Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Plant Status

  • Japanese media are reporting on a joint assessment by Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the government that the company has met the first step in its effort to stabilize the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi site. Among the targets met in the first step include re-establishing stable cooling capacity for reactors 1-3 and the used fuel storage pools for reactors 1-4. The company says it did this by putting recirculating cooling water systems into operation. A key indicator of success, TEPCO says, is that temperatures at the bottom of the reactor pressure vessels have decreased and are now stable. TEPCO also says it has reduced the level of radioactive releases from the plant to one-2 millionth of the peak release recorded just after the March accident. Read More »

Plant Status

  • Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to achieve an improved and stabilized shutdown condition for reactors 1-3 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility within six months, the utility said. TEPCO said it will continue to use the circulating cooling system that decontaminates radioactive water and pumps it back into the reactors. TEPCO estimated it will take about three years to remove the fuel rods from the spent fuel storage pools and build a full-scale water treatment plant at the site.
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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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Plant Status

Answer:

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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