Thursday, May 12, 2011

US nuclear reactor safety is "full of inadequacies and errors"

A new report on US nuclear reactor safety highlights a catalogue of errors and oversights.

The report, “Fukushima Fallout: Regulatory Loopholes at U.S. Nuclear Power Plants”, is a summary of Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulatory inadequacies, practices and decisions that impair effective nuclear safety oversight in the United States.
  • Widespread malfunctions and inoperability of emergency diesel generators at nuclear power plants
  • The absence of emergency back-up power requirements at some spent fuel pools
  • The absence of requirements to prevent hydrogen explosions at reactors and spent fuel pools
  • Outdated seismic safety requirements, even as applications for new licenses and license extensions for many nuclear reactors continue to be processed by the NRC.
The report has been prepared by the office of Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee.

“It is apparent that many of the failures of the reactor cooling systems and measures to prevent explosions that led to the meltdowns in Japan could also occur in the United States, and would not even be violations of current regulations,” said Rep. Markey.

“This is unacceptable, and I believe that the NRC must halt its processing of all pending nuclear reactor licensing applications until these vulnerabilities are fully remedied.”

The report concludes that: “An examination of NRC regulations demonstrates that flawed assumptions and under-estimation of safety risks are currently an inherent part of the NRC regulatory program, due to a long history of decisions made by prior Commissions or by the NRC staff that have all too often acquiesced to industry requests for a weakening of safety standards.

"Coupled with reports that the near-term inspections being conducted at United States nuclear power plants may be limited in scope and subject to restrictions on public disclosure, it would be unwise to move forward with any pending licensing actions before the NRC fully completes its review and upgrades its safety requirements.”

A copy of the full report can be found HERE.

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