reactors and the regional response centers.
Nuclear energy facilities operating in 31 states supply electricity to one of every five U.S. homes and businesses.