Despite the incidents that occur on a daily basis across the country and a renewed call for tighter security at nuclear facilities, a federal task force said U.S. nuclear power plants are safe.
This task force, established by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said it has not identified any issues that undermine confidence in the continued safety and emergency planning at the 104 U.S. nuclear reactors.
Having said that, the task force said it will most likely recommend changes in rules governing U.S. nuclear plants to enhance safety and preparedness, and lower the level of risk.
The group comprised of senior NRC staffers said it will address a range of issues at nuclear plants, including their ability to cope with prolonged power outages caused by earthquakes, floods, fires or other catastrophic events.
NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko has questioned whether U.S. reactors can really handle the type of days-long power outage that struck a nuclear power plant in Japan following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
In this country, the NRC has mandated that plants need only cope without power for four to eight hours. After that time, the policy assumes some electrical power would be restored, either from the power grid or emergency diesel generators that are required at all plants.
The task force did not make a recommendation on “station blackouts,” but the group’s chairman said they will address it in a 90-day report due in July.
The task force also will look at ways to prevent long-term damage to the core reactors and spent fuel pools in the event of a long-term blackout, said Charles Miller, a senior NRC staffer who chairs the task force. Miller briefed the five-member commission on the group’s progress.
The NRC set up the panel in late March, saying it was important to apply lessons learned from Japan. The task force is conducting two reviews, a 90-day report due in July and a long-term analysis due in January.