In This Section
The unique combination of industry self-regulation, independent oversight by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and a culture of safety, transparency and continuous improvement differentiates the U.S. approach to nuclear safety. While industry has been conducting inspections of nuclear energy facilities and developing an integrated plan that includes the FLEX strategy to enhance plant safety, the NRC has also been taking action to ensure the highest levels of safety are maintained at U.S. reactors.
NRC experts were dispatched to Japan to assist and learn from recovery efforts. The agency also ordered its inspectors in the United States to immediately assess the safety preparedness of every nuclear energy facility across the country. The inspections reaffirmed the safety of U.S. plants. In April 2011, NRC Chairman Gregory Jackzo said that he is “confident about the safety of U.S. nuclear power plants.”
To ensure that the United States benefitted from lessons learned in Japan, the NRC created a panel of experts to determine the need for any regulatory action. The panel’s initial 90-day report, issued in July 2011, praised the industry’s response efforts as “useful and valuable,” but recommended a series of additional regulatory actions to strengthen the longstanding “defense-in-depth” approach to nuclear safety. Defense-in-depth refers to the practice of creating multiple and redundant layers of safety to guard against potential system failures or unexpected events.
The NRC refined and prioritized the task force recommendations into three tiers for action, with top priority focused on areas the NRC defined as steps that “should be started without unnecessary delay and for which sufficient resource flexibility, including availability of critical skill sets, exists.”
These Tier 1 priorities are related to:
- seismic and flooding protection
- safety during a prolonged loss of AC power
- used fuel storage
- accessibility of specialized vent valves to release gas buildup
- training on guidelines to manage severe accidents and mitigate extensive damage.
The industry and NEI are generally aligned on the priorities and the industry has developed a strategic approach that will ensure that these issues are implemented quickly and effectively so that America’s safe nuclear energy facilities are made even safer.
- NEI fact sheet: Strict Regulatory Oversight
- NRC Near-Term Task Force Review of Insights from the Fukushima Daiichi Accident
- Fact sheet on summary of Japan events in March 2011 and NRC response
- Press release: NRC Appoints Task Force Members and Approves Charter For Review of Agency’s Response to Japan Nuclear Event
- Press release: NRC Takes Action on Japan Near-Term Task Force Safety Recommendations
- Press release: NRC Approves Prioritization of Japan Lessons-Learned Task Force Recommendations