NRC Staff Directed to Set Priorities for Japan Safety Proposals

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission directed its staff to choose which task-force safety proposals should be adopted in the near term in response to the Japan crisis, resolving a dispute over how to proceed.

Chairman Gregory Jaczko had pressed the commission to act within 90 days on each of 12 recommendations the task force offered in a July report. Several commissioners led by William Ostendorff urged more time to review the proposals.

“The plan we’ve established will require a dedicated effort by our staff and stakeholders, and will require a continued commitment by the commission to see that these recommendations are promptly addressed,” Jaczko said today in a statement.

The NRC panel was charged with developing safety steps after an earthquake and tsunami in March crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986. A majority of the five-member commission balked at Jaczko’s plan and Ostendorff said on July 28 he had “significant reservations” about swift action, echoing the positions of Commissioners William Magwood and Kristine Svinicki.

Under the plan today, the NRC staff has until Sept. 9 to outline which recommendations the commission should implement “without unnecessary delay,” according to the statement.

By Oct. 3, NRC officials must “lay out all agency actions to be taken in responding to lessons learned from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi accident,” and set priorities for acting on 11 of the recommendations.

The staff has 18 months to consider the task force’s main recommendation that the NRC’s overall regulatory approach be revised, according to the statement.

The task force also recommended requiring plant owners to have at least eight hours of backup power at reactors, provide emergency systems to spray water into pools holding spent fuel and install more reliable venting for reactors similar to those that failed in Japan in March.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jim Snyder in Washington at jsnyder24@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net

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