First of two regional nuclear emergency equipment centers open

The U.S. nuclear industry has opened the first of two regional emergency response centers in an effort to be better prepare for any severe accidents at domestic reactors, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) said May 22.

The Phoenix response center, like one that will open later this year in Memphis, will be capable of delivering complete sets of emergency equipment to help facilities respond safely to extreme events no matter what causes them, NEI said in a statement.

The startup cost for each facility is about $40m, with annual operating costs of about $4m. The costs will be shared by companies operating 100 reactors that generate one-fifth of America’s electricity.

This is part of the U.S. industry’s so-called “flex” program, which it started in the aftermath of the 2011 meltdown accident at the Tokyo Electric Power Fukushima Dai-ichi station in Japan.

While this is a voluntary program by industry, NEI member companies have also said publicly that new rules passed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in the wake of the Fukushima disaster have not proven too costly so far. NRC has required additional seismic and flood-related research. In addition, NRC has pushed plants to provide more sources of back-up generation on-site to deal with so-called station blackout conditions.

“This is part of the industry’s strategy to provide flexible and tailored backup safety equipment at nuclear power plants in the event of extreme unexpected events,” said Mike Pacilio, the executive sponsor for regional response centers on the NEI’s Fukushima Response Steering Committee. Pacilio also is president of Exelon Nuclear and chief nuclear officer of Exelon Generation. The Chicago-based Exelon (NYSE:EXC) is the nation’s largest nuclear energy company.

 Each of these centers is designed to deliver emergency backup equipment anywhere in America within 24 hours,” Pacilio said.

Equipment at the response centers supplements permanent safety systems built into nuclear energy facilities and multiple sets of portable, backup safety equipment already positioned at the facilities. Companies also have protocols in place to share backup safety equipment already stored at nuclear power plants.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.