Fukushima Should Have Served as Wake-Up Call for U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

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On Mar 11, 2011, a 9.0-magnitude trembler and 50-foot tsunami triggered meltdowns during 3 of 6 chief reactors during a Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan. It was a one of a misfortune accidents in a nuclear industry’s 60-year history, contaminating thousands of block miles, displacing some-more than 150,000 people and costing Japanese taxpayers scarcely $100 billion.


The disaster was a wake-up call for a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). After all, scarcely a third of a 104 U.S. reactors handling during a time were General Electric Mark we or Mark II reactors, a same as those in Fukushima. The collision lifted an apparent question: How exposed are those reactors—and a rest of a U.S. swift for that matter—to allied healthy disasters?

The NRC set adult a charge force to investigate what happened during Fukushima and consider how to make U.S. reactors safer. In Jul 2011, a charge force offering a dozen recommendations to assistance guarantee U.S. chief plants in a eventuality of a Fukushima-scale accident.

Unfortunately, a NRC has given deserted or significantly enervated many of those recommendations and has nonetheless to entirely exercise a reforms it did adopt, according to a new Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) report. UCS also found that a group abdicated a shortcoming as a nation’s chief watchdog by permitting a attention to customarily rest on intentional guidelines, that are, by their really nature, unenforceable.

“Although a NRC and a chief attention have clinging substantial resources to residence a post-Fukushima charge force recommendations, they haven’t finished all they should to strengthen a open from a identical disaster,” pronounced news author Edwin Lyman, a UCS comparison scientist and co-author of a 2014 book, Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster. “If a NRC is vicious about safeguarding a open and plant workers, it should recur a series of recommendations it scrapped underneath vigour from a attention and a supporters in Congress.”

Half-Baked Reforms

The post-Fukushima charge force’s tip priority was overhauling what it called a “patchwork” of NRC regulations and attention intentional discipline for “beyond-design-basis” events—incidents that plants were not designed to withstand. The charge force argued that both regulators and plant owners would advantage from a awake set of standards that would ensure opposite serious events like Fukushima and yield a horizon for implementing a other recommendations. After several years of deliberation, however, a NRC eventually upheld on creation any elemental changes, progressing that a regulatory horizon doesn’t need fixing.

Lyman pronounced this was a vicious mistake. “By rejecting a charge force’s tip recommendation,” he said, “the NRC regulatory regime will sojourn full of holes, withdrawal a open during risk from intensity collision scenarios that regulators might overlook.”

The NRC afterwards relied heavily on a vaguely worded “backfit” order to reject many of a other endorsed post-Fukushima reserve upgrades. The order boundary a agency’s ability to need new reserve manners if a due upgrade’s cost is deemed to surpass a benefits. Many critical reserve recommendations unsuccessful to pass this test, notwithstanding a fact that they would have done plants safer.

“The post-Fukushima, lessons-learned routine supposing a NRC a golden event to remodel a unsuitable proceed to controlling a industry,” Lyman said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t take advantage of it.”

Letting a Industry Make a Rules

The NRC and a chief industry’s categorical response to a Fukushima collision is what they call a “diverse and stretchable coping capability” module or FLEX for short, that will yield additional backup puncture apparatus to cold reactors and spent fuel pools during a enlarged energy loss.

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