July 20, 2011
11:51 am EDT
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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Although the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) would allow used fuel with as little as one year of cooling to be moved from the used fuel storage pool into dry storage, there currently are no NRC-licensed dry storage casks that could handle used fuel cooled for only one year. Since the heat generating rate of used fuel decreases very rapidly (exponentially) as the cooling time of the used fuel assemblies increases, designing and using dry cask storage systems is far easier and safer for used fuel that has been cooled longer in the used fuel storage pool. The shortest cooling time for used fuel assemblies in dry storage systems licensed by the NRC is three years and is only approved for a few cask designs; for the majority of NRC-licensed systems, the minimum cooling time is five years. In practice, most used fuel loaded into dry storage casks is cooled for seven or more years.
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