(Last updated 8/17/2011)
Within one week of the Fukushima Daiichi accident, each electric utility that operates nuclear energy facilities in America committed to a unified program of inspections to triple-check safety and emergency response systems and programs. In some areas where improvements were needed, the companies have made these changes or are in the process of making the changes. U.S. companies since March have taken the following measures to enhance safety:
- Verified that all critical safety components, procedures and staffing are in place and functioning to mitigate potential damage from earthquakes, flooding, large fires or explosions. All U.S. companies have completed inspections of systems that protect nuclear energy facilities against these extreme events. Necessary changes to these systems are being undertaken by individual companies.
- Taking near-term steps to ensure that storage pools for used nuclear fuel rods are protected at all times, including adding backup sources of cooling water for the storage pools. The industry is acting on additional guidance to all nuclear plant operators to triple-check multiple safety measures for fuel storage pools, including the processes for monitoring the level of cooling water over the fuel.
- Continue to assess the effectiveness of reactor operator fundamentals and training programs. Nuclear plant operators spend every fifth week in simulator training that is an exact replica of the plant’s control room.
- Assessing each facility’s ability to maintain vital safety systems and protect the reactor even if a plant loses all AC power for 24 hours. Additional portable equipment could be used to supplement safety equipment added after the 9/11 attacks. These are site-specific measures that would enhance a plant’s capability to mitigate an extended loss of AC power.
- Evaluating near-term changes to guidelines that operators use to manage severe accidents as well as broader emergency response guidelines based on lessons learned from the Japanese accident.
- Completing a detailed evaluation of the Fukushima Daiichi events so that the facts of the event and Tokyo Electric Power’s responses can be appropriately understood. Fukushima-related improvements at America’s nuclear energy facilities should be guided by a complete understanding of the events at each of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors.
- Evaluating regional staging of key equipment and supplies to provide a centralized, rapid-response capability that would be available to all nuclear energy facility operators.
Nuclear energy should be judged on the facts—not perception. America’s nuclear energy industry has a combined 3,600 years of safe nuclear power plant operating experience, and we have protected the public, our workers and the environment throughout five decades of safe operations. There is a global commitment to safety in the nuclear energy industry, yet corporate safety and training programs and regulatory systems differ from country to country. There are significant differences between U.S. and Japanese companies’ nuclear plant operations and government regulatory processes.
America’s nuclear energy facilities are safe—operating at electric sector-leading efficiency and reliability levels. They are inspected daily by independent on-site inspectors from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In addition, the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations performs industry plant and corporate inspections. Industry changes as a result of inspections by both organizations have further strengthened safety at all nuclear energy facilities.