Emergency Preparedness

The following story originally appeared in NEI’s Nuclear Energy Overview.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has requested public input on potential revisions to the station blackout rule based on lessons from Fukushima, saying it is open to “flexible, performance-based strategies” that would meet safety needs.

The NRC’s 1988 rule (10 CFR 50.63) requires nuclear energy facilities to cope with the loss of off-site and on-site electricity—other than emergency batteries or alternate sources—for a specific duration based on site-specific factors. The coping time for each facility is based on the extent and reliability of a site’s emergency power sources, the frequency of blackouts, and the time needed to restore electricity. The rule assumes the power loss results from problems in the switchyard or transmission system or the effects of severe weather.
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Southern Nuclear's SAM Program Director David Gambrell

Southern Nuclear's SAM Program Director David Gambrell

David Gambrell serves as director of Southern Nuclear’s Severe Accident Management (SAM) team — a group formed in July 2011 to help influence regulations in response to the event at Fukushima and other natural external hazard events in the United States. The mission of this team is to prepare Southern Nuclear’s fleet for anticipated changes in facilities, procedures and processes.

Gambrell shares his take on the current state of the industry and the action Southern Nuclear has taken as a result.

What has happened in this country since Fukushima?

After March 11, 2011, the United States immediately began to examine our own procedures and designs to determine where improvements can be made to keep our plants safe during natural events.
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On March 1, 2012, the Health Physics Society convened a panel of leading scientific experts on radiation safety at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. While the quake and tsunami killed an estimated 20,000 people, radiation has not killed anyone so far, and members of HPS, drawn from academia, medicine, and the nuclear industry, suggested that the doses were too small to have much effect.

One of the HPS experts, Dr. Kathryn Higley, Head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering at Oregon State University and the former Reactor Supervisor for the Reed College TRIGA reactor, was asked a few questions about the adequacy of Emergency Planning Zones (EPZ) and whether or not they are sufficient to protect public health and safety around nuclear power plants.

For more on the HPS event, click here.

Japanese officials continue to monitor radiation levels in the air, water, soil, crops and livestock in an ongoing effort to protect public health.

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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Charles Pardee

Exelon Generation Co.'s Chief Operating Officer Charles Pardee

Guest Commentary by Charles Pardee
Chief Operating Officer of
Exelon Generation Co.
Chairman of the Fukushima Response Steering Committee

Nearly a year after a massive earthquake and tsunami disabled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, the U.S. nuclear energy industry remains dedicated to applying lessons learned from these events to enhance safety at the nation’s 104 reactors. Over the past year, both the industry and the independent U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), have systematically reviewed the events for applicable lessons and independently assessed areas to target for safety improvements at nuclear energy facilities. These reviews complemented ongoing safety inspections at nuclear energy facilities.

As part of these reviews, the U.S. nuclear industry:

  • verified that all systems to mitigate potential damage are functioning
  • completed inspections of systems that protect plants against extreme natural events
  • is enhancing protection of used fuel storage pools
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Activity ID: 1002943 Activity Name: NEI Remarketing Safety Activity Group Name: Remarketing Safety First