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.
The events at Fukushima Daiichi remind us why safety is our industry’s top priority. Although the consequences of last year’s emergency have had no immediate health effects, we never want to repeat that experience—in Japan or anywhere else.
With that in mind, I want to let you know what the U.S. nuclear energy industry is doing in response to Fukushima to make our nuclear energy facilities even safer.
We did not wait for directives from the government to take action. We developed a strategy, called FLEX, to ensure that lessons learned in Japan are applied quickly and effectively at America’s reactors.
FLEX addresses the major problems encountered in Japan—the loss of power to maintain effective cooling—by stationing another layer of backup equipment in multiple locations, both at our facilities and in other secure locations. This flexible approach builds on existing safety systems to protect against unforeseen events of all kinds.
This isn’t just talk. Every U.S. nuclear energy utility has committed to order new backup emergency equipment by the end of this month, and more than 300 pieces of safety equipment have already been installed or ordered.
Our industry took these and other safety actions on our own initiative, but we will continue to work with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to address issues our independent regulator has raised by Fukushima.
We have to get this right because our nation needs nuclear energy. Nuclear power provides electricity to one in five homes and businesses in the United States. It is the best option to meet the growing demand for electricity—reliably, safely, and without greenhouse gas emissions.
Our industry has been providing assistance to Japan since the earthquake, and we will continue to assist recovery efforts at Fukushima Daiichi.
We will never forget last year’s natural disaster or the lessons that will make our industry safer.