Nuclear Industry

Nuclear Industry Vows Japan Lessons Will Make Reactors Even Safer

In an effort to get ahead of growing concern and skepticism about nuclear power stemming from the plant emergencies in Japan, the leading trade and lobbying group for the global nuclear power industry has outlined its position on the future of nuclear energy.

Reported by Staff

“When we fully understand the facts surrounding the event in Japan, we will use those insights to make nuclear energy even safer.”

And it vows that when we fully understand the facts surrounding the event in Japan, we will use those insights to make nuclear energy even safer.”

The Nuclear Energy Institutes website  posted 19 questions and answers over the weekend, apparently intended to reassure the public, the financial markets and legislators that public support for nuclear power should not decline dramatically.”

Highlights include:

• It is premature to draw conclusions from the tragedy in Japan about the U.S. nuclear energy program. Japan is facing what literally can be considered a ‘worst case’ disaster and, so far, even the most seriously damaged of its 54 reactors has not released radiation at levels that would harm the public. That is a testament to their rugged design and construction, and the effectiveness of their employees and the industry’s emergency preparedness planning.”

• “The U.S. nuclear industry, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, the World Association of Nuclear Operators and other expert organizations in the United States and around the world will conduct detailed reviews of the accident, identify lessons learned (both in terms of plant operation and design), and we will incorporate those lessons learned into the design and operation of U.S. nuclear power plants.”

• “The nuclear energy industry believes that existing seismic design criteria are adequate. Every U.S. nuclear power plant has an in-depth seismic analysis and is designed and constructed to withstand the maximum projected earthquake that could occur in its area without any breach of safety systems. Each reactor is built to withstand the maximum site-specific earthquake by utilizing reinforced concrete and other specialized materials.?

• “Given the safety record in this country, the robust regulatory infrastructure, the defense in depth that governs operations and designs, and the seismological differences between the U.S. and Japan, we believe that public support for nuclear power should not decline dramatically.

None of these points are likely to comfort the anti-nuclear power crowd, and may raise more questions than answers for those seeking a more objective analysis. For example, consider the third point listed above that states most assuredly  existing seismic design criteria are adequate. Every U.S. nuclear power plant has an in-depth seismic analysis and is designed and constructed to withstand the maximum projected earthquake that could occur in its area without any breach of safety systems.

That is exactly what Japans nuclear industry believed prior to the catasthropic events of last week; that their facilities could withstand major earthquakes in the range of 7.5+, which was believed to be the maximum projected. Sadly, they were not prepared for a magnitude 9.0 earthquake.

Would nuclear power plants along the West Coast where several experts are predicting will be the next location for a big one  be able to withstand earthquakes in that range? Not if you go by what current design criteria calls for. Retrofitting exsisting facilities and building new ones to cope with such massive forces of destruction will require a far greater investment than what the industry is already spending and planning to spend. Is that a realistic outlook given the current and projected budget shortcomings in all areas of our economy?…

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