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FLEX: The Industry Strategy to Enhance Safety

After reaffirming the safety of U.S. nuclear facilities, establishing a framework to respond to Fukushima Daiichi and creating a basis for action, the nuclear energy industry developed a diverse, flexible approach to implement the lessons learned from Fukushima Daiichi and address Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommendations. The diverse and flexible coping capability, or “FLEX,” builds on earlier safety steps by providing an effective and efficient way to make U.S. nuclear energy facilities even safer.

FLEX is a major step in addressing the critical problems encountered at Fukushima Daiichi: loss of power and reactor cooling capability. It provides an additional layer of backup power after an extreme event by stationing vital emergency equipment—generators, battery packs, pumps, air compressors and battery chargers—in multiple locations. Implementing FLEX will help maintain cooling if normal systems and other backup systems fail by stationing additional pumps and power sources in multiple locations to provide cooling water to the reactors.

To provide yet another layer of protection, the FLEX approach will also maintain safety even after a catastrophic event by stationing emergency equipment in secure offsite locations. The reinforcement equipment can be used if all of the plant backup equipment is insufficient.

This approach builds on concepts that were used successfully to enhance safety at U.S. nuclear energy facilities after the 9/11 attacks, when the nuclear industry had to analyze how to mitigate potential terrorist attacks. Because the FLEX strategy relies on diverse and multiple emergency assets, it provides protection even for the most unlikely events that exceed a plant’s design envelop. The FLEX approach is a faster, more efficient and effective way to address issues that the NRC and the industry have identified as the top priorities after Fukushima Daiichi.

“The FLEX approach is designed to apply to a wide range of severe natural phenomena—including earthquakes and floods. FLEX allows us to realize greater safety benefits in a shorter period of time and is an appropriate strategy for industry and regulator to pursue as we address the NRC staff’s recommendations.”

— Adrian Heymer
Executive Director, Strategic Programs
Nuclear Energy Institute

Industry representatives presented the FLEX concept to the NRC in January and have found an emerging consensus among NRC staff, the agency’s advisory committee, industry and key committees in Congress that the FLEX approach offers the most promise for enhancing the safety of nuclear energy facilities. FLEX will allow the industry to make post-Fukushima safety improvements while the NRC develops regulations that codify the Fukushima lessons learned. Working in tandem will ensure the maximum safety benefit in the shortest period of time so that America’s nuclear plants are prepared for extreme natural events.

Resources:

The FLEX Solution: America’s Nuclear Energy Industry Responds to Fukushima from Nuclear Energy Institute on Vimeo.

Activity ID: 1002943 Activity Name: NEI Remarketing Safety Activity Group Name: Remarketing Safety First