Though the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) concluded that America’s nuclear energy facilities are operating safely, the NRC and the nuclear energy industry agree that adapting lessons learned from the incident in Japan will require the review of current emergency operating guidelines and procedures. If new guidelines and procedures are developed, implementing them successfully will require additional training for industry workers.
Constant training has been a hallmark of the American nuclear industry. Before the NRC licenses an individual to operate or supervise operators of a nuclear power reactor, he or she must have several years of related experience and complete extensive classroom, simulator and on-the-job training. After that, reactor operators spend every fifth week training in a full-scale simulator that is the exact replica of each plant’s control room. Read More »
Containment vents play an important role in the overall safety strategy at nuclear energy facilities by preventing the potentially hazardous buildup of pressure from steam and gases inside a reactor. A specially designed vent in the massive containment dome that surrounds a reactor is designed to withstand extreme events by relieving primary containment pressure to a stack or other elevated release point.
Boiling water reactors with Mark I containment structures, the type of reactor at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi facility, have a proven record of more than 40 years of safe and reliable operations. Twenty-three of this type of reactor in the United States are equipped with these specially designed vents. Although vent valves are rarely used—they’ve never been needed during five decades of operation at U.S. reactors—the events in Japan highlighted the need to ensure that they would function even in the most unlikely circumstances. Read More »
The events at Fukushima unveiled an important lesson to the nuclear industry on the need to remotely monitor water temperature and levels in used fuel storage pools during an extended loss of power. In particular, when power was lost at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi reactors, the systems the plant relied on to monitor the used fuel pools were inoperable. That loss led some to erroneously conclude that there was no water in the spent fuel pool at reactor 4—a conclusion that was later proven to be false.
The industry supports the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) recommendation that U.S. nuclear energy facilities enhance used fuel pool monitoring instrumentation. The storage pools protect used fuel rods under 40 feet of water to allow radioactivity in the fuel to safely decrease. Adding backup monitoring equipment enables operators to know when they need to take action to maintain water level and temperature of used fuel storage pools in the unlikely event that installed systems have been disabled. Read More »
Nearly all of the events that occurred at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility following the massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami can be traced to the complete loss of electricity, including backup generators and emergency batteries, that was needed to power reactor cooling systems.
In response to the Fukushima accident, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is re-evaluating the agency’s “station blackout” requirements for dealing with power outages. U.S. nuclear plants are required to have a minimum of four hours of emergency power; many plants exceed that requirement. That’s in addition to the several locomotive-sized diesel generators that provide layer upon layer of backup power for systems to safely shut down and maintain a reactor should electricity from the grid be disturbed. Read More »
Taking Action To Boost Safety at U.S. Nuclear Energy Facilities
Through its relentless commitment to the pursuit of excellence in operations, the U.S. nuclear industry is taking significant action to ensure that each of the nation’s 104 nuclear plants operate safely and securely.