First Post-Fukushima Safety Rules Approved by NRC

by
For more on what happened at Fukushima last March, watch our recent film Inside Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown. And what does it mean for nuclear power in the U.S.? Take a look at another FRONTLINE documentary, Nuclear Aftershocks.

Almost a year after the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, and eight months after a post-Fukushima task force issued its recommendations, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission [NRC] moved to adopt new safety regulations for American nuclear facilities.

The NRC approved three measures based on eight of the task force’s recommendations:

+ Plants must have plans for simultaneous natural disasters and other remarkable events.

+ Plants must improve measuring equipment in spent fuel pools.

+ Plants must improve venting capabilities for plants like the ones at Fukushima — the G.E. Mark I —  in the case of a crisis or power failure.

Last year’s events in Japan — an earthquake, tsunami and prolonged power failure at Fukushima Daiichi –highlighted how several disasters at once can create a dangerous, virtually inoperable situation at nuclear power plants.

“Invariably I think right now the kinds of situations in which you [have] accidents are going to be those in which something has happened that you haven’t necessarily thought about,” NRC Chair Gregory Jaczko told FRONTLINE in January, “or that you thought about but you misunderstood, or you misanalyzed, or you just missed.”

The announcement doesn’t mean any of these changes will happen right away. While three of the five commissioners approved the recommendation, the commissioners disagree on implementation. Jaczko said the rules should be mandatory without additional cost-benefit analysis, while other commissioners are pushing for more research about whether all plants actually need these costly upgrades.

“If we are to remain a predictable, reliable and credible regulator, we must base our decisions — especially those as important as those before us today — on careful, sober, detailed technical analyses,” Commissioner William Magwood wrote. Commissioner George Apostolakis, said that the spent fuel pool regulation may not be necessary in all plants.

Nuclear power companies have been given a year to propose how their plants will comply with these rules, with the eventual goal of being fully compliant by 2016.

Photo: Five commissioners of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission attend a hearing at the NRC headquarters in the suburbs of Washington on Feb. 9, 2012. (Kyodo via AP Images)
blog comments powered by Disqus

In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS
Frontline Journalism Fund

Supporting Investigative Reporting

Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Wyncote Foundation, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.
PBSCPBMacArthur FoundationPark FoundationFord Foundationwyncote

FRONTLINE   Watch FRONTLINE   About FRONTLINE   Contact FRONTLINE
Privacy Policy   Journalistic Guidelines   PBS Privacy Policy   PBS Terms of Use   Corporate Sponsorship
FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation.
Web Site Copyright ©1995-2014 WGBH Educational Foundation
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.