The following news article originally appeared in NEI’s Nuclear Energy Overview.
NRC Commissioner George Apostolakis had questions about the nuclear energy industry’s FLEX strategy at a briefing on the progress made to implement the highest-priority recommendations of the agency’s post-Fukushima task force.
“Do we know FLEX will work?” Apostolakis asked agency staff. He said he was concerned whether equipment could be moved successfully from regional support centers to nuclear energy facilities during the “challenging conditions” of a natural disaster.
The industry’s FLEX strategy is designed to maintain cooling capability of the reactor and used fuel storage pool if electricity supply is cut during an extreme event, such as an earthquake or flood. It includes adding additional safety equipment—diesel generators, pumps and other gear—at strategic locations on the plant site and more equipment off site at regional support centers. To date, nuclear energy facility operators have purchased more than 400 pieces of equipment to implement FLEX.
Mike Johnson, the NRC’s deputy executive director for reactor and preparedness programs, told Apostolakis that agency staff has endorsed the industry guidance on FLEX. He added that staff had looked “very closely at the guidance that’s been developed. The strategy causes plants to think about diversity and redundancy.”
Johnson said that facility operators should develop comprehensive procedures for FLEX, determine staffing requirements, and train staff on setting up and using the new equipment.
James Scarola, NEI’s executive director and Fukushima response steering committee chairman, emphasized the importance of timely execution of plant safety enhancements. He said that implementing the lessons from Fukushima depends not on “an incremental improvement to safety analysis, it’s rather executing and delivering on results. Our focus has been to prioritize and get actions in place that in fact have made a difference in the level of safely as quickly as possible.”
Scarola highlighted industry actions since the accident, which include validating and training on the requirements that were established after the September 2001 terrorist attacks for responding to major damage to a plant; ensuring that all equipment installed after the attacks is functional; completing initial seismic and flood inspections to identify vulnerabilities; and reviewing station blackout procedures and the readiness of equipment.
NRC TIER 1 SCHEDULES
David Skeen, director of the NRC’s Japan lessons-learned project directorate, said the industry is on track to implement the top-tier recommendations within the five years set by the orders. The work includes installing reliable hardened vents in reactors similar to the ones at Fukushima and installing additional instruments in all used fuel storage pools. He pointed out that these actions also apply to licensees that are building new reactors.
Skeen said the NRC expects to issue the final guidance documents for the orders by the end of August. Reactor operators are to submit their implementation plans on the orders six months later and complete implementation within two refueling outages but no later than Dec. 31, 2016.