NEI's President and Chief Executive Marvin Fertel
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.
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Ongoing environmental monitoring helps Japanese officials to protect public health.
When a mega-quake followed by a massive tsunami struck Japan last March, the country’s defenses were overwhelmed by the scale of the natural disaster. While the earthquake and tsunami caused catastrophic destruction and significant loss of life, radiation released from the Fukushima Daiichi reactors has not caused a single death. In fact, the radiological consequences of the accident to date are negligible, due in large part to emergency response plans that were in place before the incident.
“The reporting of Fukushima was guided by the Cold War reflex that matched radiation with fear and mortal danger,” writes Wade Allison, emeritus professor of physics at Oxford University in the UK newspaper, The Telegraph. “Reactors have been destroyed, but the radiation at Fukushima has caused no loss of life and is unlikely to do so, even in the next 50 years.”
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The following story originally appeared in NEI’s Nuclear Energy Overview.
One year after the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan, the U.S. nuclear energy industry has begun acquiring additional safety equipment as part of a “diverse and flexible” response strategy that is generally aligned with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s near-term priorities, industry executives told about two dozen reporters at a press conference this week in Washington, D.C. While the industry and the NRC agree that America’s nuclear energy facilities are safe, making them safer based on lessons from Fukushima is a high priority.
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(Click to enlarge.) IAEA's fact-finding team investigates the Fukushima Daiichi site. Photo credits: G. Webb/ IAEA
Nearly a year has passed since the unimaginable happened in Japan: a massive earthquake and tsunami claims the lives of more than 15,000 people and leaves thousands of others homeless; massive devastation occurs in the region’s communities; and an accident unfolds at the local Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility. As we reflect on the events that occurred last March 11, the world demands to know: has the global nuclear industry learned and applied the lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi event to make nuclear energy facilities safer than they were before?
Unequivocally, the answer is YES.
While the U.S. nuclear industry pursues a strategy to add another layer of safety to address the major problem encountered in Japan— the loss of power to maintain essential cooling capacity—nuclear safety regulators and plant operators in countries around the world are applying lessons learned from Japan. New safety initiatives are shaping the future of nuclear energy at more than 440 operating reactors worldwide, as well as more than 210 reactors in the licensing and planning stages.
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WASHINGTON, D.C., March 6, 2012—One year after the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan, the U.S. nuclear energy industry has begun acquiring additional safety equipment as part of a “diverse and flexible” response strategy that is generally aligned with the near-term priorities identified by the independent federal agency that oversees the industry, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The industry’s “FLEX” response strategy, outlined for reporters at a Nuclear Energy Institute news conference today, addresses the major challenges encountered at the Fukushima Daiichi power station following the double-hit of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami: the loss of power to maintain effective reactor cooling in three of the facility’s six reactors.
Additional on-site portable equipment is being acquired to help ensure that every U.S. nuclear energy facility can respond safely to extreme events, no matter what the cause. The equipment ranges from diesel-driven pumps and electric generators to ventilation fans, hoses, fittings, cables and satellite communications gear. It also includes support materials for emergency responders, including food, water and other supplies.
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