March 2012

Industry/Regulatory/Political

  • The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission last Friday approved the issuance of orders and information request letters for the U.S. nuclear industry to implement enhanced safety measures based on lessons learned from the Fukushima accident. The orders require industry to establish a mitigation strategy for beyond-design-basis external events as well as enhancements for used fuel pool instrumentation and venting systems for Mark I and Mark II boiling water reactors. The letters request information on flooding and seismic hazard re-evaluations, emergency response communications and staffing for accidents involving plants with multiple reactors.
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The Health Physics Society has released additional videos from their recent briefing on the health effects of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi. In this first video, Dr. Robert Peter Gale of the Imperial College, London, talks about the radiological impact on the first responders who worked at Fukushima Daiichi. His conclusion: that even among those workers who received the highest dose of radiation, the effects may be minimal:

In this second video, Gale, along with Dr. Richard Vetter and Dr. John Boice of Vanderbilt University, turn their attention to the radiological impacts on local residents. Again, their conclusions are encouraging:

To view another interview from the HPS event with Dr. Kathryn Higley, click here.

On March 1, 2012, the Health Physics Society convened a panel of leading scientific experts on radiation safety at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. While the quake and tsunami killed an estimated 20,000 people, radiation has not killed anyone so far, and members of HPS, drawn from academia, medicine, and the nuclear industry, suggested that the doses were too small to have much effect.

One of the HPS experts, Dr. Kathryn Higley, Head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering at Oregon State University and the former Reactor Supervisor for the Reed College TRIGA reactor, was asked a few questions about the adequacy of Emergency Planning Zones (EPZ) and whether or not they are sufficient to protect public health and safety around nuclear power plants.

For more on the HPS event, click here.

NEI's President and Chief Executive Marvin Fertel

Guest Commentary by Marvin Fertel
President and Chief Executive Officer
Nuclear Energy Institute

One year ago, a powerful earthquake and tsunami devastated the northeast coast of Japan, leaving more than 19,000 people dead or missing and thousands more homeless. We continue to remember the Japanese people for all that they lost in this horrible act of nature and continue to support their recovery. The entire world marveled at the resilience of the Japanese people in the face of this calamity.

Those of us in the nuclear energy industry were particularly struck by the tireless efforts of the workers who, in the face of destruction of the storm and uncertainty for their families, labored to stabilize the damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
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Japanese officials continue to monitor radiation levels in the air, water, soil, crops and livestock in an ongoing effort to protect public health.

Ongoing environmental monitoring helps Japanese officials to protect public health.

When a mega-quake followed by a massive tsunami struck Japan last March, the country’s defenses were overwhelmed by the scale of the natural disaster. While the earthquake and tsunami caused catastrophic destruction and significant loss of life, radiation released from the Fukushima Daiichi reactors has not caused a single death. In fact, the radiological consequences of the accident to date are negligible, due in large part to emergency response plans that were in place before the incident.

“The reporting of Fukushima was guided by the Cold War reflex that matched radiation with fear and mortal danger,” writes Wade Allison, emeritus professor of physics at Oxford University in the UK newspaper, The Telegraph. “Reactors have been destroyed, but the radiation at Fukushima has caused no loss of life and is unlikely to do so, even in the next 50 years.”
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Activity ID: 1002943 Activity Name: NEI Remarketing Safety Activity Group Name: Remarketing Safety First