Monday, July 18, 2011

NRC To Reconsider 'Cost Protection Rule'

Recommendations from an NRC task force formed after Japan's Fukushima Daiichi disaster in March represent the most significant changes to nuclear-industry safety since the 1979 Three Mile Island disaster in Pennsylvania.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) intends to decide within 90 days how to proceed with far-reaching safety changes recommended for the nuclear industry, including requiring plant owners to have greater levels of backup power and requiring possibly costly upgrades. Up to now, a cost-protection rule has essentially barred the NRC from requiring major plant improvements without first having to prove that the human-health benefits justify the cost.  The NRC is considering changing the rule to accomodate the Task Force recommendations.

Task Force Report

Immediate actions:

Order nuclear plants to re-evaluate seismic and flooding risks. Update structures and components to provide more protection.

Order plants to have backup electricity for spent-fuel pools and better monitoring and cooling.

Update emergency plans to incorporate severe-accident guidelines that now are voluntary.

Order plants like those in Japan to have better ways to vent dangerous hydrogen gas and prevent explosions.

Order plants to prepare for disasters that damage more than one reactor

Longer-term actions:

Require plants to re-evaluate seismic and flooding risks every 10 years.

Require plants to have systems in place to ride out extended blackouts.

Improve emergency training for nuclear-plant

(WSJ, 7/18/2011)

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