“Safety first” is not just our mantra—it’s our job, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Communities have the right to know the safety record of America’s nuclear energy plants. We are proud to share it. We are conducting a thorough assessment of the safety of each nuclear plant to ensure they are prepared for any event that could occur.
One in five American homes and businesses is powered by electricity generated at the nation’s 104 nuclear energy facilities, which produce no greenhouse gases and which are the most reliable electricity generators. Nuclear energy technology is developed here at home, making it an important part of the nation’s comprehensive energy portfolio.
“Here at home, nuclear power is an important part of our own energy future... Our nuclear power plants have undergone exhaustive study, and have been declared safe...But when we see a crisis like the one in Japan, we have a responsibility to learn from this event...” – President Barack Obama
America’s nuclear energy facilities are built to a high safety standard, yet energy companies are actively reviewing their plants and procedures to ensure even more accountability. The U.S. nuclear industry embraces a simple principle: plan for the unexpected by integrating multi-layered safety features and operating procedures every step of the way.
The U.S. nuclear energy industry has created a joint leadership model to coordinate the industry's response to the events at the Fukushima Daiichi. The model will ensure that lessons learned are identified and well understood, and that response actions are effectively implemented industrywide.
Following the Fukushima Daiichi accident, the U.S. nuclear energy industry began examining ways to ensure safety is maintained in the face of extreme natural events. The industry has begun implementing a number of measures to maintain and upgrade the already-high level of safety at nuclear energy facilities.
Recent media reports accusing the nuclear energy industry of opposing the installation of filtered vents on Mark I and II boiling water reactors (BWRs) are incorrect. What is really at stake is taking the most meaningful steps at nuclear plants to prevent and manage an accident like the one at Fukushima.
Commercial nuclear power plants in the U.S. must be able to prevent and manage an accident like the one at Fukushima.
Clearly, the best way is to not have an accident in the first place. As documented in a report by an independent commission of Japan’s national legislature, U.S. plants are much better regulated, run and prepared than their counterparts in Japan. In addition to the myriad systems installed in U.S. plants to prevent accidents and cope with a severe accident, U.S. plants have become even better prepared since the Fukushima accident. Even if all installed cooling systems were to fail, new portable power and water systems will cool the reactor core and protect spent uranium fuel in storage pools at the facility. These new systems—part of a new diverse and flexible safety strategy (FLEX)—also include additional pre-staged pumps, generators, and other equipment at other nuclear plants and two new regional response centers.
Representatives of the nuclear energy industry once again this week asked the NRC to adopt a performance-based approach to minimize the release of radioactivity from damaged fuel in a severe accident, while agency staff reiterated its earlier recommendation to require external filters for the containment vents of early-model boiling water reactors.
“A performance-based approach to filtration provides the greatest overall improvement in plant safety with sufficient filtration,” said Maria Korsnick, Constellation Energy Nuclear Group’s chief nuclear officer and chief operating officer. “The industry approach has the advantage of retaining the filtered radionuclides in containment. The desire is to prevent land contamination.”
Korsnick added that a performance-based approach that would specify results rather than methods to attain them would require plant-specific analyses. She noted that the NRC’s independent Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards “supports this approach”.
To produce the high-definition video, NEI acquired first-of-its kind footage of the deployment of new emergency response equipment at U.S. nuclear energy facilities. The video also features animation and interviews with industry leaders and technical staff discussing nuclear plant safety.
The diverse and flexible (“FLEX”) response strategy developed by industry addresses the major challenges encountered at the Fukushima Daiichi power station following the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami: the loss of power to maintain effective reactor fuel cooling.
Additional on-site portable equipment is being acquired to help ensure that every U.S. nuclear energy facility can respond safely to extreme events, no matter what the cause. The equipment ranges from diesel-driven pumps and electric generators to ventilation fans, hoses, fittings, cables and satellite communications gear. It also includes support materials for emergency responders. For additional information concerning how the American nuclear energy is applying lessons learned from Fukushima, please visit the Fukushima response section of NEI.org.
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has recommended requiring engineered filters to the containment vents for Mark I and Mark II boiling water reactors as a post-Fukushima response. A staff paper released this week for the commission’s consideration said an alternative performance-based approach to filtering preferred by industry and by the NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards would work but take too long to implement.
Japan’s pro-nuclear energy Liberal Democratic Party won a landslide victory Dec. 16, taking 294 of the 480 seats in the lower chamber of parliament, despite voters’ relatively negative view of nuclear energy. A poll by the Japanese national newspaper Asahi Shimbun found that 16 percent of voters want to scrap nuclear energy immediately, 28 think it should be phased out and 15 percent support continuing to use nuclear energy. The newspaper concluded that voters did not consider nuclear energy a key issue in the race.
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Taking Action To Boost Safety at U.S. Nuclear Energy Facilities
Through its relentless commitment to the pursuit of excellence in operations, the U.S. nuclear industry is taking significant action to ensure that each of the nation’s 104 nuclear plants operate safely and securely.