The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released two dozen recommendations to ensure the safety and security of U.S. nuclear plants. Many of the ideas address problems that have been evident for decades, while others address problems brought to light during the recent accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility.
A Fukushima-like crisis could happen at any one of the 104 nuclear reactors in the United States, said David Lochbaum, the director of UCS’s Nuclear Safety Project.
“Japan’s reactor designs are similar, their protective barriers are similar, and their regulations are, in some cases, even stronger,” said Lochbaum, who worked in the U.S. nuclear industry for 17 years before joining UCS. “If a U.S reactor were faced with a similar challenge, maybe not the exact combo of earthquake and tsunami, but some other natural disaster or human error, it’s unlikely that the story would have a happier ending.
“Fukushima should shake the Nuclear Regulatory Commission out of its complacency,” he added. “There are a number of actions the agency can and should take to make U.S. nuclear plants safer. They can start with our recommendations, many of which we’ve been making for years.”
UCS’s top recommendations call on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to:
The NRC has planned a two-part response to the Japanese nuclear accident. Late yesterday, a post-Fukushima NRC-appointed task force delivered its 90-day report assessing the safety of the U.S. nuclear fleet to NRC commissioners, and the agency is scheduled to discuss the report publicly on July 19. The 90-day assessment will be followed by a more in-depth analysis.
UCS urges the NRC to require the nuclear industry to take prompt action to strengthen security and safety measures at U.S. reactors.
“The NRC’s response to emerging safety issues has been far too sluggish in the past,” said Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist in the UCS Global Security Program and a leading expert on nuclear plant design. “Nearly 10 years after the 9/11 attacks, U.S. nuclear plant owners still have not completed all NRC-mandated security upgrades because the agency kept granting them extensions. Unless the NRC moves more quickly and decisively to address the safety problems revealed by Fukushima, tens of millions of Americans who live near nuclear plants will continue to be at risk.”