Nuclear Plant Safety

Policy Vice President Christopher Guith

Guest statement by Christopher Guith
Vice President for Policy
U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy

The starting point for any review of U.S. commercial nuclear safety after the disaster in Japan must start with the NRC task force’s fundamental conclusion that our nuclear plants are safe. The task force made clear that the continued operation of existing reactors and licensing of new reactors does not pose an imminent threat to the public.

Due to the complex nature of the report, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should proceed deliberately in reviewing and implementing the recommendations. Now that the report is complete, the Commission should consult with stakeholders, the public, and its staff before proceeding. Ultimately I am confident that this review process will benefit both the nuclear industry and the nation as a whole, but the worst thing the Commission can do is act hastily, especially when it has very little data or analysis from Japan yet. Nuclear power will continue to play an integral role in providing clean, reliable, and safe electricity for decades to come.

NEW YORK—America’s nuclear energy industry continues to operate safely and reliably, and the industry has a positive outlook, Marvin Fertel, president and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute, told financial analysts today.

Fertel updated the analysts on steps being taken to make safe nuclear energy facilities even safer. He also provided attendees at an NEI-sponsored briefing with the industry’s perspective on recommendations made earlier this month by the independent Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Fukushima Daiichi task force. The recommendations made in the task force’s 90-day report are being considered by the agency’s commissioners.

Read more from NEI’s news release >>

Watch the webcast from the event and see NEI’s main website for the briefing materials.


Ed Halpin

STP Nuclear Operating Co.'s President and CEO Ed Halpin

Guest Commentary by Ed Halpin
President and Chief Executive Officer, STP Nuclear Operating Co.
Member of the Fukushima Response Steering Committee

The sweeping recommendations from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Fukushima task force deserve careful consideration and review from key industry stakeholders.

The U.S. nuclear industry wholeheartedly supports the goal of applying lessons learned from Japan to enhance safety at our nation’s nuclear power facilities. What we must avoid is a rush to judgment. Taking the time to thoroughly review and discuss the recommendations so that the appropriate desired outcomes are achieved will be critical for the industry and our nation’s long-term energy policy. Premature changes to regulatory policy could have far-reaching effects for decades to come.

Our nation’s nuclear facilities operate safely at the highest performance standards in the world. The NRC’s recent evaluation reaffirms that our nation’s 104 nuclear reactors are safe. We believe the commission should take the time necessary to properly evaluate the recommendations from the task force to allow for broad stakeholder input and careful analysis.

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There has been discussion in the media about the possibility of a “zirconium cladding fire”; however, this term is not completely accurate. In the extremely unlikely event that the cladding could reach the very high temperatures necessary to initiate (1,700 ˚F), then the zirconium cladding in a water or air environment would undergo a rapid and self-sustaining heat generating (exothermic) oxidation reaction. This oxidation reaction could look similar to a fireworks sparkler, thus it has colloquially been called a “zirconium fire.” Nuclear fuel is maintained well below these temperatures. For more information, the 2006 National Academy of Sciences report “Safety and Security of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage” provides an accurate description of this phenomenon.
To see other questions NEI has answered, visit our “Recently Submitted Questions and Answers” Web page.

Plant Status

  • Tokyo Electric Power Co. expects to meet its self-imposed July 19 deadline to stabilize reactor cooling and mitigate radiation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility. That work includes injecting inert nitrogen gas into the reactor 3 containment vessel, which started today. The nitrogen is intended to help prevent a potential explosion of built-up hydrogen. TEPCO has been injecting nitrogen into reactors 1 and 2 since April 7 and June 28 respectively. The next major milestone in the plan for Fukushima recovery includes cold shutdowns for reactors 1-3, which are expected to take place in the next three to six months.
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Activity ID: 1002943 Activity Name: NEI Remarketing Safety Activity Group Name: Remarketing Safety First